By Sherry Graf
As Christians, we want to enjoy God-honoring friendships. But how do we keep relationships with the opposite sex platonic when friendship is all that is desired? And for the special someone who catches your eye, what is okay to talk about with her or him? How can you get to know one another without getting prematurely attached? Being aware of the context and content helps, but breaking it down to basic building blocks of conversation gives us a better grasp of where a conversation is going emotionally.
The following 5 Conversation Categories help raise awareness of the emotional level beneath every interaction. As we navigate each category, we can intentionally develop deeper intimacy with our boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. Understanding the categories can help us recognize when the discussion slips too deep with a platonic friend so we can move it back to healthy, honoring level of friendship. Each category can b intimate depending on how deeply we share. As we progress from 1 to 5, the categories lend themselves to increasing emotional intimacy.
Category 1: Bio-Data
Bio-Data involves the facts about a person. You discover that you both like to ski, play Settlers of Catan, drink coffee, or read, or that you both grew up in Tuscaloosa or like a certain band. The questions are endless: Do you have siblings? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? What church do you go to? My husband, Jeff, and I recently celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary, and I am still learning new things about him. I love that God made us so complex; it is fun that after so much time I still have new territory to uncover!
Category 2: Testimony, Faith Story, or Spiritual Journey
It is really fun to hear how others have come to understand God’s amazing love for them. I love hearing other people’s faith stories. But it can also lend itself to deeper, more emotional content. So one word of caution when sharing alone with someone of the opposite sex: stick with basic facts at first. Spending on how openly you share your testimony, you might venture into categories 3,4,or 5, which lend themselves to deeper intimacy. There is plenty of time to share more if or when the relationship progresses. It is always safer to share in a group, where you will be less likely to share “too much.
”Some questions to ask include the following: When and how did you
become a Christian? Why did you choose Christianity? Did you grow up in a Christian home? When and how did this decision to follow Christ start making a real difference in your life?
Category 3: Dreams
I’m not taking about that funky dream I had last night where I loaded a dishwasher full of popcorn. What I mean by “dreams” is what keeps you excited and awake thinking about it at night. This topic tends to be more bonding because of what dreams reveal about a person–the whys. People’s motivations drive their dreams. When you know their motives, you know what makes them tick. Why they go after what they go after. Why they say yes or no to life’s opportunities.
Here are a few examples of questions that fall into this category: What do you dream about doing someday? What is on your “bucket list,” and why? When you were five years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still want to pursue that?
Category 4: Fears
I don’t mean your real and understandable fear of spiders. What I mean here is deeper heart-level fears. For example: What scares you the most? Getting married? Never getting married? Having kids? Not having kids? Cancer? Not succeeding at your career? How do you handle your fears? Emotional ties are more easily formed when we share fears because emotion is attached to them. And when you share that you are afraid of having kids because you had such a terrible childhood, you are quickly going from just the facts to deeper feelings (and hurts) of why (content).
Category 5: Deepest Hurts
We live in a broken world. Other people sin, and it hurts us. We sin and hurt others. We all have wounds that cut to the core of our being. And our deepest wounds often define some of the inmost places of our hearts. Just like our dreams, wounds motivate and influence our actions, thoughts, and choices. Understanding someone else’s (and your own) deepest hurts gives you knowledge not just about who they are but why they are who they are.
Revealing the hard things from your life with someone bonds you to them. This can be very healing and enriching in a marriage or with another brother or sister in Christ you have a close friendship with. Share details about your wounds only with the people you trust the most, those who are most committed to you. Personally, I didn’t share a single deepest hurt with my husband until after we were engaged. And then I probably shared only one! I wanted to know he was fully committed to be before I opened up this deep part of my heart to him.
Some questions fall into this category: What do you most regret? What are the biggest wounds from your past? Have you ever had counseling for that wound? How has God brought healing to the areas?
So what is okay to say when? We all have to prayerfully decide for ourselves. Err on the side of saving your heart. In general, a woman’s heart can attach more quickly than a man’s because women tend to be more verbal and in tune with their feelings. Either way, we want to be protecting each other as we converse. Even if it feels good to open up, it might not be the right time.
The level of intimacy should always equal the level of commitment.
Sherri Graf is wife of one wonderful husband, mother to three energetic boys, and mission-ary to all. Her book, I Don’t Get You can be purchased at: www.tyndale.com/p/i-dont-get-you