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Yet even with all this deep communication going on, at least one aspect of these friendships inherently involves a mixed message.No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as "just friends," your are constantly saying, "I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction)." The simple reality (of which most people are aware, whether they admit it or not) is that in the vast majority of these types of relationships, one of the parties involved either began the "friendship" with romantic feelings for the other person or develops them along the way.

More specifically, verse 10 reminds us that "[l]ove does no harm to its neighbor." Romans 14:1-15:7 offers a discourse on favoring weaker brothers and sisters above ourselves, valuing and encouraging that which is good in the souls of others.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that your intimate friendship is one of those rare jewels that is devoid of the potential for hurt or confusion. In the past, when both sexual immorality and intimate male-female friendships were much less accepted and less common in society, men and women moved more deliberately toward marriage earlier in life.

By offering a taste of the companionship and interactions that make marriage so satisfying, with none of the accompanying commitments or responsibilities entailed in marriage, intimate friendships discourage the pursuit of the grown-up, God-intended outlet for marital desires — marriage.

I admit we're not talking absolutes here, but almost.

In my experience counseling and writing on this topic, everybody thinks (or at least we'll end up in one of the situations you just talked about.

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