October 29, 2013

Why We Need to Have Friends of the Opposite Sex.

I’m sorry. We can’t be friends anymore.

I remember those words as clear as day. I was sitting across from one of my oldest, dearest friends and couldn’t believe the words that just came out of his mouth.

Immediately, I asked why? Was it something that I had done?

Even now I remember those clear blue eyes and the look of embarrassment and sadness that flitted across his face as he assured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The problem wasn’t me, but rather his new girlfriend.

Apparently, she was “uncomfortable” with our friendship. Despite the fact that we had never been lovers nor ever been attracted to each other in that way, she had given him an ultimatum: either he end the relationship with me or else she was walking.

“I hope you understand,” he muttered as he said goodbye and assured me that he would always treasure my friendship.

I nodded, but the truth was I did not understand.

In my mind, the girlfriend was being totally unreasonable and irrational. To begin with, I was hardly a “man stealer” by anyone’s definition. In my mind, I had a clear dichotomy between what constituted a friend versus what was a boyfriend.

However, as I was to learn, not everybody shared my views. Indeed, in an informal survey of friends and acquaintances, I was surprised to learn that many were reluctant or flat out against the idea of their partners having friends of the opposite sex. As one put it, “There’s too much temptation to cheat.”

Another was more blunt, “Over my dead body.”

Nearly everyone one of us of a certain age (usually past 30) has either been dumped by someone for someone else and/or knows someone who has. It’s an understatement to say that it hurts and the feelings of anger and betrayal can last for months or years. However, that is not a valid reason to ban one’s self or partner from friends of the opposite sex.

True friendship—much like true love—involves trust and love. A friendship is different than a romantic relationship.

In many ways, my friendships with people of both sexes have been much more intimate than many of my romantic relationships. However, that intimacy involves knowing that there is an expectation/agreement that we are not going to be lovers.

This is especially true if one or both happen to be in a relationship.

By viewing every person of the opposite sex as potential lover or partner, we are ultimately doing ourselves a disservice. Part of being a mature adult means making conscious choices. It also means seeing people as individuals. It’s also pretty ridiculous to view everyone we meet a potential lover or a potential rival who may run off with our partner.

The truth is, if someone wants to leave you they will.

In my experience, most people who leave their partners for someone else seldom ever stay with the new lover for very long. Many admit that they were looking for a way out of the relationship and erroneously thought that the new lover would make them happy or at the very least let them (temporarily)  escape the problems they were having with with their old partner. In other words, when people leave someone for someone else, it often has less to do with the other person and more—or rather everything—to do with themselves.

One of the greatest benefits of having friends of the opposite sex is that it has taught me view things from a different perspective. Despite the fact that I am a loud and a proud feminist, I cannot nor do I deny that there are differences between the sexes especially when it comes to how men and women view relationships. Having that male perspective has more often than not been helpful. However, even when it has been less-than-helpful, it has at least been interesting to say the least.

Therefore, despite what popular culture, it is possible for men and women to “just be friends”. It’s also possible for those friends to remain “just friends” forever.

In fact, if my own experience has taught me anything, some times those friendships can be some of the deepest and most intimate ones you’ll experience without actually ever having sex.

If you are blessed enough to already have one of those, then consider yourself fortunate and think hard if you are being asked to give up that friendship.

It may be that losing that friend will hurt more than losing a lover ever will.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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