Why We Need to Have Friends of the Opposite Sex.

Via Kimberly Lo
on Oct 29, 2013
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men and women can't be friends

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


About Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.


13 Responses to “Why We Need to Have Friends of the Opposite Sex.”

  1. B.C. says:

    If your relationship is so devoid of trust that you won't even "allow" your partner to befriend someone of the opposite sex, your relationship is probably incredibly toxic, and you likely have a serious problem on your hands. How can that ever be considered love? Moreover, how can you seriously consider that to ever be your prerogative? That's just messed up.

    Whether you personally are unable to trust anyone in general, or your partner specifically has violated your trust before, a broad and all-encompassing ban of opposite-sex friends is just unhealthy, unnatural, unsustainable, unrealistic, and, in the case of preexisting platonic friendships, completely unfair. Establishing or re-establishing trust with some specific conditions is one thing (ex-lovers in particular obviously being a pretty common one, especially in the case of an affair), but this far-reaching jealousy-driven insanity is something else entirely.

    I'm sorry for your loss, Kimberly. I hope your now "ex" friend clues in sooner than later, but unfortunately people do some very stupid things in the name of so-called love.

  2. Astrid says:

    I agree that there are people that can only be friends. However, as you mentioned it "those friendships can be some of the deepest and most intimate ones you’ll experience without actually ever having sex." When you find the person you want to spend your time with, the person you want to share your biggest fears and dreams with, then that friendship can come in between you and your lover. In relationships, you want to be the one that has the most intimate friendship with your partner. So it might not be a question of cheating but rather about how that friendship can be in the way of you and your partner's friendship. Just a thought.

  3. Janka says:

    Couldn't agree more with Astrid.

  4. dedangelo says:

    Just another example of how straight people can learn from gay folks. LGB people know how to navigate this stuff. We have to, or we'd be alone all the time.

  5. kimberlylowriter says:

    This is so well put! Thank you.

    BTW, my friend and his gf broke up. She was constantly accusing him of cheating when in fact he was not.

  6. kimberlylowriter says:

    That's an interesting pov.

    I do think, though, that if a relationship of any sort is strong enough another person should not come between them.

    I have no desire to replace my friends' lovers or partners. In the case I mentioned, the man and his gf eventually parted ways because she believed he was cheating if he even mentioned another woman's name in conversation. He later said her demand that he end our friendship should have been a huge red flag.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  7. kimberlylowriter says:

    That is so true! Some of my closest friends are and have been gay men.

  8. dedangelo says:

    Do you have any lesbian or bisexual female friends?

  9. chraithe says:

    The real problem here is the implied ownership, and that is a fairly oppressive way to look at a lover, or have your lover look at you.

  10. Lova says:

    Hello you all,

    I must say this is a very diffuse topic to me and I really want to try to learn about this.

    May I tell you my story?

    My boyfriend and I are a couple for about nearly two yes now. One of his female colleaques was someone I would call “best friend” to him – he visited her in hospital when she was ill, was invited to a Easter lunch with her family, he always talked with her about her affair with another man (so that he’s really close to what happens between them all the time), she told him that she is someone who likes to have sex a lot and things like that, everytime we kissed she said something like “.. maybe I don’t see it, but I HEARED it..!!” or “won’t you get a room?!” and she reacted weird when he hugged me or something. AT the beginning I tried to build a relationship to her, to get to know her and because I was sure my boyfriend would feel much comfortable if we both girls like each other. But at time I started to get annoyed of her, how she always pulled herself in the middle of attention, to feel a bit like she would take my boyfriends attention to much and to be pushed a bit like aside and Not really mentioned as his girlfriend from her. I was irritated by their Talks about everything between men and women, relationships, attraction of several colleaques, about how angry and foolish both of them could react on each other as just friends. First I talked to my boyfriend that I started to feel unsecure about their Basis and told me, that she isn’t his best friend and that she is the only one sharing intimate secrets with him and that he don’t talk about us. He mostly listen and gives advice. But the Problem for me was her behavior and that I was Not sure about her motiv onto my boyfriend. So talked to her, showed her the situation from my point of view and asked her about her feelings if her boyfriend would have a female friend like this. She got really!! angry and broke the friendship with my boyfriend. I am really sah about this and I feel sorry, that was not what I expected or had planed. Do you think I was wrong?

  11. Emily says:

    Couldn't agree more with this article. I love having friendships with guys – and they don't all have to be gay. I don't understand people who claim they can't have cross-gender friendships. They're so refreshing! Not every male-female interaction has to lead to sex, after all.

  12. Angus says:

    Mm, insisting your significant other ditch their opposite-sex friends is a very possessive and controlling thing to do; and can frequently be a sign of outright abusive tendencies down the road. But I'll be honest- my opposite sex friendships matter way, way less to me than my same sex ones, and I have no compunction about ending them if I feel an underlying attraction that might interfere with an actual relationship with someone else.

  13. leah says:

    Great article. I fully agree, you should be comfortable enough in your relationship to have friends of the opposite sex, especially if you were friends long before the relationship.

    There was an instance when my husband, and i just recently started dating, and i brought him to visit my home town, and meet all the important people i grew up with.

    We ended up getting together with one of my best friends (a male, who was actually gay, but i didnt disclose this to anyone) and my brother for lunch. My brother had the nerve to ask my guy if it bothered him i was bringing my guy friends around. It didnt bother him one bit, and go figure my brother is somehow a marriage, and family counselor.

    My husband is so supportive of my friendships that just last year spur of the moment this same friend decided he was going to take greyhound to come visit me for a few days. Not only was he highly supportive of this, he let us do our own thing if we wanted to, and followed the visit with shortly after writing him an email letting him know how much he appreciated his visit, and how it really brought my spirits up.