“As different as my friends may be, to me, friendship is to feel safe with someone.” – Amy Fuller
I had a conversation with a friend about relationships, marriages, and male/female friendships and if this is a thing because it is sort of one decidedly divided topics in our “this or that” society. Is trusting our significant other if they go out with a girlfriend/boyfriend the same as if someone says they don’t eat cake? Can we trust a person who doesn’t eat cake? Obviously, I am kidding about cake (I am really not, though), but it is always surprising to see the differences in opinions and mannerisms, especially when dealing with matters of gender. So, the question: Can men and women really just be friends? Is that a thing?
Usually, when popping a question like this, there are the emphatic yes’s, hard no’s, and bouts of yelling when the person is clearly upset. It is difficult to find someone who has never had romantic feelings for a friend, have had a friend have romantic feelings for them, or had a “just friends” relationship turned into an affair. Of course, this is not the case with every friendship. Realistically, there is no definite answer and saying this seems like taking the easy way out. Usually, asking any human if they think men and women can just be friends, their reaction will be based on their own experiences. My take on all this is that men and women can exist as platonic friends, but the key is that they both have to want it. They both have to respect perpetual boundaries and draw lines in the sand, as well as each others’ partners without crossing any emotional or physical intimacy lines. There has to be some sort of agreement I guess.
The issue is that sometimes the lines can cross. We are human and will never feel the exact same way about a person over time. Things change. Situations change. In my opinion, the longer a friendship lasts, the higher the chance those lines in the sand are wiped away. I believe with age our friendship circles begin to dwindle so that only the truly fortified relationships remain. And our friends are more trusted and highly regarded. With this trust, we are able to share more intimate knowledge without feeling as though a boundary has been crossed. As far as physical boundaries, there may be a higher chance of being crossed earlier on because in said “early friendship” you don’t have much to lose by going for it.
When you had a negative experience with men and women existing as friends, it will obviously always be difficult to form an unbiased opinion. To me, it is a “maybe” because character traits are never one-size-fits-all, and neither are friendships, no matter what they look like at the moment. What feels normal for A doesn’t necessarily feel normal for B.
To me, friendship always comes first and then a relationship may develop over time. To me, friendship is about making each other comfortable, protecting and celebrating each other. It means safety and ease and that at times I can feel like I/we don’t have to do anything. We can just make an event out of spending time together. Sitting in the kitchen talking, no pressure- just chilling and no fancy dinner involved.
This is what I desire in a friend/relationship:
Candour: Some of my friendships run pretty deep and I take them seriously. What I love about those small amount of friends, and how they differ from anybody else is how candid and raw I can be. There is no limit to what I talk about, or how much of myself I reveal.
Depth: There is a difference between a friendly conversation and a real conversation. For true friendship, people need to be current in my life. There are also there to champion me, to give advice and one of the greatest underpinnings of those friendships is that they want to see me succeed. Real friends simply should be interested in my life and what I am up to (maybe read my blog, talk about my books, etc. This is what I would do, too.)
Quality Time: With social media, it is easy to call someone my friend. I know that there is still nothing better than spending time with someone in real life. I honestly interact with all (92) my Facebook friends.
Trust/Listening/Sharing: A true friend is going to give me an honest opinion, and because I trust them, there is a certain level of comfort with that honesty. I am able to be myself and vulnerable and know they will be, too.
The real friends: I can meet those after even a long period of time has passed and we can pick up right where we left off. Those are probably the most important friendships I have because there is something between me and them that is strong enough to withstand the time or distance passed. I desire those friendships that see me through different phases in my life.
Seeing the person as they are: Friendship means providing support and love for who the person truly is and not who I think they are or I want them to be. Everyone has their flaws and I would rather see the them than an idealized version of me.
In the end, communication is key but the goal is to listen to yourself.