“I’m sorry Amirah, but we can’t be friends anymore”
I remember those words as if they were spoken to me yesterday. I was listening on the other end of the phone as one of my closest friends abruptly put an end to our six-year long friendship.
Immediately, I asked him why? Did our friendship suddenly change without me knowing? Was it something that I had done?
Looking back, I remember hearing the sadness in his voice as he assured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The problem wasn’t me, but rather his new girlfriend of only three months.
Apparently, she was “uncomfortable” with our friendship or the idea of it to say the least. Even though we had never been sexual nor ever been attracted to each other in a sexual manner, she had given him an ultimatum: either he ends the relationship with me or else she was done with him.
Of course, I was the causality.
“You’ve done nothing wrong, just know that” he mumbled as he quickly hung up the phone and guaranteed that he would always cherish our friendship.
I said okay, but the truth was I did not understand.
Views from the Other-side
In my opinion, the girlfriend and like many people who share her same views are being completely irrational and unreasonable. I have a clear dichotomy between what constitutes a platonic friendship versus what a boyfriend is, and I had no intentions on making him my man but from countless conversations about sex, love, and relationships, with many of my friends and acquaintances alike, they too are turned off by the idea of their significant other having friends of the opposite sex.
But why is that?
Now don’t get me wrong, I get the innate issues of why most women and men would be against their lover having opposite-sex friends. It’s one of those areas of life where we all want to be liberal and gender-neutral, but when faced with the reality of watching our partner spend alone time with someone of another gender, we simply cannot help but feel overly jealous, or at least this is how I felt in my younger years of dating.
The crazy thing about relationships that I have difficulty in understanding is the initial need of control within romantic partnerships and the idea that you “own” a person if the two are together. Contrary to popular belief, a relationship as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected or the state of being connected”. Not the state of being “controlled”.
However, looking at the experiences that I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with others, I shifted my way of thinking by coming to the realization that if a person is going to cheat, lie, or manipulate, they will do that with or without your approval, no matter the gender.
Advice from the Experts
Marriage and family counselor Sharon Rivkin believes that opposite-sex friendships are healthy. In an article written in Hitched, a publication for married couples, she writes, “Limiting friendships with the opposite sex once you’re married doesn’t allow you the richness and perspective that you can gain from a member of the opposite sex.”
I am not married, but Sharon has a point! Cutting yourself off from the perspectives of those besides your partner confides your outlook on life, personal growth, and self-awareness. Not only is it crippling to “only be friends” with your partner, it also brings forth toxic romantic behaviors.
Rivkin goes on to give a list of practical do’s and don’ts for people who want to have non-shady friendships with members of the opposite sex. According to Rivkin, openness between all three parties is key to maintaining boundaries and upholding trust within the relationship.
For instance, if you have a friendship that’s full of flirtation or sexual tension, you might decide to tone down that facet of the friendship or cut that person off completely. Or if you have a friend who is great at encouraging you to be a better individual or a good partner in your relationship, then you may decide to spend more time with that person.
Pros to Opposite-sex Friendships
We all know good friends are hard to find. But having good friends of the opposite sex who genuinely have your back is a rare commodity. For those who are still skeptical about the male/female friendship, here are a few pros to having a friend of the opposite sex:
- They give good relationship advice. No matter the dilemma, friends of the opposite sex give excellent relationship advice. In many friendships, they already know what you need within a relationship and can objectively protest when you are making a foolish decision.
- You’ll be introduced to new ways of thinking. In my experience with my male friends, they all seem to have a sense of not giving a fuck attitude that I truly admire and have newly adopted into my way of living. Being a woman who is sometimes consumed with my emotions and overly dramatic ways, my guy friends have a way of making me feel bossed up differently than my female friends.
- Drama-free arguments. As someone who considers themselves to be outspoken, there have been a few instances where my girlfriends and I would get into disputes over festering situations. With friends of opposite genders, you do not have to worry about this ever happening, unless there is some underlying emotional attachment behind the scenes.
- Full access to the opposite-sex anatomy: their brain. This must be the best-kept secret to having a friend of the opposite sex. If they are stable in the mental department and demonstrate good ethics and morals, then you have a guidebook to how men or women think right at your fingertips.
Finding a Healthy Balance
I can’t tell you exactly what boundaries you should set regarding this area of your relationship. But it’s a good idea to establish basic principles that guide your interactions with outside people. Finding a healthy balance between your relationship and the interactions with others is what will ultimately bring the both of you together. That way you can maintain your external friendships, but do so in a way that doesn’t threaten what you have with each other.
Here are some examples of how to create balance while still maintaining friendships:
- Prioritize respect in your relationship. This is key to a good relationship in so many ways, but especially in this area. Promise that you’ll treat each other respectfully, whether you’re together or apart.
- Don’t be overly critical of your partner to someone who might take it the wrong way. Criticism of a partner can open a door that leads to danger since your friend might interpret your complaint as an invitation for them to fill a more significant role in your life. The same goes for sharing struggles or problems you’re having in your relationship. Of course, it’s important that you find healthy ways to talk about and process your emotions and troubles. But choose your listeners carefully, so a friend doesn’t take what you’re saying as a signal that you’re looking for more than a friendship.
- Agree with a general attitude of honesty within your relationship. This ground rule can cover a lot of bases. For instance, you two might agree that you won’t share something with an outside friend that you wouldn’t share with each other. Or maybe you establish a rule that you won’t keep secrets from each other regarding what you’re doing with—or how you’re feeling about—another friend.
What are your thoughts about having friends of the opposite-sex? Yay or nay?
Leave a comment below.