Friday, August 21, 2009

Burning Question of the Day: Can men and women just be friends?

So the other day at work, we were discussing whether or not it's possible for men and women to be "just friends", and whether or not those relationships should change once you're married/in a committed relationship. The general consensus was that while most everybody had co-ed "couple" friends, most didn't have any male friends who weren't friends with their husbands first. Most also expressed discomfort at having one-to-one level of intimacy with a friend of the opposite sex during marriage.

I realized later that I was the exception in this situation, being that I do have a few male friends that I was friends with first. While J may know and like them, they were definitely my friends first and still primarily my friends. For example, in college, our dorm was co-ed. And not the usual alternating floors co-ed--my neighbors were boys. Our floor was pretty tight in college, and I had a lot of friends that were both male and female. And I STILL keep in touch with at least one of the male friends (hi Ethan!). And if Ethan were in the area, I'd have no problem meeting him for a meal to catch up. I would invite Justin to come along with us, as I have before, but if Justin couldn't make it, I'd definitely have lunch with Ethan alone. And Justin would WANT me to do just that.

We also have maybe two sets of couple friends (one set is friends that happen to be family), that I'd be okay with either Justin or I being alone with the friend of the opposite sex. For example, Kaitlin, Jesse, Justin, and I usually do things together as a big group when Jesse is here. If we were all meeting at our place for dinner, and we're coming from different places, I'd have no problem with Justin and Kaitlin hanging out at the house together until Jesse and I got there, and visa versa. While Jesse is gone, I'd have no problem with Justin stopping at the house to say hi to Kaitlin if he happened to be in the area.

On the other hand, I have no problem with the member of the opposite sex preferring to wait to come in or come over until their spouse arrives. There have been a few times when Ryan and Renee have met us at our house, again with all of us coming from separate places, and even though Ryan will arrive first, he'll wait in the car until Renee arrives before coming in. And I understand and respect that too. And it doesn't mean that I think we're just "better friends" with Jesse and Kait. Each spousal set has to set those expectations and boundaries for each other based on what works for THEM.

I think for Justin and I both, we trust each other to be in situations with members of the opposite sex that are strictly platonic. Neither one of us has much experience with a significant other cheating on us, so maybe we're a little naive in that way. Though, would I be so easy going about Justin hanging out with an ex-girlfriend? No way José. But in terms of being "just friends", I think the line of concern for both of us would be if we started sharing with or confiding in that person of the opposite sex things that we wouldn't share with our spouse. If that started to occur, then I think we'd definitely need to change our expectations about what sorts of one-on-one situations were okay.

What do YOU think? Can men and women just be friends? Should you have friendships of that nature when you're married or in a committed relationship? What are the boundaries?

6 comments:

  1. I work with (and always have worked with) mostly men and have great friendships with some of them - and one of my best friends is a guy I met through work - but it's off the table for this situation because he's gay, which makes the "B, I'm hanging out with Kev tonight" SO not an issue! With the rest of my male friends, someone's usually with their spouse so I guess there are very few interactions out of work that are one on one.

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  2. I think its difficult for a lot of individuals to have friends of the opposite sex. Usually one or the other has more than the just-friends feelings, even though they may not want to admit it.

    My husband and I share most if not all of our friends, but for the most part the guy friends we have were his friends first and the girl friends we have were my friends first. Though we do have couple-friends where we are both friends with both of them. There is one exception, my husband has a friend of the opposite sex that he had before we started dating. I've sense met her and I actually talk to her more now than he does.

    I agree, you have to set boundaries with each other on what the expectations are and you both have to agree to them if they are going to work.

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  3. I don't know- I am glad that we do not have to deal with this situation too much- honestly- I don't trust myself to be friends with a guy. It just seems so risky. Chris and I have decided that as a rule- we will not have relationships outside of work with members of the opposite sex. (I am sure we could deal with it if something came up though) So I don't think I will ever have my own Ethan- but I am glad that you can.

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  4. Well I pretty much feel the same way as you do :)

    With a husband that is away most of the time, (8 months out of 12) if I made it a rule to never hang out with mutual friends of ours that were male, unless he was here, I'd never see them! I also would not have a problem with you coming into our house without me there if Jess was... :)

    Most of our friends are "couple friends" though, so we really don't worry too much...

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  5. I don't know. It probably depends on the person. But I really hope so!

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  6. I think it probably has a great deal to do with a person's youth. I had some female friends growing up in whom I had no romantic/sexual interest, so it seems normal to me. Then again, I'm egalitarian as hell. Our friendship is a good example--I never saw it as/wanted it to be anything other than platonic.

    So, yeah, a bunch of my friends are females, and a bunch more are gay dudes, and I'd be fine with my significant other (hypothetical, at the moment) having close non-gay male friends.

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