Monday, May 14, 2012

Always More Than Friends?

It has been argued the world over: can men and women be friends and keep it strictly platonic?
There are those who answer yes (myself included), and there are those who answer no.

Some people believe it’s not possible and would say so for one of two reasons:

  •        Every connection with the opposite sex carries with it some form of sexual tension. Now let’s think about that statement for a second. It seems that there are people in this world who actually believe they are so irresistible that every person of the opposite sex they meet actually wants them (and vice versa of course). How lucky are you that you are able to be attracted to (and also attract) such a wide range of people!  People like that are quick to ‘fall in love’ and just as quickly fall out of it. My advice, if someone believes men and women can’t be friends for such reasons, don’t waste your time, platonic or otherwise.
  •       There are others who don’t believe men and women could not be friends as much as they believe men and women should not be friends. Those who are a bit more traditional and/or conservative view such casual relationships as not so casual. Whether they feel it inappropriate, unnecessary or even forbidden. Some go so far as to firmly believe that any contact with the opposite sex under any circumstances will lead to indecency, or is in fact indecent. I guess this has a lot to do with the culture/faith as well as upbringing, and despite my disagreement with the idea as a whole I have to respect people who have such limitations.

Why the limitations though? I think such limited contact with the opposite sex is unhealthy and has adverse effects. Why lock yourself up and allow the opposite sex to be seen as such a foreign creature? They won't bite, I promise! We already know that men and women behave differently. Not just that, but within the gender group there are differences in behavior. This knowledge only comes with first-hand experience. Only by experiencing this would one then be able to handle themselves around them. Not just that, but also knowing what kind of guys/girls are out there will help you form a clearer picture of what it is you want in your future partner. Without this exposure the image of perfection in your head - which bears no resemblance to reality - will only set you up for disappointment. Know what's actually out there. Find out what are the qualities you've actually seen in people; which ones you liked and which ones you didn't. 

Being told how men/women think – whether from books, music, TV, grandmothers or any other medium – is usually a rash generalization that rarely tells you much about the people you are actually surrounded by and dealing with. It is only through being exposed to the opposite sex do they appear less foreign and unfamiliar, hence they become less of a mystery. This exposure does not necessarily have to be through actual relationships (be it romantic or platonic), any sort of interaction even in academic or professional settings eases the mystery of it all. At least you are able to interact on some level to get used to the fact that they are people too, there's no need to be so nervous or anxious or cold, find a way to be yourself around the opposite sex and it will do wonders to your self-esteem and self confidence. 

Although you do learn much more through relationships, do whatever you find comfortable, nothing should feel forced.  And I’ve seen a lot of examples of strange relationships and limitations. I’ve seen those who befriend but don’t date, those who date but don’t befriend, those who tag along with a sibling/friend but only observe from the sidelines (third wheel), those who date and/or befriend everyone under the sun but will never allow their sibling to do so or live freely till that ring is on their finger and it’s game over (hypocrisy at its best!). As long as people do it out of their own choosing and they did what they felt was right, total respect. I just think one shouldn’t underestimate the advantage of such exposure in the long run i.e. marriage. The more insight you have on the opposite gender, the more you can focus on what really counts.

My answer to the question is of course we can be strictly platonic. The more the issue is over-hyped, the more it becomes an issue when it doesn’t need to be. Of course if someone is just plain shy by nature and doesn’t see themselves being friendly around guys/girls, that’s a different story, it’s part of their character. I suppose it does require a bit of maturity and perhaps even some modesty! One must be humble enough to accept not every guy/girl they meet is a potential. I see that is the case with many people more often than I care to admit. Just by getting along with someone, people might imagine sparks where there are none. To these people I say be honest with yourselves, do you genuinely feel the chemistry and is it mutual, or are you just over-excited you hit it off so well? I even saw cases where the sparks were a hallucination from both sides, plain disastrous. I do believe that the key to keeping things strictly platonic is respect, and lots of it. Both parties must behave respectfully in order to be deserving of respect, it ain't given away for free. I don't mean be stiff and frigid, just know where the lines are and draw them firmly.

This does, however, present another concern….
What about friends of the opposite sex while married?

Later addition (10/12/2012). Nicely said! Just get over yourself...


  1. I've had to sit myself down and think about this question many a times. Initially, I thought of course men and women can be friends! That's just a ridiculous question! I mean most of my friends in college are men! That doesn't mean that each one of them will be my future husband... But then, I ran into countless examples of what you call sexual tension with my relationships with these friends. Yes, it was all platonic, and yes very respectful, as they are some of the most mu7tarameen guys I've ever met. But, there were times when a compliment here and a compliment there led to some type of flirting and then me wondering whether I gave him the wrong impression because we are just friends. See, to me it's tricky. Because yes, I agree with you 100% that these relationships between the opposite sexes should exist so that each person would know how they are when put in different situations with the opposite sex, and as such prepare themselves not only for marriage, but also for a wide range of perspectives that they were blind to before. So, I guess what I'm saying is yes having friendships with the opposite sex is very important, and yes it builds your own character, and a thousand yesses that it should be built on respect, BUT does that mean that sexual tension is completely eradicated? Even if it's not based on a deep and mutual feeling of love, but on harmless wordy fun with no consequences to follow.

    1. There's no denying attraction between two people, sometimes in the form of sexual tension. But there is always attraction between two people regardless of gender. You are attracted to them for a reason and hence gravitate towards them and also get along with them. The key is like you said respect and of course boundaries. This is real and it exists, the important thing is knowing how to handle it and manage it from early on to give a clear and resounding message that a slip of the tongue may be forgiven but it is not okay. Plus once you are officially betrothed to another it will be easier for those around you to keep their behavior in check!

      I do not blame those who fear such friendships for the danger of infidelity. It is an accessible route to it no doubt! But those who end up cheating chose to do so, and will continue to choose to do so regardless of whether it is easily accessible through friends of the opposite sex or not.

      One must choose their friends carefully, regardless of gender. It is down to the individual to decide to be friends with someone that does not respect their boundaries.