Can men and women be friends?

A universal and timeless question. Can men and women ever truly be good friends?

Umbreen Ali
By Umbreen Ali
Columnist
January 10, 2012, 9:37 am

Can such a dynamic exist? I believe so, but the question inevitably extends further. Can there ever be a platonic friendship between a man and woman without an outsider’s alternative insinuation?

And to probe deeper, can the partners of the two friends accept that friendship without an inkling of jealousy?

It appears in many cases when regarding my peers, that the husband declares openly his friendship with women and the wife is expected to acknowledge and accept that piece of information.

But when the wife herself develops a close friendship with her own male friend, a man who is not associated with her husband, why is it then that double standards are imposed, and feelings of jealousy and possession from the respective spouse are induced?

Is this only natural or an unfair display of sentiment? A pick and choose of the rules if you like. Perhaps, as one friend peremptorily stated ‘I’m a guy and I know what guys are like. They are only after one thing’.

What does that say about his friendship with me then? ‘Well,’ he stutters after a pause, ‘I’m different. I’m not like most guys.’  Hmm. A patent contradiction. But it does bring to surface the reality of emotions, even if double standards are implemented.

Furthermore, it does lead me to explore further the dynamics of my own male friends. Perhaps I should pay heed.

After all, according to my ex, all his male friends wanted to sleep with me.  I refused to believe such crass dialogue.

Maybe I was being naive, but I must state, even if that were the case, and all his friends viewed me merely as an object of desire, does that mean their sordid wishes would have been satiated?

Most certainly not, but one thing is for sure, the insecurity arisen in the mind of the third party from a platonic friendship is difficult to quell, let alone put to rest.

Why the insecurity though, and this question applies to both men and women alike?

Is it the fact that our other halves are confiding in someone other than us? Or that they are laughing, joking, relaxing and unwinding with another individual, something we expect them only to do with us?

But that leads me to wonder, as women, it is not uncommon to be jealous of our husbands or partners spending excessive time with their male friends, a contentious issue amongst many couples, whether the male bonding time revolves around poker or football.

Thus jealousy appears to be a universal sentiment, not solely directed at the opposite sex.

Is there a formula that is de rigueur for a male female friendship? Certainly not.

Yet somehow a male female friendship clearly induces complications, even if they are for the third party.

Perhaps the only male female dynamics that can work without fear of any social diatribes is if one of them is gay.

My closest male friend happens to be gay, and it is a friendship that lends no ambiguity whatsoever. But I have to admit, my relationship with my straight male friends is equally candid and open.

Even more so than my friendship with women. My girlfriends are always ‘honest’, but there is a heavy veneer of diplomacy when offering opinions so as not to hurt each others feelings, so much so that the ‘honesty’ is very much unintentionally diluted.

Does this not negate the epitome of a true friendship? Any friendship should be non laborious, a liaison that eschews all misunderstandings.

But one thing is for sure, any collaboration between two people irrespective of their gender will inevitably lead to an element of dissension, such is human nature. It’s complicated!

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