This weekend I spent an afternoon with my long-time friend, Nike. Nike and I have known each other for about 14 years. We met when our firstborns ended up in the same kindergarten class. Two years later our second born kids also shared a kindergarten class and the boys became close friends. We live about a block apart but in different neighborhoods. Our families have gone on vacations together over the years and shared many kid and adult activities together also. Every summer we have a tradition of meeting down at the beach early on Friday evenings. We hang out and watch the sunset while we chat and nibble on appetizers, maybe sip a cocktail ,and then we head off for dinner once darkness arrives. I savor those summer evenings. Nike is the type of friend that you know you can call up in an emergency and count on without hesitation. She and I are very different in many ways but the bond of friendship runs deep.
Nike had a birthday last week so, as we always do, we went out to celebrate. It was supposed to be drinks on Friday night, but kid events intervened and we ended up out for lunch on Saturday. Lunch itself probably only took 20 or 30 minutes. The conversation, however, went on for 3 hours. Three hours of catching up and it had only been a week since we had seen each other. Our conversations tend to cover everything from day to day life to deeper issues on life, marriage, politics, personal convictions, etc. Nothing is off limits.
The big topic of the day was a discussion of male/female friendships. Nike and I find ourselves on polar opposites regarding this. It is a discussion I have been having with several people lately and I find the responses from everyone very interesting. I decided it would be a good topic to bring to the blogoshpere so I have been informally polling friends for their opinion.
The question is … can men and women have successful friendships that are JUST friendships? I say yes – absolutely. Nike says no – absolutely not.
I named off some men that I know have been in Nike’s life for years and she insists they are not friends. They are husbands of friends, but not her friends. I grew up in a neighborhood of mainly boys and have always had close male friends. In fact, I have always felt like I relate more to men than women and can’t imagine not having my male friends in my life. Not that I don’t cherish my female friends because I absolutely do. However, I have always been able to turn to male friends and feel a connection that is not impacted by any of that girly stuff that can get in the way. I am not a girly girl and never have been. Men tend to be honest, real, blunt … qualities I appreciate. Possibly it is the way I grew up, but I can’t imagine life without my male friends.
I do believe that male/female friendships are probably easier to form and maintain prior to marriage. I also believe that male/female friendships in the work place are more likely to last over time just because there is ongoing contact to help maintain those friendships. However, I do believe that it is entirely possible and beneficial to have opposite sex friendships at any point in your life. Granted, if you are married you have to be with a spouse who is not threatened by opposite sex friendships.
In talking to people about this subject I have heard every type of response imaginable. From one man who told me, "Sure I can have female friends, but I still want to #$% them.", to another who said, "I’ve had female friends with no sexual undertones MANY times in my life." One woman told me she has given up on having male friendships because, "Men always ruin it and try to make it something else." Another girlfriend told me she has several male friends that she counts on as her closest confidants. What do you think? Do you have successful friendships with the opposite sex? Do you believe men and women can be just friends?