‘Between men and women, there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love but no friendship’ – Oscar Wilde. I remember the first time I saw this quote, I thought, ‘what is this man on about?’ I read it again the second time, and I began to think deeply about this topic.
From early on, I had quite a number of platonic male friends and I did not see them any different from my female friends. In fact, my curiosity led me to make friends with a lot of people so I could understand different facets of life. Although in secondary school, I was aware of one or two of my platonic friends who wanted something more from me, I just couldn’t see them in that way. I disliked the idea of moving from a friendship into a relationship up until my twenties when I realised that friendship is a fantastic start for something more concrete. Although, I still contemplate from time to time if a friendship to relationship transition is worth it, because relationships can go south. When it does, it is a double loss, as you lose the friendship too.
Still, the question, “can men and women be ‘friends’?” remains unanswered. Some will argue that it is possible for men and women to live, work, and play together without any ulterior motives, and I agree with that.
In fact, according to the ‘friend zone theory’ the chances of getting romance out of the ‘friend zone’ are very slim, and may require a divine intervention. Others would argue that there’s a high possibility that the platonic friendship is merely a façade to something deeper bubbling underneath. The fascinating thing about human beings is that motives are hidden, and lines get blurry… There is no black and white in life. We speculate, we assume… we can only get the truth if we could see through hearts. Unfortunately, that is not possible!
Till date, attraction remains a mystery. You can meet a stranger and fall in love suddenly but friendships are cultivated over time, patience, understanding and tolerance which make them extremely special. One of the challenges we face is that we really don’t know how to respond to the opposite sex unless it is defined by our society and culture as appropriate.
It is possible to love and enjoy someone as a person, but not enough to date or marry them. But, what does this even mean? This appears to be the case of those who have best friends of the opposite sex. It looks like they keep the best part of themselves for friends, while their partners get whatever is left. But such friendships also bring about different expectations of how much information should be shared, and how best to define boundaries. Are they expected to tell their significant other what they discuss between them? Do they get the privilege of seeing their best friend alone, or with their S/O? These questions are fairly easy to answer in same sex friendships, but it gets tricky in heterosexual friendships. Usually, the less people are looking for serious relationships, the easier it becomes to navigate male –female friendships.
I investigated further into this subject, and one guy mentioned that the only reason a man would remain friends with a woman is a lack of physical attraction towards her. Guys, is this true? Another person stated that ‘Men and women can either have a working relationship or an intimate relationship. Friends? No. It always gets complicated. Each gender has desires and too often they come in conflict. In theory, they should be able to be friends. In reality, it does not work’. I started to reason with the first part of the argument but then… won’t you look crazy assuming that every man you meet outside work wants something more from you? Please do help me understand this. Personally, I have made it a point of duty never to assume or misinterpret a man’s intentions towards me. If it is not spoken, I consider it non-existent. Or, should I be worried?
Another opinion stated that ‘Women constantly claim that the friendships they have with men are platonic only because that is what they perceive to be true, and not necessarily what the men on the other side of this so called “friendship” truly feel. Subconsciously, men feel it’s a waste of time to continue to be friends with a woman that’s not into them at some point in time depending on their persistence and determination and will slowly stop it if and when a better opportunity presents itself. Furthermore, women have this amazing ability to turn off their attractiveness to a man’. I agree with the latter statement.
Where things can become complex is in a single-married heterosexual friendship. I discriminate against married men not because I think they are unworthy of my friendship, but out of respect for their significant other. Similar discretion should be applied to those in relationships as well, although I have a friend that teases me about making a big deal out of it. In her words ‘e don give am ring’? This translates that any man who is without a ring is free to do whatever he likes. Errhm, that one pass me oh. I love my sisters but I also fear them. You can be ordinary friends with their man, and ‘wifey to be’ can assume you are trying to replace her. Na so person dey take chop slap or insult. Maybe not as drastic, but you get my drift. It’s best for your self-respect to ensure solid distance or boundaries.
The universal right of friendship is talk, and talk requires privacy which makes it beautiful, and also subject to misinterpretation. Although, it is not an expensive affair but movies like the Bestman reinforces how quickly the lines blur. As someone said, if your friend can sleep on the same bed with you in a drunken state, without any sexual advances towards you, they are really your friend. I am not willing to experiment with that but let me know if you do you agree with that statement, and what your opinions are about heterosexual friendships.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang