Having a good friend is a commodity that is in high demand and short supply. Just hearing the word “friend” can invoke lots of thoughts ranging from being reminded that you haven’t talked to your friend in a while and need to give them a call to recalling that “friend with benefits” you had back in 2001. “Friend” is not statically defined; it is a dynamic word that takes on various meanings.
When I reflect on friendships, a quick list comes to my mind of all the people with whom I have shared intimate parts of my life. I have had some absolutely amazing friendships, and I am so fortunate to have maintained a good many of them over the years. Some of them are “seasoned” friends (well into their 70s) and some are considerably younger (19). Some are faithful, and some are agnostic. They come in various ethnicities, financial statuses, and are in various types of relationships. Some are women, some are men. All of them are treasures. What do you mean “men”?
I recently read a blog about why men and women cannot be friends, and though I respect their perspective and opinion, I do not necessarily agree. As I have said many times before, our experiences in life often dictate our perceptions of truth, right, and wrong. The post was not “wrong,” but definitely not an ideology to which I subscribe.
Can men and women be friends? Absolutely. Can just ANY man and woman be friends? No, or at least probably not, but anything is possible.
Men and women are obviously different in physiology, anatomy, and psychology. If you have ever read “Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus,” you have probably enjoyed some gut busting laughs. We communicate in very different ways. The underlying message is that men are problem solvers that will dwell in their man caves to ponder, develop solutions, and be masters of their own issues. Women are social animals that will congregate in groups, discuss their problems with every single member of the group, and expect every member to pat them on the back and say, “I understand. I am sorry you are feeling that way. That situation is terrible.” We aren’t really looking for resolution of the problems so much as just compassion and empathy for our feelings towards the problem itself. Unfortunately, it’s the source of frustration between the genders, but also the foundation for some pretty funny jokes. I love our differences; it keeps life fun and interesting.
UNIVERSAL ASPECT OF MY FRIENDS
So my men friends and my women friends have all the basic components of any friendship. First, there is trust. I trust my all of my friends with various aspects of my thoughts and my life. Availability is often an asset amongst friends. Being friends with folks within reach is typically a bonus. We care for one another. When we have a man down (someone is sick), it’s time to deliver a meal to the home, babysit their kids, or make their grocery run. Being accepting of one another is critical. I am not the kind of friend who jumps up and scrubs the house down from top to bottom when I find out you are coming for a visit. If my place is messy, you’ll be encouraged to scoot the clean laundry sitting on my couch over and have a seat. A friend in need is a friend indeed. My friends can check their pride at the door. If you need it, and I have it, ask for it and it’s yours. If I don’t have it, ask anyway, and we’ll figure out a way to make it work. We can laugh at ourselves and each other. I think my buds have great sense of humors. We tease one another, but never personally attack. Above all, I love them and never have to doubt if they are really friends, I know they are.
MY WOMEN FRIENDS
First, I will say that female friendships can be a slippery slope. There are women who can be like crabs in a bucket in that if you try to climb up and reach success, they will exhaust all efforts to grab onto any piece of you and pull you back down to their level. I suppose it’s true of any relationship, but my experiences with this for me have been mostly with women. Obviously, not all women are like this, but it’s a risk you take. I don’t fault those types; I honestly think women are conditioned to believe that we must all compete for the best hair, the best man, the best house, the best kids, etc. I probably would still subscribe to that train of thought if I hadn’t had to fight so many battles in life. My trials in life have left a significant impact on the way I see the world. The way I see it, we have ample room for everyone to succeed, and when more people succeed, our society improves exponentially. I can ask my girlfriends if my butt looks big and know I will get an honest response. Girls love to critique things like that. What color you should do your highlights, how your clothes fit, where to find the best bras, what exercise class is really great, and what new restaurant can tolerate your screaming baby. When my girl brain is engaged and I start feeling the need for someone to validate my emotions, I call a girlfriend. Girls just “get it.” If I know my problem doesn’t really have an actual solution, yet is still a problem, I know my girlfriends will be there to do what we do. “Oh girl, I am so sorry. You must be so upset.” Once I unload, the problem hasn’t changed a bit – but boy I sure feel better. A man might have just read that and is now scratching his head and wondering why it would help to just whine about it and not fix the freakin’ problem. But, this is how women work. And believe me, when a girlfriend is having an issue, we circle the wagons and will do everything in our power to take down the enemy. Then, there is the obvious ability to share experiences that only women can understand; female anatomy, pregnancy, child birth, breastfeeding, hormone fluctuations, and good ol’ PMS. Typically, men don’t care to discuss these issues with a woman. Women are generally more emotionally validating, and sometimes, it’s just what’s needed.
MY GUY FRIENDS
My husband and I once did an “androgyny test” which is supposed to determine your femininity and your masculinity. My husband often jokes about how some of the things I say and do can often be a little masculine. For example, a night out at the races having a chili dog and a beer is a far better option than “dressing up” and going to an exclusive shin-dig (yes, I said shin-dig). I’d rather work on a car (preferably a really cool hotrod and not my or my husband’s lame family-mobiles) than work on my hair. My test score results were masculine, even more so than my husband’s score. I am not denying that there is some truth to the notion that I often think like a man and do things that more men do, than women. But, I am feminine because I feel like a woman, and I do not need that to be validated by any test or confirmed by another person. I love my gender.
However, I love my male brain, too. There are times where I don’t want to discuss every aspect of a problem and validate every single emotion. There are times where cutting through all that to get to a bottom line is much preferred. Logic is also a strong suit for me, and I honestly feel that men simply relate to logical approaches better than women. Whereas my girlfriends will validate what I think of my problem, a guy will listen to that same problem and figure out how to solve the problem. Never take a problem to a man for which you do not want suggested resolutions; it will only result in frustration for both of you. Men are great for when you don’t want to talk the entire time. You can sit with a guy, watch a race or game, and never say a word (until commercials, or until we have back up and replay something so we can argue about the call) and feel like you had the absolute best quality time.
My study group consists of only guys. I never noticed that until I read the blog about how men and women cannot be friends. I guess it falls in line with my thoughts that men can cut the chit chat and get down to the nitty gritty of things. Studying is much faster when we don’t stop to talk about why you were angry in clinical last week. And studying with guys is awesome in the medical field because we share perspectives of the other gender and learn a great deal more than studying with the same gender.
And here’s the kicker, aside from all of the above, men have more fun. They do! Men have all the cool toys (guns, dirt bikes, awesome TV/surround sound systems, and cool electronics). Oh, guys are better workout partners, too. My trainer was an awesome guy. He didn’t care what day of the month it was; he knew I was capable regardless of what day it is, whereas my female trainer changed my workout for that day when I complained that I was “bloated.” He challenged me and wasn’t going to accept failure.
WHO CAN BE FRIENDS WITH THE OTHER GENDER?
First, you have to be happy with your lot in life. If your marriage is not strong, if your sex life stinks, if you have a void you need filled, or if you are not happily single, it would be a struggle to be “just friends” with the opposite sex.
Second, you have to appreciate your own gender. Women who claim they can only be friends with men because other women are jaded has either been burned by a girlfriend or is lacking confidence and feels like if she can get the attention of various men, she is somehow worthy and whole. Men who claim that they cannot be friends with a woman either have no woman in their life and want one, or they can’t understand (or don’t want to acknowledge) the virtues of a woman’s companionship aside from the traditional role of a sexual interest.
If you are single, you have to be okay with the idea of going out with your opposite gender friend and put off scanning the area for a potential date (or be okay with not being considered single by the other strangers in the room). It sounds trite, but if you are genuinely friends, then you have to come to the realization that others are going to assume you are a couple. So if you have a regular place to go to try to make a love connection, that’s probably not the place to go with your friend. And if you value your friendship, it really isn’t that hard to give them the attention that you would normally give any other friend while you are out.
Finally, you have to be able to resist temptation if your friend is attractive. That can be a challenge. Admittedly, I have some guy friends, and some I think are attractive. But, I am not a threat to their mates, or potential mates. I love my husband and think he is beautiful. In my checkered past, I have gone through the belief that the grass was greener on the other side – but it always turned out to be Astroturf. But I’ll try anything once, and I learned my lesson. I had only one guy friend where we attempted to act on our impulses, and it was disastrous to our friendship. It’s in my post about top 10 bad dates (#7). Yes, I have had a friend “with benefits.” Just like any other friend, I loved and cared about him, but not the love where you dream of marriage or babies, or even having a monogamous relationship. We are still friends today and have never had the benefits aspect in well over 11 years.
I had a male roommate for a long while. He was an awesome guy (is an awesome guy). We were roommates when I met my husband. I am sure he was a little concerned dating a girl who was living with a guy. He and I just clicked really well. He never tried to move it to the next level. Our physical contact consisted of the occasional hug. He was like a brother (men LOVE that saying). We shared our living space, the kitchen, the bills, and we went out together frequently. We used to think it was kind of funny when people we dated found out we lived with an opposite gendered roommate. It wasn’t until after they came in to hang out did they feel better about our living arrangements. Anyone who came in to watch us in our habitat knew that there was no romance between us. It was almost like a sitcom in that apartment.
Anyway, yes, men and women can be friends. I am living proof (as are my guy friends). It’s not for everyone, but it actually does exist. Denying yourself the opportunity to be friends with the other gender limits your experiences and knowledge, and you might just be missing out on an amazing, life changing friend. We can never have too many people to care about, and to care about us.
And now, here’s a man’s point of view on whether men and women can just be friends.