Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Can Single Men and Women Be Friends?, Part I

Every two minutes, someone somewhere in the U.S. asks, "Can men and women really be friends?"

Well, okay, I don't know the stats on how often this question pops up, but I'll wager it's frequently. From the workplace to the college classroom to movies starring Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, men and women have teamed up, tested the boundaries of the buddy system, and sometimes crossed them, either to their newfound joy or lasting regret.

For singles, cross-gender friendships are a sensitive issue because neither friend comes with a "strictly off-limits" prohibition in the form of a wedding band. So, in theory, the door to greater intimacy is always ajar if not wide open. But in practice, quite a few singles would prefer that their friends not have benefits attached.

So can they practice what they preach? Can males and females have friendships unchanged by their differences below the waistline? Singletude takes a stab at the answer:

(Note: The following scenarios are based on heterosexual cross-gender friendships and may have a very different dynamic for people of other orientations.)

When Single Men and Women Can Be Friends

1. Big Brothers and Kid Sisters

This is the male/female duo that best approximates the annoying but affectionate sibling dynamic you grew up with. They pick on each other, play hard together, occasionally open up to each other, and, at the end of the day, have each other's backs. There's also not an ounce of attraction between them.

While anecdotal evidence and some research suggests that men are less likely than women to dissociate attraction from friendship, there really are guys who want to sleep with a particular female friend about as much as they want to have a prostate exam. Okay, probably most guys would rather be felt up by a friend than a latex glove, but the fact of the matter is that, despite the steady diet of stereotypes most women have been fed, men don't want to rummage around in the pants of every woman they'll ever meet. Some of those pants are filled with bodies that certain men don't find attractive. Or the man might have no complaints about a woman's body, but her personality fails to fire a response more passionate than his interest in beer and baseball.

In friendships like these, in which the thought of exchanging saliva leaves both parties pickle-faced with disgust, a purely platonic relationship is quite plausible.

2. Ex-lovers With No Regrets

I would venture to say that most exes can't be friends. (We'll talk about why next time.) However, the exception to this rule is when neither partner is pining for the lost relationship and both are, in fact, glad it's in the rear-view mirror.

This can happen in the rare event that two lovers mutually agree to end their romantic relationship. (I'd like to emphasize the word "rare" in the preceding sentence. Rare, rare, rare. Rare.)

It can also occur in the more common break-up scenario in which, after a one-sided disappointment, the wounded party heals, moves on, and wonders what the heck he or she ever saw in that lousy ex-lover who is now a terrific platonic friend. These friendships seem to be especially workable when both exes have committed to new romantic relationships and aren't as susceptible to loneliness or misplaced nostalgia.

Again, if both parties really don't harbor lingering romantic feelings--and I know from experience that it is possible to completely outgrow such feelings--then a friendship based on shared history, mutual understanding, and respect for each other's divergent life paths is entirely doable.

3. Not-Worth-Its

This is the schizophrenic category, the one that covers tenuous friendships that may be here today and lovelorn tomorrow. These are the opposite sex friends who kinda sorta feel attracted but know it would be foolhardy to pursue whatever may or may not be between them. It might be that the attraction isn't strong enough to risk the friendship, or maybe they both know their irreconcilable differences would tear them apart as a couple faster than the bonds of friendship could stitch them together. Either way, they've both entertained the idea while drinking alone in unattractive, puffy slippers on a Friday night and have concluded that it's not worth it.

If Not-Worth-Its commit to upholding the boundaries of their friendship, they have a good shot at maintaining it. But there's the ever-present danger that they might succumb to their attraction and curiosity in a weak moment.

Now that we've visited some scenarios in which men and women have a good shot at sustaining a friendship, you may be wondering when it's not advisable to have opposite sex friends. I know it's an effort, but contain your curiosity, dear readers. The answer is forthcoming next time!

Do you have opposite sex friends? In your experience, what makes a good foundation for a cross-gender friendship?

Fun Link of the Day


Anonymous said...

No they can't! We should have hooked up months ago -- it's for the good of our friendship.

bobbyboy said...

Excellent article!

"Do you have opposite sex friends? In your experience, what makes a good foundation for a cross-gender friendship?

I have mostly female friends these days. We can obviously see the attractiveness of each other because that's normal. I don't believe it has to go to another level because of this.

I believe that future partners should be friends first. This to me is the relationship that has a better chance of staying power.

A good foundation for a cross-gender friendship?

I'm not sure that I know as I view friendship as it's own thing which involves, respect, communication and trust.

I need more thought on this one!

Anonymous said...

Well, I would like to say that I am moral enough to say yes they can, sadly in my case that may not be so.

If I am single and if my friend is single, if I am attracted to them then for me, a sexual liason (and to my credit, the possibility of a relationship) are definitely on the table.

However, (and also to my credit) it takes more than appearance for me to find someone attractive.

On being friends with ex-lovers, I am very close friends with an ex-girlfriend. However she is pining for me in a big way, and I pray she finds someone new soon, or gets over me. (This may sound immodest, it is not, it is simply the truth.) If I had not helped my ex in so many ways in her life, and if I had not put such a huge emotional and to some degree financial investment into her future, I do not believe we would still be close.

As it stands right now, I am seeing a very attractive and nice girl, and sexual liasons or more with friends if I am involved with someone are a definite no-no. Infidelity to me is like spitting in your partner's face. I did it once, and I faced the music, and I never want to do that to someone again.

However, on the other side of the coin, friendships can blossom into wonderful romances, and in my view is the best way, next to incredible instant attraction to get with someone.

If you want a good example of this, check out a brill movie called "Once" about a romantic situation between two musicians. It will have you screaming at the screen.

Anyway my dears, hope ths input serves to inform!

C xx

P.S. I have yet to be in the situation depicted here, ie single and with a single female friend, however if a romance or a sexual liason seriously endangered a wonderful friendship, I would hope I have the strength to leave well alone.

I do also have a very close female friend who is very much in love with her partner, I am happy about this because our friendship is true with no possibility of mischief, even if the lady propositioned me, I would not ever get involved with someone illicitly, I would also ask the friend to take a long hard look at their relationship and to do the decent thing before I would consider romantic possibilities with them, I hate the idea of being a home-wrecker!

Wizardry said...

I'm so sorry I've not been by recently! First, I'm not dead. Second, I've been having relationship issues: the same one for the past 17 years- with my father. We never get along, and things have come to a crux, so there is lots of arguing, lots of fighting, and lots of taking things away from me (phone, keys, computer, you name it). So I'm loging on when I can, but I can't say how often that will be.

Again, I'm sorry Elsie, and I'll be back as soon as I can.

Clever Elsie said...

Blister: How could I compete with the beautiful first lady of your life--Katana?

Bobby: Well said! I'm going to expand on the friends-as-future-lovers theme in Part II. ;)

C: It sounds like your ex is currently in the "Ex-lovers With Regrets" category, which I'm going to discuss in Part II. ;) It's super hard to be friends with an ex who isn't really okay with just friendship. Just a suggestion, but perhaps you might want to distance yourself from her for awhile.

I think you have an admirable attitude re. fidelity, and thanks a bunch for the film recommendation. I'll certainly look into it. :)

Victoria: Don't worry. You're still "First Poster." :) I'm sorry to hear you've been having issues at home. :( I really do hope you and your dad can iron things out. Let us know how it goes.

And happy birthday, by the way! I hope you had a delightful celebration. :)

Wizardry said...

Well I try to, but the arguments now ensuing eclipse most everything. My father is such a drastic over achiever, and no matter what I do, I can’t be good enough. Where this like any other relationship you’ve seen, break up with them would be my first advice- but I can’t- that’s the issue; I’m stuck for the rest of my life, and directly for the next year or so. Its just frustrating to never be good enough in whatever I do; part of the reason I keep writing is because he doesn’t know about it; if he did I probably wouldn’t do it anymore because he would convince me its worthless.

I’m sorry to be so gloomy- I’m just really angry and upset right now. Its my birthday present every year- a nice long argument with my father.

Unknown said...

Why not why Single Man and women cant be friend?

i have seen lota single man and women who are just friends sisnce long time

CC Solomon said...

They can be friends when there is no real attraction or desire to hook up.

bobbyboy said...

Hi Elsie,

I am off topic with this reply (Sorry), but I feel a need to express my thought here.

I had major issues with my Dad when I was younger and as he died young, I never got to resolve any of them. I can only say that I hope you two will resolve any issues between yourselves. As an optimist, I believe you will!

I want you to know the opinion of someone who doesn't know you personally, but just a tad from your posts and blog.
I truly believe that you are one of those rare people in life that are destined for greatness. You have an uncanny ability for writing and though processing that I don't see around too often.

What you do in life will of course be up to you. You have a great deal of worth and talent, although at times there will be road blocks, I believe you will succeed.

Hang in there because at some point in the near future, things will be looking very rosy for you and rightfully so.

Elsie, if you or Victoria don't want this post or any part of it approved for any reason, please feel free to delete it. I just felt a need to express myself.


Clever Elsie said...

Victoria: Anytime you know in your heart that you've done your best, that is enough, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Have you tried talking to your dad about how his criticism makes you feel? Sometimes, in their overeagerness to see their kids succeed, parents aren't aware of how much they're hurting them.

On the other hand, some parents never will agree with the choices you make in life. It can be helpful to realize that they're probably hard on you because they want what's best for you, not because they want you to feel worthless or stifled. At the same time, though, they won't always KNOW what's best for you, so if you have interests or beliefs that conflict with theirs, you need to hold tight to those things and remember that YOU are the only one who can decide who you are.

Now, this may sound unlikely, and it doesn't apply in every case, but often, once kids are out of the house and have more space between them and their parents, the relationship improves. Parents come to accept their kids' independence and life choices and feel proud as they watch them succeed, even if it wasn't in the way they expected. This was definitely the case with me and my dad.

Bobbyboy has some great advice on this, too, so I hope you'll check it out.

Pradeep: Welcome! Thanks for commenting. :)

There are definitely male-female friendships that can succeed. I listed a few such scenarios in this post.

As for why they sometimes can't succeed, please see "Part II"! Feel free to check it out and let us know your thoughts.

Cat: I totally agree.

Bobby: You're always welcome to leave comments for anyone you want to! :) My only restrictions on comments are that they not be spams or flames.

I hope I haven't been a comment hog. {blush} Everyone is encouraged to respond to any comment that inspires them to do so! :)