Can Men and Women Really Be Just Friends?

Brown Sugar 












This blog is referring only to straight friendships or relationships.

Don’t you love Sunday debates? My cousins and I began our Sunday with this question: can men and women really be just friends? Out of the four of us, two said yes and two said no. I was on the ‘no’ front, till I defined what I was trying to say a little better. What sparked the whole debate was a link one of my friends sent me. On Good Morning America last month, Steve Harvey discussed the question, can men and women be just friends (View the GMA Steve Harvey segment here).

Steve Harvey said NO, nah uh, nope, absolutely not. Here’s my answer to the question. It is possible to have a completely platonic relationship with someone of the opposite sex. However, and this is my key stance, there’s a level of deliberate effort to maintain the relationship as purely platonic.

This is my personal opinion. Men and women aren’t built to be just friends. It is not a natural thing. We weren’t created that way. We were created to be together, romantically and sexually. To maintain a purely friendly relationship, we all have to work at it. We may not always be conscious of the effort we make to stay just friends, but it’s there.  

My cousin asked that, would I let my husband stay with a close female friend alone in our house whiles I’m away for a week. Heck, no. It’s not because I don’t trust him, or think men and women can’t be just friends. It’s because we are all human, and we have weaknesses and flaws. I may trust him completely, but that doesn’t mean he can not be human and make a mistake. In our everyday lives, how do we avoid mistakes? We avoid the situations or circumstances that can lead to those mistakes. As one cousin said this morning, the Bible doesn’t say avoid temptation, it says ‘flee’ from temptation.

That is the bottom line for me. You have to acknowledge that no matter who you are mistakes can happen. You have to acknowledge that basic premise in order to have successful friendships or relationships.

For most friends, there is a basic level of liking, admiration and respect. One of my cousins said this morning, you typically don’t hate your friends. If that is the case, and you like most of your friends, then it’s not unheard of for the liking and respect to become physical attraction. Physical attraction doesn’t always happen from the get-go. Physical or sexual attraction can build as you spend a lot of time together. You bond with close friends and you see each other through ups and downs. You genuinely care about them and want the best for them. You like talking to them and getting their opinions on issues that matter to you. Sometimes you become best friends. That’s sweet, we all need close friends who have our backs, male or female. However, such close proximity can lead to attraction, whether it’s reciprocated or not, it’s definitely possible for at least one of you. It is more common than most of us like to admit. And this phenomenon of best friends falling in love isn’t only in movies like Brown Sugar and When Harry met Sally. It’s happening every day.

Just as there is a thin line between love and hate, and people can go unexpectedly from loving someone to hating them, there is also a very thin line between platonic feelings and emotional or sexual feelings. You can go from one to the other very slowly or in the blink of an eye. I find it troubling that there are some people who appear to be oblivious to that possibility. Those who say ‘hey, she and I are just friends, nothing can ever happen, we’re just hanging out, she’s my best friend, etc’. One thing I said this morning is, I can’t talk in absolutes, and I find it fascinating when others do. Why the absolute certainty that your friend can never, ever be more than just a friend?

I think for relationships, particularly marriage, it is important to protect your marriage or relationships and put friends of the opposite sex at an appropriate level. It doesn’t mean my husband can’t have female friends. He can, but it has to be an appropriate level of interaction. Honestly, this isn’t something I have to spell out for any man. We don’t have to make a list of ‘Friends DOs and DON’Ts’ and post it on the fridge. What it does mean is that both my husband and I have to acknowledge that we all human and it is possible for purely friendly relationships to become something else. Once both of us are on that same page, then our actions with friends must not jeopardize our relationship.

I want to emphasize though, that for me, none of this is about trust. And this may be hard for some people to understand. A lot of people may say, hey if you trust your partner, there is nothing wrong with the time he or she spends with friends of the opposite sex. I will trust my partner, without trust we will not even get together. But trust alone can’t ensure success in a relationship. It’s the same for love; love alone can’t guarantee longevity in a relationship. A long lasting and successful relationship takes conscious effort and hard work. You don’t just sit back and say, I love and trust my partner, and then that’s it. So I don’t think we should use labels like love and trust to mean it’s over, nothing else needs to be done.

To sum up, is it possible to have close friends of the opposite sex and not have absolutely any feelings for them, through out your lifetime? Of course it is possible. Is it possible for close platonic friends to later develop strong feelings for each other, somewhere along the line? That is possible too. That, really, is my whole premise. It may not be your intention to hook up with your friend. But intentions are one thing, and reality is a different thing. Even those of pure thought and pure minds can make mistakes, and honestly the concept of pure thought and pure mind is even arguable.

I know I can’t fly, so I won’t jump out of a plane or something of the sort. Likewise, I know man’s nature is a sinful one, so as much as I may love and trust my partner, that friend thing will have to be tightly controlled. And if my husband feels it will be hard for him to spend less time with his female best friend, and he has to talk to her each night at 11 p.m., then I’ll leave the relationship and let him be with her. To me, it is so simple, so I’m curious about what other people think.

What’s your take?