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He and Me – Can We Be (Just) Friends?

By Kellie Purcill

I have lots of friends. I have friends I talk books with; go to movies with; friends I sweat on or near during Kung Fu; friends that know what I look like both when I’m feeling good and (especially) when the world is trying to kill me, the way I know how they look at their best and worst. There are friends that suffer through the same exams as me; friends that laugh and cry with, on and for me; friends that live too far away and are burrowed deep in my heart at the same time. Some of my friends fall into one category; most fall into several or many of the groups.

The vast majority of my friends – at least 95% – are female. It’s the other 5% that I’m wondering about.

Is it possible for a male and a female to be “just friends”?

Some people say yes, some say no, some exhibit incredible facial contortions and language mastery in describing just how much such a feat is (im)possible. I’ve heard that it’s impossible due to genetics (the “all males are after one thing” stupidity-presented-as-argument theory), and totally achievable in today’s civilized society (the “we are all adults here” hopeful generalization) by both men and women, with convincing arguments to bolster their views. The situation is more complicated when the marital status is specified: can you be friends if you are both single? One single, one married? Both married (but not to each other?) [Author’s note: I hope all who are married are friends with their spouses!]

Does faith or church membership change the likelihood or wisdom of being friends? Certainly within the LDS church there are cultural expectations (and official guidelines) as to male-female interactions, which I suppose has some impact on the formation of friendships. A couple of months before my ex-husband and I separated, an older single sister in my branch said “I never shake hands with any of the brethren. Ever. I don’t want there to be any appearance of evil.” At the time, I was surprised at her decision, and explanation behind it. Now, as a single sister myself, I can see the relevance of keeping the distance, however small physically or culturally significant. While at church I do shake hands with those that proffer, I am careful about the time I spend with anyone male and make sure there are other people present or metres away and in plain sight, things I can’t remember thinking about when I was married. Similarity of faith, morality and belief can help create or cement a friendship, yet most certainly is not a prerequisite for making friends… Or is it, if the other person is the opposite sex? Does it matter then?

Culture, circumstance, inclination and interests widen and constrict our opportunities for friendship. If there is a dearth of people in my current list of friends to speak to of classical literature, politics, sci-fi and rhetoric, and a known acquaintance is discovered to have those same interests, is the fact that they are male a deal-breaker? Should friendships be kept strictly same-sex-until-marriage (as suddenly loaded as that now sounds), and then keeping the only-my-spouse-as-a-male-friend quota? Is loneliness better – safer – than making friends with guys? Is it possible for a man and a woman to be “just friends”?

Is it possible to be “just friends”? Why? Does marital status change the answer? Does gender play a role in your friendships?

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

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