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?


  1. Andrea R.

    January 26, 2011

    Kel, this is a hard but good question. I think the movie “When Harry Met Sally” definitively proves that men and women cannot JUST be friends. 🙂 However, I have always really enjoyed hanging out with men — there’s a different dynamic than there is with women, and I always had a good time hanging around with my guy friends in high school and in college.

    I’ve noticed (sadly) in the church that it’s nearly impossible to be friends with, much less hold a casual conversation with a male member of the church. Usually, I’m friends with their wife, and I’ll strike up a conversation with them in the hallway, and I’m astounded at how rapidly they beat a hasty retreat. I want to scream, “I’m not flirting with you! I’m happily married! I just want to have a conversation about the Miami Dolphins!” Sometimes I think we take avoiding the appearance of impropriety too far.

  2. jay

    January 26, 2011

    As the wife of a man who thought he could have women friends and is now dealing with the aftermath of infidelity, I would have to say it’s like playing with fire. It starts innocent, but Satan plays with you until before you know it, it’s anything BUT…. 🙁

  3. MB

    January 26, 2011

    Carlfred Broderick wrote about his experiences as a family therapist helping families deal with infidelity. He wrote about the three elements that abet physical or emotional infidelity in the lives of good people who never expected that they would go down that road. The more of them extant in a person’s situation, the more likely that regrettable actions would result. They were: a resentment or disconnect with one’s spouse, a rationalization of a misstep rooted in virtue, and regular interaction in a mutual activity or discussion away from spouses.

    The second one is the one that caught my attention. It is the extension of compassion, understanding or sympathy to a fellow human being that leads one to seek further interaction on a more personal level. It’s the latter part of that, (not the compassion itself) that leads to stupid choices. And being a rather compassionate, tender-hearted person, I recognize that mode of messing up as possible for me.

    Broderick offers the following questions to ask yourself before you pursue a close friendship with a member of the opposite sex.

    1. Are my most important emotional and sexual needs being met?

    2. Do I find this person attractive? Does he or she make me feel warm and giving and wish that I could compensate him or her for any hurt or lack of understanding he or she is experiencing? Would I feel the same way if he or she practiced poor hygiene, weighed 100 pounds more and had a violent spouse who collected guns?

    3. Do I feel that in order to help or connect with this person we need long hours alone to discuss things that are important and needful. Do I find that touching this person is important to maintaining our relationship? Do I spend much of the time I am away from this person thinking about his or her challenges or interests or problems or questions?

    4. (If married) Does my spouse know where I am and with whom when I am with this person and does he or she approve? Why are we not helping this person as a couple?

    I realize that not only do I need to answer those questions myself, but I also need to consider the response of good men when they ask those questions of themselves when considering their friendship with me. Their decision as to whether or not to create a friendship, based on their own self-knowledge, may not be what I would wish, but it is vital, as their sister, that I respect that.

  4. melanie

    January 26, 2011

    ugh. this is so annoying to me. when i’m talking to a married man and he can’t even look at me, because it might look like he’s being inappropriate… so then our converation ends up being super weird even though it doesn’t have to be and i feel like screaming I WOULDN’T LIKE YOU ANYWAY’. you know, can’t we all just be friends? what’s with the weirdness. i experienced the same thing on my mission with the elders. some of them genuinely thought i was hitting on them just by saying HI.
    someone please fix this weirdness!

  5. Eliana

    January 26, 2011

    This is a hard thing. I err on the side of caution, based on experience, but it makes me sad to not be able to be friends with interesting people. When I got married I knew that it would be a change, to not ‘hang out’ with other men, and I had to be willing to give that up.
    Casual friendship is one thing, but a connection with another person–the point of finding a friend– just is a road that can become a problem.

  6. Roberta

    January 26, 2011

    I wonder if it’s an age thing? And maybe an age thing influenced by a Church thing?

    I am not friends with any of the men in my family ward by choice. I will smile and say “hello” when we pass each other, but I don’t consider our interactions a *friendship*. A few years ago, an older man in became very friendly toward me and my then young daughters. I thought he was just a lonely much older man (grandpa) who missed his own family. Soon his comments to me turned to informing me how much he liked how I looked in *that* skirt, or he would hold my hand far, far toooo long after a handshake and stare at me, or he would seek me out after Sacrament service to tell me how much he thought of me during the week. ICK. ICK. (The sad thing is I’m only in my late 40s and he’s into his late 70’s maybe early 80’s…do I look that aged?)

    My oldest daughter has several young men as friends. But none of my female friends at my age level have them. I think most of my non-church friends who are single are on the hunt, and thus friendships are not exactly what they’re seeking.

  7. Mrs. M

    January 26, 2011

    Huh. I haven’t felt the weirdness. I’m married and I have man friends who are married, at least I have one. We don’t hang out alone, but we do family outings and stuff together, and we are friends with each other’s spouse.

  8. mom o' boys

    January 26, 2011

    Thanks for the comments already written.

    I think it is possible to be “friends” with other married men as long as you are socializing with them when their spouse is around or socializing for briefer periods of time when you are in open, public places. I cannot imagine that it would be ever okay to go out to eat with a married man (who’s not your spouse) just the two of you. The only exception I’ve made to this for my husband is when he has had a business lunch with a female colleague (and that has been a very infrequent thing and he always asks me if that’s okay beforehand). My husband has also, a handful of times, given a female colleague a ride home, but those were the exceptions rather than the rule. I don’t think riding in a car with another married person on a regular person is wise, when it’s just the two of you. I think it’s just really wise to be on your guard, but I think being able to have a conversation for several minutes in the hallway with someone of the opposite sex at church should be okay. At least, it is for me. And, shaking their hand seems so tame. I have even (gasp) given other married men hugs…mostly when we were moving or something unusual like that. Your friend who won’t even shake a man’s hand seems extremely cautious, and I wouldn’t want to ever feel like I had to be that careful.

    I find a lot of men attractive so it would be kinda hard if I told myself that I couldn’t ever have a conversation with someone I found attractive.

    I think it’s probably a very personal matter and each person will have to come up with his or her guidelines for what they’re comfortable with.

    Thanks for the discussion! And, Roberta, that is so creepy. I have had older men hit on me before, and I find it particularly disturbing when they’re at least 30 years my senior….a 65-year-old cashier at Wal-Mart started having this conversation with me while scanning my groceries that stunned me with its vulgarity. I probably should have reported him.

  9. Kevin Barney

    January 26, 2011

    It would never occur to me to recoil from a woman at church just to “avoid the appearance of evil.” I’m happy to talk to anyone in that setting, including (even!) women. And if I saw the RS President walking in a downpour, yes, I would offer her a ride.

    Am I on the high road to adultery? Maybe, I suppose, but I don’t think so. I’ve socialized with women in professional settings for many years without incident. I don’t know why church should be any different.

  10. Tricia

    January 26, 2011

    There is absolutely weirdness with some people and not with others. Sometimes I wonder if it does correlate with how comfortable they are with themselves and their relationship with their spouse. I think we should always be cautious but not avoid conversations with members of the opposite sex. My husband has the greatest affinity for my friends who actually call him by his first name and not just the cool and sometimes distancing, Brother so-and-so from a peer. Does it get any safer than the hallway at church? I can usually tell when someone is flirting with me and then I feel a little sicked out. But the rest of my interactions with men are just fine. It’s sort of like the grown-up version of byu social life . . . where every conversation with someone of the opposite sex might mean wedding bells.

  11. Sara

    January 26, 2011

    My husband and I are friends with 2 other couples from our ward. We hang out with our families and go out on weekends with just the adults. I’d say the wives are friends with the husbands and vice versa. As in we talk and have conversations without the other spouse standing right next to them. It’s never seemed weird or wrong to me.

  12. Red

    January 26, 2011

    This is one of my pet peeves! I am happily married. My husband is my best friend. I am all about maintaining safe emotional boundaries.

    But I think it’s a form of sexism when a guy can’t look me in the eyes and talk to me like a normal person in a public place and I find that this happens at church more than anywhere else. These men either don’t treat me as a peer (more like a child or an employee) or they look at my husband even though they are responding to me. Infuriating! Age is sometimes a factor but most of the time it’s just the individual.

  13. DeniMarie

    January 26, 2011

    About six years ago I worked with a man about my age and we got along really well. I was expecting my first child and he had two children of his own and we felt we had something in common, plus our personalities just clicked. Actually, after awhile it made more sort of uncomfortable how well we got along.

    I didn’t go back after I had my baby, so I never saw him after that. I often wonder what would have happened if I had worked with this man for years. It would have been hard for me to maintain an emotional distance from him, and yet it would have been very necessary.

    I think that emotional distance is kind of the key. I think if there is ever a man–other than my husband, of course–with whom I feel a deep emotional connection, I’ve got a problem. I can interact with men, and I do. What I can’t do is turn to another man for comfort or support because I’m married, and a married man shouldn’t be turning to me either.

    As a side note, when I was single my friends (both male and female) had a saying, “You are never just friends when the opposite sex is involved. One or the other of you always wants more.” I don’t know if that is always true, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence in the dating world.

  14. Michelle Glauser

    January 26, 2011

    I also feel like you kind of have to be friends with their wives so that it’s not weird. But I definitely have been appreciative of men who will be friends with me even though we’re not dating or can never date. It’s possible.

  15. perpetual sunshine

    January 26, 2011

    I’m 30 and single, and I struggle with where to draw the lines, too. I never even want to give the impression that I’m trying to get between couples because their relationship is far more important than my feelings, hands down. But I still want friends.
    I have many guy friends who were single when we became friends, but who are now married. I’ve had to say goodbye to a few because their spouse didn’t like me. But with the ones who do, I make a new friend of the wife and continue to interact with both of them at the same time (or in a public setting). But it’s different because it has to be.
    Social Networking can become an issue, too. But I just follow the same rules: be friends with the wife, and keep everything public. And don’t fight it if you get the ax.

  16. Paula

    January 26, 2011

    Jay makes a very good point. You have to be careful with members of the opposite sex. I have male “friends” but they know that I am very happily married. When I was first married I was still in college. I had male friends who were other students. One of these male friends, who knew I was married, kept trying to get me to go have lunch with him. I finally agreed as long as my husband could come too. He quit asking. I would do the same today.

    I feel that there are limits that we should put in place about how intimately we should know people of the opposite sex. If we are talking with someone, male or female, about something that I should be discussing with my spouse then maybe I should be rethinking where our motives lie. I will cleave unto my husband and to none else. Like it says in the scriptures.

  17. A

    January 26, 2011

    After seeing two families completely destroyed in our neighborhood from infidelity, I don’t see how it is worth it.

  18. Tay

    January 26, 2011

    It depends on the person. I’m good friends with my husbands old roommate, but so is my husband. I’ve spent time alone with him at his apartment while preparing a surprise party for my husband. If he were to come over when it was just me and the kids at home, I would feel comfortable and he wouldn’t stay for an awkward amount of time. However, men I’m friends with from before I knew my husband are more off-limits because of how my relationship was with them when I was single. Men I meet now I am not friends with them without my husband being friends with them because we do just about everything together. And with my husband’s work friends, he just never goes anywhere he doesn’t have to alone with a woman. Friends? yes. Best buds? no.

  19. Tay

    January 26, 2011

    (The old roommate is single.)

  20. Amy So

    January 26, 2011

    I think you CAN be friends with the opposite sex, but you can’t expect the same thing out of the friendship. In fact, that is one of the things I like about having friends who are men (and I really only have a couple): I relate to them in different ways than I relate to my friends who are girls.

    I DO think, though, that you have to be very conscious in your thought patterns and actions. I can definitely see how it would be a slippery slope if you didn’t think about your behavior within that friendship. There’s a fine line between friendship and flirting and I am very, very careful not to cross it.

  21. MalibuJane

    January 26, 2011

    I work professionally with a number of LDS men (I am happily married and expecting a baby) yet I also sense awkwardness when I converse with many of them. I’ve never been a flirt. I feel like it Is more than caution- more like arrogance. Perhaps, as another commenter posted, it is more of a BYU thing- where every convsation with the opposite gender can lead to marriage.

  22. SilverRain

    January 26, 2011

    I think it is possible to be just friends without danger, but if one and/or the other is married, than you have to be friends as a couple, not as a person.

  23. MalibuJane

    January 26, 2011

    BTW- no similar awkwardness with my non-LDS male co-workers.

  24. cahkaylahlee

    January 26, 2011

    I became good friends with a man during grad level quantum mechanics. We spent many late nights and early mornings in his office trying to finish homework. I was married, my husband knew where I was, who I was with, and approximately what time I’d be home (he would have known that even if my friend was a girl though). My friend was in a long term, long distance relationship. When I’d tell my husband about my day, I’d be sure to include any interesting conversations I had with my friend. As our interest in friendship developed beyond just school work, we planned activities that always included my husband (and his girlfriend, if she was in town). In this way, he became a ‘family friend’ instead of just my friend.

    I think building relationships with the opposite sex (when married) requires three trusting relationships: you and your friend, you and your spouse, and your spouse and your friend. And those relationships all grow in different ways and at different times. So, while from experience I know it is possible to have a good and safe relationship with a male friend, they are much more complicated than my relationships with other women.

  25. Katie

    January 26, 2011

    I stopped being active friends with my single male friends when I got married (as in, no regular conversations, never hanging out). I can have a pleasant conversation when I happen to see them, or use facebook for brief interactions (networking, birthday wishes). However, I have plenty of male friends who are coworkers. We talk at work and at work events, but never hang out outside of work or talk about especially personal things. I think of church settings as similar to work settings, though I find that more men act awkward towards me so we never become “friends.” My husband and I are friends with several couples, and I would say that I am individually friends with both husband and wife.

    Basically, I keep location and topics public and appropriate, and pay attention to my feelings and intentions. With those guidelines, I do have male friends.

  26. Naomi

    January 26, 2011

    I think there is a big difference between having a conversation with a someone at church (male or female; married or single) and being friends. And I think that the author is really talking about the latter. It’s a big step for me to move from being just-at-church friends to outside-of-church friends regardless of the person’s gender.

    But now, as a single woman who no longer attends a YSA ward, I wonder if many of the married men in my ward are simply awkward humans or are awkward because I am not married and they think that exchanging simple pleasantries with me in the hall or in Sunday school will jeopardize their reputations, etc. And for many, I believe it is the latter. I honestly pity these men who seem to live with suspicion and fear. Despite these awkward interactions, I would never think to have an outside-of-church friendship with any married man. And now, when a male friend of mine does marry, we usually remain friends because I am also friends with his wife.

    My interactions with many non-LDS married men do not yield this same awkwardness and I don’t believe that these men are hitting on me either. I find it unfortunate that at church a certain level of collegiality and friendliness doesn’t exist. And I don’t think the friendliness necessarily translates directly to “friend.”

  27. Zimiri

    January 26, 2011

    The short answer is Yes. As anecdotal as it is, I am living proof.
    During University I met a great friend who happened to be male. We had much in common, though faith and belief system was not one of the commonalities.

    We spent much time together, shared our (often nightmare) dating experiences of our latest interest, cried on each others shoulder, saw each other through graduation, moves, death of family members, break ups, career adjustments and illness.

    We grew to love each other dearly. Despite this love, it never entered the physical beyond friendship. Not so much as one kiss. Sure, there was attraction, but we both knew we had diverging faith, both of us solid in our belief… even though we would often try to persuade the other of our view.

    Ten years after meeting I helped he and his girlfriend move in together. A year after, they attended my wedding. Five more years… and two happy marriages down the road… We continue to be good friends…. all four of us.

    As an aside, my husband, as a recent convert, was confused about why the women at church “wouldn’t meet his eyes” and “seemed unfriendly” when he spoke to them. He wondered if most LDS women really were as subjugated as all the anti implied. Knowing most of these women as strong and capable it made me pause and consider what in the LDS culture could cause this disconnect.
    The theory we settled on was the fear based teaching we often hear about the opposite sex.

    Fire can warm, Fire can destroy. Complete avoidance can leave us with cold soup, ignorance, with burnt souls.

  28. Ana of the Nine Kids

    January 26, 2011

    I like what President Hinckley said (in reference to working married women) “Do your job, but keep your distance. Don’t become a factor in the breakup of another woman’s home.”

    I think for women the danger comes more from emotional attachment, for men from visual/physical closeness, at least at the start. For myself, in the past I haven’t been as concerned about it (developing friendships with men) when I am not attracted to a guy but when I KNOW it is someone I could get close to, I put on the brakes. But maybe that’s not fair to only be concerned about my feelings? Maybe all those guys averting their eyes in conversation in the hallways at church are doing the same thing–their version of keeping a distance to be safe? All I know is that after seeing several friends’ marriages blow up b/c of infidelity, I am a lot more cautious (A LOT) about male/female friendships that develop outside my marriage than I used to be.

  29. Annette

    January 26, 2011

    I feel really lucky in that I have two good male friends as a result of my writing group. The groups meets about weekly, we have annual get togethers with spouses, and see one another often at conferences, e-mail as a group, and the like. I consider them to be like great brothers, and I adore both their wives.

    But if I didn’t have such a specific environment that made such friendships “safe,” I doubt I’d really have any male friends.

  30. jendoop

    January 26, 2011

    It was difficult for me to give up my male friends when I got married. I did do a few things with my single friends, male and female, without my husband. When I came home I felt strange. I preferred being with my husband, developing our relationship – not building relationships with others. My husband probably didn’t enjoy knowing I was out having fun with single men either, I’d rather err on the side of saving his feelings. What little free time my husband and I have, I want to spend it together.

    I have simple friendships with men, who are usually spouses of my female friends. One of them even gave me a hug for throwing a baby shower for his wife a few days ago. I’ve kissed many men on the cheek at church (we were in a Spanish branch) and then they ask about my husband and children. I enjoy a good conversation with either gender, but I won’t be making lunch dates with anyone except my husband.

    The awkwardness can go the other way as well. There is a single man in our ward who is far too friendly (if you know what I mean). After a few awkward HT visits, we were taken off his route. Only for the ward boundaries to change and he was reassigned to us. I gave him a chance but it was still yuck. I asked for his assignment to be changed. Passing him in the hall on Sunday he said that he’s upset about the change and plans to continue visiting us. Ugh, this is about to get ugly.

    I would like to think that appropriate male/female friendships are something we will be able to enjoy more in better circumstances- this fallen world is too ripe with temptation and heartache.

  31. Tiffany W.

    January 26, 2011

    I think this question has a lot to do with culture, even within the church, cultures vary.

    While a young married woman at BYU, I felt the restrictions on friendships with males very keenly.

    A few years later, my husband, two children and I moved to Sweden, where friendships abound between men and women within the church without a lot of stress. I have several male friends in Sweden. To be fair, I’m also friends with their wives and haven’t felt the slightest problem with any of those friendships. Church dances for married adults were often held and I danced with my friends without feeling awkward or uncomfortable and my husband danced with other married women. There wasn’t a big run of divorces in the area.

    I now live on the East Coast. I don’t have any particular male friends within the ward, but I don’t feel uncomfortable with the men in my ward either. We are friendly, converse frequently about various topics: religion, politics, life, etc, and look one another in the eyes.

    Perhaps the taboo is more prevalent in areas with a higher concentration of members?

    But back to the OP. . . As a married woman, no friendship, with a man or woman, has precedence over the relationship and friendship with my husband. This means that my most intimate feelings, secrets, and experiences are only shared with my husband. I also think that what happens with my marital relationship should stay between the two of us. Therefore, I don’t share problems my husband and I have with anyone–parents, siblings, or friends (male or female).

    I cannot say how it works when one is single. I think it is possible that friendship with married men can be possible, under the framework of a couple friendship and being very careful not to interfere or have too much knowledge of that marriage relationship. Thus, if male friends start confiding with a single woman the problems with their relationship, I would say the friendship has gone too far. That information is more appropriately shared with a therapist and not a friend. Information shared like that can create a false sense of emotional intimacy that causes schizms in marriages.

  32. Gdub

    January 26, 2011

    As one of those who’s a “menace to society”, having stayed single while most of my friends got married, I can tell you that I’ve learned that relationships can stay intact, but they definitely change.

    For instance, I have several female friends who’ve since married. With some of them, I had a pretty close and emotionally intimate relationships. That intimacy had to change, and I did place some distance between us. This was less because I was worried about infidelity, but more out of respect for their husband. I wouldn’t ever want to cause jealousy in somebody.

    Now, for me, it’s pretty difficult to be “just friends”. I don’t fall easily. I usually don’t realize any sort of romantic feelings for somebody until I’ve really gotten to know them for who they are, as the say goes, “warts and all”. Those imperfections can become endearing, you know? Iduno, I’m a weirdo I suppose.

  33. Paradox

    January 26, 2011

    I think how safe it is to have friends of the opposite sex is entirely dependent on the spiritual maturity of the ones involved. We’re all brothers and sisters–we exist together to have healthy, appropriate relationships because we aren’t supposed to be alone. Being able to control how we act on our attractions is crucial to our spiritual development. If we can’t handle being around the opposite when they’re imperfect, how are we going to handle being around the hosts of heaven when they’re all perfect?

    A little foresight never hurt anyone.

  34. mom o' boys

    January 26, 2011

    One more thing I thought of. I detest when men who are within a few years of my age call me “Sister Smith” (although my last name is not Smith). It feels so stiff and formal. I’d so much prefer to be called by my first name by people who are anywhere near my age.

    Some years ago my husband was taking piano lessons from a single woman. I decided after a time that I didn’t feel comfortable with it anymore since I felt like they were becoming too friendly and comfortable with one another just during that once a week lesson. We did thereafter have the woman over for dinner a few times so my husband could still be friends with her but while I was there too (we’ve since moved apart but they’ve stayed friends through occasional e-mails). I think anytime someone is spending one-on-one time with a member of the opposite sex on a regular basis, there needs to be extreme care taken to protect the marriage. The piano lessons just felt too intimate for my liking.

  35. mom o' boys

    January 26, 2011

    One very, very last thing. I think we need to respect the fact that we are all different in what we’re comfortable with. Some people are more vulnerable to temptations than others. We just don’t know what someone might be battling against. For some, they might need to use extreme measures to keep things clean. But, I do think more friendliness between men and women at church would be really nice.

  36. Dovie

    January 26, 2011

    I think it all depends. Sometimes I do feel awkward about the male / female thing at church. More often than not I am by myself, well me and a gaggle plex of children. Since my honey is not a member. Sometimes making friends with the men in the ward is awkward. I don’t have a counterpart to bridge that gap. No one attending elders quorum or related activities. Usually I make friends with a sister (I’m a pretty friendly sort) and then in a couple of situations the spouse of the sister has wanted to do something that was a couple type activity, double date, or a family thing and then a friendship between my husband and their husband has developed. A couple of years ago one of these brethren a husband of a sister I was friends with was called as our hometeacher. I called him ‘Brother Andersen’ for years finally he got weirded out by me not calling him by his name, when I returned calls about setting up teaching appointments, etc. he said, “Really Dovie we have know each other for years you can call me John.” I felt kind of silly, so now I do call him John, but for a while I had to force my self to say it because it felt strange.

    Male/female friendships can be valuable but there are pitfalls. There was a brother in my ward that it seemed leered at young wives that were not his own, I though I was imagining it until someone else mentioned being bothered by the same thing I observed. A couple of years later he left his wife. I don’t know if he left his wife for another woman or any of the specifics I just knew he creeped me out and I had no interest in a friendship with him, though his wife was and is great friend.

    Many of my high school male friends have transitioned into mainly friends with my husband types, the ones that he didn’t click with I am not as close to now. He was instrumental in getting the guy who took me to my senior prom a job with his former employer. They worked together for several years. I was pretty tight with all of my high school bunch male and female and we still get together a couple of times a year.

    I work at church in nursery with my little brother and his wife. It is one of the rare situations when a male and female not married to each other can be be in the same calling together and there is not any problem. It was funny having to explain that to the stake primary counselor visitor, that it was all kosher. My sister in law was home sick and exhausted at the end of her pregnancy and so it was just me and my little brother. “He’s my little punk brother, so other than possible false doctrine it’s all above board.” Hehe.

    There can be real perils and a certain amount of propriety must be observed. I am so grateful that we do not live in a more repressive culture and I wouldn’t trade the freedoms I enjoy for a the safety more repression would provide. I thought the the fictional depiction of a secondary female character in Angela Hallstroms novel, Bound on Earth, was realistic. The particular character struggles maintaining appropriate bounds in male/female relationships. She is in a very emotionally isolating relationship with her husband, that borders on abusive, she instinctively seeks out what is sorely lacking in her own marriage.

    My mom was single most of the time I was growing up. We were also poor. One time the ward bought a used washer from Deseret Industries for our family. The elders quorum member that delivered and installed it propositioned my mom. Nice. Freaked her out. I learned about it years later.

    She/we did have kind and compassionate and appropriate relationships with other males in the ward neighborhood; hometeachers, ward members that blessed our lives a great deal. I don’t think I would have traded the support and care and service we received from the good ones to guard against the one creepy guy, but there are creepy people. My view might be different if she had actually been victimized by said creepy man and not just propositioned.

    Well enough of all of that. I guess what I am saying is that there are defiantly blessings and from male/female friendships but be wary of the perils.

  37. Stephanie

    January 26, 2011

    “Friendly,” yes.

    “Friends,” no.

  38. amosthefamous

    January 26, 2011

    I have never had a man (at church) refuse to make eye contact, shake my hand, or talk. I am now wondering: Maybe I am just ugly?

  39. Ana of the Nine Kids

    January 26, 2011

    I have started to wonder if a creepy guy at church is standard equipment for each ward–kind of like lamps in the foyer. I know the one in our ward probably INVENTED creepy.

  40. cristie

    January 26, 2011

    my 20 to 30 year old children…eight of them..think this is impossible–being just friends after they are engaged and married. at least it is for them. ccc

  41. Leslie

    January 26, 2011

    It is not hard to answer that question, although it could be debated ad nauseam…No. Unless both are single, men and women cannot be “just friends.”

  42. Marnie B

    January 26, 2011

    I’ve often lamented having “lost” – to quite a degree – the good male friends from my youth and young adult years. There is definitely a restriction, both specifically explained and also unspokenly implied if you’re LDS. I used to think it was over the top, but having seen such friendships go horribly wrong for the families involved, I understand that there is wisdom in it. Much like the Word of Wisdom, which is adapted for the weak and weakest of us. This is no different.

    I really liked MB’s comments up near the top. Those questions are essential and they are pretty much all-pervading in my experience. I think a key component in being able to maintain a completely platonic friendship is the absence of “attraction”. But you can never be 100% sure it’s absent in the other. Late last year I taught a lesson in YW where it specifically said that mens’ hormones were created strong and constant so that they would be willing to father children! I kid you not! So it’s biology to a degree.

    I speak quite freely with men in my ward and neighbourhood, with no hangups, but even then, sometimes those comfortable, ‘no implications’ conversations have brought up a comment or two that has me a bit concerned that my attention may be misinterpreted, OR they have started to cross an invisible line with topics or compliments.
    So really, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for singles… I can’t really say, but if you have brothers or friends that are like brothers, go for it, but be aware that we never really know how someone feels inside. Tricky 🙁

  43. Anonymous

    January 26, 2011

    We had friends that I thought of as family, like cousins. We were together all the time. The husband was a fantastic, kind, loving guy and was one of my husband’s best friends. And then one day something shifted and I started to get weirded out by how long and often he’d hug me. I mentioned it to my husband, and he saw it too, and it broke both of our hearts. We’re still “friendly” with them, and we see each other occasionally, but the relationship has changed at its core.

  44. ssj

    January 26, 2011

    My husband and I both have friends of the opposite sex but here’s the difference between the same sex friends. My guy friends, I only see and communicate with at work. His female friends he only has class with and see them during that time. My ‘girl’ friends… I spend outside time with like going to a movie etc. There are many more boundaries with the guy friends than the women. I have always sensed awkwardness when in a one on one conversation with men in the ward but I don’t notice that with the non-LDS men I meet.

  45. michelle

    January 26, 2011

    I’ve seen such a *wide* variety of ‘acceptable’ approaches to “friendship” that I really think it depends on the people and the personalities. (I put “friendship” in quotes because it’s hard for me to get my head around what makes a friend a friend. I think I have a lot of male friends, but I wouldn’t go ‘hang out’ with them.)

    I get a little annoyed when the fact that some people choose to keep a distance, though. I think there are a lot of layers and variables (family culture, personality style, insecurities, illnesses, past experiences, etc.) that could influence the different people’s behaviors and choices in this regard. I think at some level, each person has to do his/her best, and each couple has to work together to have open dialogue about this.

    But even then, having watched friends in abusive marriages be shredded to bits on this topic, I am even a bit hesitant to not leave a caveat there. I think ultimately each individual needs to honestly do his/her best and seek the Spirit and try to be sensitive to and respectful of others’ boundaries. There’s a lot of gray here, in my view, even as I think the obvious reasons for concern are valid.

  46. michelle

    January 26, 2011

    p.s. That came across stronger than I wanted it to. Sorry.

    I also think ssj’s comment makes it simple. Outside, one-on-one friendship behavior is probably iffy, but having ‘friends’ I think is possible.

  47. Tiffany W.

    January 26, 2011

    michelle, I realize I didn’t clarify my previous comment. I do think that we ought to keep most of our marriage troubles private from others. But if a person is in an abusive marriage, someone needs to be told. Quite often, that someone will be a friend, of whatever gender.

  48. michelle

    January 26, 2011

    Tiffany W.
    FWIW, my comment wasn’t directed at you. It was more general. I just think that there is often more to all of this than just Church culture or lack of spirituality. Maybe some of those women who have a hard time making eye contact are in bad marital situations. Maybe some of those men who are hesitant to give that woman in the rain a ride had their homes torn up by infidelity and still are trying to figure out where their own boundaries need to be. Maybe some deal with social anxiety or other things.

    We often talk of not judging, having compassion, etc. I think this is yet another example where we often don’t know what is driving another person and simplistic explanations or solutions might lead us to miss the mark.

  49. Johnna

    January 27, 2011

    Of course men and women can be friends. Just be sensible in how you conduct yourself.

  50. Selwyn aka Kellie

    January 27, 2011

    Thank you all for your thoughts, experiences and comments. In writing the post, I was curious as to what the responses would be!

    I think there is a middle of the road approach. Yes, we can be friendly. Yes, we can decide on our own parameters for what is acceptable behaviour across the gender divide. However I do believe that there is no rule for all situations.

    I believe friendships can twist into infidelity, but the friendship is not the CAUSE of infidelity. Friendships can twist into some of the most significant, enriching and cherished relationships of human existence, but again the friendship is not the CAUSE. Our own – and others’ – expectations, thoughts, behaviours, justifications and efforts are what change a relationship, and not the gender of the involved parties.

    Again, thank you for your responses and candor my friends!

  51. Rebecca J

    January 27, 2011

    I have never had a man (at church) refuse to make eye contact, shake my hand, or talk. I am now wondering: Maybe I am just ugly?

    I wondered the same thing about myself.

    I’ve never noticed a difference between my interactions with LDS men and my interactions with non-LDS men.

    But I’ve never had a lot of friends, period, so maybe I don’t know how things are supposed to be.

  52. Heather O.

    January 27, 2011

    Once when my husband was out of town, my friend’s husband came over and helped install our new stove that was delivered when my husband was gone. He stayed pretty much the whole day with that stove, and even ran to the hardware store to get the necessary tools. It was totally natural, easy, and I appreciated all his work. It was only later that I wondered it if was inappropriate, and I talked to my friend about it. We ended up laughing about how clueless her husband was—spending a whole day at another woman’s house when her husband was gone, is he CRAZY? But like I said, it felt natural and normal, and I attribute that to the fact that his wife and I are so close, and he viewed it as a way of helping me out.

    But unless I’m good friends with the wife, I’m not friends with men. I even lost a good friend who got married before I did. I tried, sort of, to be friends with his wife, but that never clicked. I haven’t spoken or heard from him in 16 years. It was a hard thing to lose his friendship, but I recognize it was necessary, especially if she felt at all threatened by our relationship (I don’t know if she did, I’m just guessing.) FB has helped in getting in touch with some of my male friends from HS and the like, but even then, I’m very careful, and I had one friend’s wife, whom I’m never met, “friend” me, I suspect, as a way of making sure everything is above board. I appreciate that, and also was delighted at the prospect of “meeting” her—I mean, he’s my friend, I care about how his life has turned out, which obviously includes knowing who he married and seeing his kids, etc.

    I guess the short answer to all of this is that I think couples can be friends, and there are lots of ways those types of friendships can work. But men and women, one on one, especially if one or both are married, well, probably not really.

  53. Duerma

    January 28, 2011

    This has been something that I really struggled with in my marriage. My interests and personality are closer to that of a stereotypical guy – I like football, video games, etc. Before I was married, I had more guy friends than girl friends. And now, when we do stuff with couples, I always feel a lot more comfortable talking to the guy, and kind of awkward talking to the wife.

    I’d really like to say that men and women can be friends. But, when one or both parties are married, everything changes. I don’t want to make either spouse uncomfortable, so some friendships have turned into couple friendships, and sadly some friendships have had to fall by the wayside.

  54. Sue

    January 28, 2011

    I am one of those who has not noticed any difference in her interactions with LDS vs. non-LDS men. If anything, I am a bit more comfortable with LDS men, but that’s probably because I know we share similar beliefs and standards.

    The men in my ward speak openly and comfortably to the women. I have known many of them for over 20 years, and some of them are like family..

    With men other than my husband, of course, I keep a certain emotional barrier. I don’t find that a bit difficult to do. It seems to come naturally.

    We all know ourselves, and we know what our weaknesses might be. While I have a lot of areas where I can be tempted, marital fidelity isn’t one of them. If it were, though, I would definitely avoid interactions that might be problematic for me.

    This has been an interesting discussion. Thanks for the post.

  55. My Heart Squared

    January 28, 2011

    I have contemplated this question for a long time. The night before I got married I called one of my dearest friends and we both knew that from then on our relationship would be different. I still have a deep, residing admiration for him, but I trust that one day, when the time is right and life is over, we can pursue eternal relationships that are not clouded over because of the physical temptations that earth life presents to us.

    Doctrine and Covenants 130:2 reads: “And the same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not enjoy now.”

    I believe that as we obey the counsel of our prophets in keeping appropriate distance (physically, socially, and emotionally) from others of the opposite sex, we will be blessed to experience friendships and relationships in the future in ways we cannot comprehend in this life.

  56. Sara K.S. Hanks

    January 29, 2011

    I’m of two minds on this topic. The idealistic me wants to believe that simple friendships can exist between men and women, even when they’re married to other people. The real-world, living-my-life me knows that I’d feel uncomfortable if my husband had a close friendship with another woman. As a married woman, I really have enjoyed becoming friends with other couples (which I wouldn’t have expected to get any enjoyment out of).

    Close male friends were very rare in my single life, while I’ve always really treasured intimate female friendships. Actually, I’d say that even same-sex friendships can be “dangerous” in some situations, simply because we can reach a place where we’re more emotionally close to a friend than we are to our spouse, and I don’t know that that’s appropriate or preferable for most marriages. When you toss in the potential for sexual attraction between a straight man and straight woman, that emotional closeness can evolve really quickly.

    I guess I think these innocent relationships CAN exist, but they might be harder to come by than an innocent relationship with a friend of the same sex. It’s important to be thoughtful about how our friendships – ALL our friendships – are impacting our lives and to remain aware of the relationships that matter most.

  57. Marianne

    January 30, 2011

    The responses to this have been interesting. I, too, have experiences that make me wary of male/female friendships outside of marriage (my exhusband and his new wife were “just friends” before they coincidentally asked for divorces at the exact same time) but I also think that the LDS culture (and Utah culture specifically) goes a little overboard. I do find men keeping a distance by calling me “Sister so-and-so” rather than my first name (I do that myself with them, actually!) and I wouldn’t ask any of them for a ride home unless it was an emergency. I’m not uncomfortable with it but I know lots of couples have that on their No-no list. I haven’t had any scurry away, though, and I’ve had some good conversations with the men in my ward. But, yes, the only men that approach friendship in my life are husbands of my friends. Esp now that I’m single! I remember when there was a tragic accident that took the life of one of the sisters in my ward. I didn’t know her husband very well but wanted to express my condolences. I ended up bringing by a loaf of homemade bread. He & his daughter weren’t home but his father was there. I chatted with him for a minute and he was very much, “Oh, so you’re single too…” (you know how people perk up when they start forming the idea to set you up on a date). I was horrified. Did it really look like I was hitting on this recently widowed man? I fled the scene as quickly as I could and have hardly said three words to this sweet brother since–which I’m sure is a loss because his wife was a very sweet lady. But no friendship was worth looking like the divorcee who hit on the recently widowed guy!

  58. Natasha

    February 2, 2011

    I’m single and right now I do have male friends who are just friends- nothing more. Most of them are single but several are married. I hang out and do things with my single male friends, but not with the married ones unless their wife is there too. I don’t think it’s worth the trouble that could come in their marriage knowing they were spending time with a single female.

    I think married women/men can be friends but there definitely has be boundaries set.

  59. KLS

    February 3, 2011

    My Heart Squared: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Beautifully said. I share the same hope and belief.

  60. Olive

    February 3, 2011

    This is the one area where the shoe gets put on the other foot and women are treated like piranhas, ready for the kill! Usually its the men around children…but when it come to single women, watch out! Don’t go to their house alone! Missionaries can’t walk in the door! Its like you live in a tantalizing sex dungeon or something, lol. It always made me feel really odd when my Home Teachers treated me like that. Hey, old chubby guy…I’m not interested! 🙂

    I do agree with being careful, but sometimes it makes you feel like creatures unable to control yourselves.

Comments are closed.