Why is it, when we are close friends with someone of the opposite sex, that we feel obliged to add that nasty, and telling, little rider: ‘We’re just good friends.’?
What is that phrase actually saying? First that, in the GCSE League Table of Relationship Results, pairing in the sexual sense comes out as a praise-worthy and Ofsted Excellent-producing A*, with friendship being a very clear C/D borderline and barely worth bragging about!
The other meaning of this phrase is as defensive as it is sad: What we are saying is, ‘We are not sexually involved. We are only friends…’ Again, think of the implications here: That there is only one legitimate way for men and women to relate – and that involves sex. Anything else has to be explained and apologised for because of other people’s assumptions and the way we rate partnership so highly.
How is it that we get some things so lamentably wrong?
I feel that friendships are a source of delight and pride, not shame. In no sense are they inferior to marital-type relationships. Different does not mean lesser. It is the bond that matters, not which parts of the body we express it with!
It really annoys me the way so many people assume that a friendship between a man and a woman must be a thin and bloodless and C/D borderline thing because it does not involve mating in the physical sense. Barking! ‘Good friends’ is something to be proud of, to celebrate, not to apologise for or feel the need to explain – let alone make into something it is not.
Love crosses divides far more easily than the human mind can keep up with! We are not obliged to join together sexually in order to feel love – and yet that seems to be the litmus paper of the ‘genuine’ relationship! If it comes up coloured with sex’s juices, it is valid; if it doesn’t, it is not!
A marriage is not better than a friendship; it is just a different way of playing the life and intimacy and connection game. There are squares on the board of human connection which are off limits to those not in a marriage; but, continuing that metaphor, there are often squares which are easier to access within a friendship than in a partnership.
Love is not sex. Sex is not love. Though they often combine flawlessly and create truly wonderful partnerships, the emotions and shared interests which give rise to friendship can be every bit as loving, in the non-sexual sense.
So, I celebrate all my close friendships, whether the friend be male, female or currently unsure! They are complete and wonderful, inspiring and loving in and of themselves. They do not have to prove anything or explain the lack of physical love-making!
I have said this before, and it is one of my core beliefs: It is perfectly possible, and often delightful (variety being one of life’s most piquant spices), to be best friends with men (as well as women). Why on earth not?
Those who say it is impossible have a very narrow view of what constitutes shared interests – implying that the only thing connecting the two sexes is genital!
I like to think that we, as human beings, have evolved a little higher than that. It is an attitude of mind, and a questioning of life’s assumptions, isn’t it?
We are brought up to think, ‘If I really like someone of the opposite gender, there has got to be at least the possibility of sex and marriage at the end of it…’
But why? Why can’t we say/think, ‘I really like this person because of who he or she is – and the connection we have is absolutely perfect the way it is!’?
Another argument I have heard is the one concerning the spark between a man and a woman. My response is a very clear, ‘So what?’ Which rule is it that states that all sparks have to be fanned and made into a fire? That rudimentary sexual attraction has to result in physical coupling? That electricity cannot be equally well used to power the mind, the soul, the emotions?
Truly, we limit ourselves by this staid way of seeing things. We miss out on wonderful bonds because our conventional minds are too busy pairing in the Biblical sense and cannot think outside that particular box.
To me, the ‘relating’ part of the word ‘relationship’ is far more important than the ‘ship’ in which we, traditionally, set off in neat married pairs!