Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends?

When my husband J. and I were dating, he had a great friendship with a single, female co-worker, a woman I liked very much and never thought of as threatening. I also had several good male friends at the time, and one of them routinely hung out with me to watch "Party of Five" or just gab over dinner. If J. thought that was a problem, he never said anything — and he isn't really the type to brood quietly. Come to think of it, we both still have pals of the opposite sex, and our basic attitude remains, "Whatever."

According to comedian Steve Harvey, now a relationship expert/correspondent for "Good Morning America," we are idiots. He is of the opinion that these "outside relationships" are nothing but trouble, and that men and women can't be friends. Period. Occasionally, I've worked with guys who've said that their wives/significant others would not be happy to see them having lunch or coffee (in broad daylight) with a female colleague, and that baffles me. I mean, I think my husband is sexy and fun to be with, but I don't assume that the other women in his life are all trying to get in his boxer briefs. Plus, I'd like to give him a little credit for having these things called boundaries and self-control (Unless the friend in question is Mila Kunis, in which case I've been warned that things could get murky.)

I've always thought that friendship is a form of attraction, and obviously, there are relationships between married people and their "friends" of the opposite sex that end up on a mattress (Hello, Gov. Sanford!). But that doesn't just happen out of the blue, either. Assuming that a) the spouse isn't a lying asshole; b) the marriage isn't already in trouble; c) s/he is conducting the friendship in a respectful, open way; and d) the parties involved aren't fooling themselves about their feelings, I can't buy Harvey's theory. I've known too many great guys to believe that they see women only as potential conquests. When I went through a crummy breakup in college, one of the first people I called was my childhood friend, B., who gave me the kind of no-bullshit analysis men are so good at ("Move on; he has.") We've been friends for more than 30 years and we adore each other's spouses — and we are so not interested in each other that way.

However, if you spot J. having a drink with Mila Kunis, a heads-up would be nice.


downtown guy said...

I don't get that attitude, either. I find it sad and very telling - anyone that convinced that their partner can't be trusted around the opposite sex probably can't be trusted around the opposite sex.

The world of gay relationships would probably blow Harvey's mind. Everyone is friends with their ex's ex and is dating their first ex's last one night stand.

EDP said...

Believe me, Steve Harvey is not ready for the world of gay relationships. He's still in 1953 somewhere when it comes to straight ones. There's a whole lot of road between meeting for coffee and hooking up at the Quality Inn.

downtown guy said...

True indeed.

Colombian Coffee said...

I've thought for a long time that Steve Harvey is wrong on so very many levels, this is just another one.

Randy said...

Can men and women be friends without romantic involvement? Yes, if there are appropriate boundaries in place (e.g., not spending significant amounts of time alone with a member of the opposite sex, not discussing your marital problems with that person, etc.). But it's also important to remember that romantic feelings often trump logical thinking. It's very likely that if you spend significant amounts of time alone with someone creating deep emotional & relational bonds, it will put your marital relationship at risk. Proceed with caution!

Lex Divinia said...

Oh dear... what would he say about those of us with highly functioning, stable polyamorous relationships/marriages???

I really wish people would stop judging another's actions when it has no impact on them personally.

(Fun blog, btw... just found it through an article on CNN.)