Can your partner be close friends with the opposite sex?

There is a line

The dynamics of friendship is very complicated between the same sexes not to talk of what one gets between people of the opposite sex. Same sex friendships come with their own problems if not properly managed, but talking about close friendships of the opposite sex is another thing entirely.

With men and women these days working in close proximity with one another, it has become almost impossible for job related relationships not to spill over into friendship outside the work environment. Old borders created for friendship are being broken, same as old rules and regulations on the parameters of friendship. And more people are discovering common grounds and reasons for friendship with the opposite sex.

On the other side of the divide are still some people who still hold on to the idea that nothing good can come out of being close friends with members of the opposite sex, most especially when one or both partners are committed in serious and steady relationships like marriage.

This set of people will go on to tell you that the end result of any close friendship with a member of the opposite sex can only result in both of them having sex. It will therefore be assumed that infidelity and adultery will be the expected end product of such relationships. These people will tell you that a truly platonic relationship between both sexes is just not possible and they’ll give you examples of people who have strayed beyond the beaten paths of marriage to commit adultery because of a momentary weakness of one of the partners while having a friend of the opposite sex.

Truly, a lot of adulteries started off as platonic friendships with one of the partners ready to take the simple cross gender friendship beyond the boundaries initially spelt out for it. But I can tell you that it wasn’t the closeness that brought up adultery. If at all it did happen, it only shows that there are cracks in the marriage that should have been sealed and which weren’t.

People commit adultery daily not because they have the opportunity but because the relationships they have with their spouses are not built on good and effective communication that will allow them discuss the deficiencies and inadequacies that they may be encountering in their marriages.

Adultery becomes an option when the commitment they both have for each other becomes meaningless. Most times, the problems that may endanger cross gender friendships are based on assumptions and presumptions of the friends and other people around them.

Yes truly, there will come a period in the relationship between friends where questions may arise whether the close friendship should go beyond that which is already on ground. It is always better to stylishly address this very early in the relationship if you think that your friend may get offended if you come out ‘shooting from the hips’ to say it.

Another problem that cross gender friendship may bring to the fore is the insecurity caused by lack of trust by partners. It becomes even glaring when the cross gender friend is obviously very attractive.

Be that as it may however, and given all the above explanations, I’ll still say that there is nothing wrong with your partner having close friends of the opposite sex.

The partner only needs to maintain some certain rules in the cross gender friendship and no harm will be done. Also, if your partner can minimize sexual tension with the new friend by not being unusually touchy or putting themselves in compromising positions, even if they are naturally affectionate persons, will reduce giving people the impression that the friendship is more than what it’s claimed to be.

Finally, if all these fail and your partner is allowing the new friendship to affect your relationship, both of you should sit down and iron out the grey areas quickly to forestall a breakdown in your relationship.

 

How close is the close?

When you make a commitment to an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite sex, on any level (dating, courtship or marriage), the general implication is that you have agreed to place him/her on a separate and distinct pedestal of the highest category, to the exclusion of all others, especially those of his/her gender. By making the commitment, you are saying to him/her that you have chosen him/her as the most special friend in your life.

The question is this: does this commitment also imply that no other person of your partner’s gender who does not have any blood ties with you can retain a close relationship with you? As a woman, are you precluded from having men as close friends? (Please give whatever definition you wish to the word “close”).

As other issues in life, there are many schools of thought on this sensitive issue. Whilst some people don’t understand why it should be a point of discussion at all (because every mature person should know the difference between an intimate partner and a platonic friend), some acknowledge the fact that ‘friends’ of the opposite sex can cause major ‘wahala’ between partners. One extreme school of thought opines that a woman should be free to have close male friends, whether or not these close male friends eventually become her husband’s friends, while the other extreme school preaches the ‘no-no’ approach. Some people feel that such close relations are not harmful where the other men have women of their own, while for others, this cannot guarantee platonic relationships because lots of people are into multiple partners anyway.

When these close male friends are in the woman’s workplace, it could also be a bigger problem because she spends more time at work than at home. What this implies is that she spends more time with these close friends than her partner. Imagine how threatened some men could feel about this. I think the biggest of all the problems on this issue arises when the woman remains ‘close’ to an ex. In fact, for most men, this is a big ‘no-no’. As far as they are concerned, when a woman breaks up with a man and remains close to him, she probably doesn’t mind going back to him.

This is debatable, but my question to such women is: why bother? How valuable can your past be in relation to your future? Ponder! Thinking about it from several angles, there are many questions to ask from, each from two angles (of blame). A few of them are:

  • Why would a woman be expected to throw male friends away after marriage (or commitment to a relationship); is marriage/courtship a prison yard or death sentence? versus Why should a woman retain close male friends after marriage/commitment to a partner; cant she make sacrifices for her man?
  • Why would a man feel threatened by his partner’s relations with other men; doesn’t he trust her? versus why should a woman create avenues of mistrust by keeping close male friends; doesn’t she know that close male friends are potential partners for infidelity?
  •  Is it really possible, in this technologically- driven and social network age, for a ‘committed’ woman to avoid having close male friends? versus is it possible, in this day and age, for people of the opposite sex to relate closely without one getting sexually attracted to the other?
  •  Why should a man be so selfish as to expect total exclusivity from his partner? versus why should a committed woman devote part of the limited time she has to spend with her partner to other men?

Not all males around you are sexually attracted to you, and quite a number of them can never really be seen as ‘risky business’. However, the problem is: what parameters do you use in determining who is a potential risk and who determines that? A woman, thinking as a woman, may see her close male friend as harmless because she feels emotionally detached from him. But, her partner, thinking like a man and putting himself in that other man’s shoes, would most likely feel that that other man would find his partner irresistible.

Doesn’t this make some sense? In my opinion, despite the fact that men are jealous by default, a woman can determine whether her relations with other men (close or not) can be sources of conflict between her and her partner. Inappropriate hugs, late night calls, private meetings, long discussions, ‘private gist’, special profile messages/ dedications on social networks (facebook, blackberry messenger, etc) will tick almost any man off, no matter how ‘secure’ he is. So, women, don’t push it. So should women maintain close relationships with men other than their partners? My answer (like a typical Nigerian): How close is close?

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