I also, for as long as I remember, have had a woman as my best friend. I do have guy friends who I appreciate, but when it comes down to “who would I turn to” for support in a time of distress (in addition to my “better-than-a-best-friend” wife, of course) there are at least four women ahead of the first guy on that list.
There are many ways life has conspired to make this a reality in my life, not the least of which is that I work in a profession dominated by women. When work is stressing me out, the ladies understand the context. I also was never the “let’s get drunk and do stupid things” type… which, when I was a teen, most of the guys in my small town were. I also like to talk about the world around me in a way that most of my guy friends do not. I have always been “one of the girls.”
Is this easy? No. On more than one occasion an outside observer has assumed I’ve been up to something. Or that I’m gay. Sometimes, I just don’t fit in with my best friend’s activities (e.g. having a guy at a stagette would be lame!). And yes, there have been moments of attraction that I’ve had to work through.
But it has been SO, so, so, worth it! I am in a job I love because of encouragement from a girl-type friend who saw the new job as a fit for me. I overcame my deep fear of public speaking because of this same BFF. I rediscovered basketball (and subsequently running & other healthy living habits) because of my girl-type friends. My wife recently overcame her struggle with clinical depression in part because of a book I was given by another caring female friend. My writing/blogging partner here at WEfulness is a fabulous woman, friend and mentor who has helped me explore my interest in the psychology of human relationships. These are life changers – serious, mind-blowing, your-world-will-never-be-the-same, life changers – that I would have missed without the fabulous ladies I’ve had in my life.
So, how do my wife and I make it work?
1) All of my friends, male and female alike, know that anything we say can be, and often is, shared with my wife. We are one brain. I warn people in advance. It is amazing what a marriage shield this rule is.
2) It is a given that my wife gets my “firsts and bests.” A new restaurant or recreational activity in the area? She gets asked first. A new movie? She gets dibs. The corollary is that I try to do things with my girl-type friends that I want to do but I know my wife would not enjoy. E.g. She really doesn’t like chick-flicks and none of my guy friends do either, so I saw movies like “Titanic” and “Benjamin Button” with a GTF.
3) We live with full disclosure. There are no secrets. In the couple of instances in our three decades together where I was attracted to a female friend, my wife knew about it and helped make sure that getting back to the “friend zone” happened. Through truth we are accountable to one another.
Note that, ignoring for a moment the complications caused by attraction, all of these rules are gender neutral. I apply them equally with my girl-type friends and guy friends. Failing to apply them could cause problems whether my friend was a man or a woman. And at their root are the notions of trust and respect.
Is an opposite sex friendship for everyone? Of course not. I wouldn’t, for example, recommend it for a person who has had a history of serial infidelity.
Is there risk? Of course. But there is risk in many fabulous things in life. I, for example, do not drink wine because of my awareness of my own obsessive tendencies. For me, alcohol is not worth the risk. But some people would consider skydiving, scuba diving, and surfing even more dangerous, yet I have felt confident doing those things and they have been part of the “wow” in my life – just like my female friends.
Is it complicated having female friends at times? Yes, mostly because of the reactions of other people. Fortunately my wife knew I had girl-type friends when we got married and, thankfully, she has been ok with me keeping that feature of my life. For that, I will always be grateful.
Aside: It is interesting to note that the awkwardness of male-female friendships has been implicated in perpetuating the “glass ceiling” for women. While it is common for a young male employee to be mentored by the “old boys club,” many male senior executives are reluctant to offer the same opportunity to members of the opposite sex for the reason of appearances. It isn’t the same going to lunch or for beers with a member of the opposite sex. And that is sad, especially given the implications for advancement. E.g. This article in USA Today.
For further reading:
- Honesty Is Key To Fidelity by Dr Tammy Nelson.
- Disagree? You may want to read “The Rules of Opposite Gender Friendships.” This article started as my rebuttal to the statement “Rule #1 – Avoid close friendships with people of the opposite gender” in that article .