In today’s society, friendships between opposite genders are increasingly rare. It is also something that isn’t normally discussed. I believe that part of the reason these friendships are uncommon is that they are treated as something unique and unattainable when they shouldn’t be. Lack of discussion on the topic only furthers the idea that these friendships are anomalies. In order to bring awareness to the concept and start a discussion, I asked a guy friend of mine to collaborate with me and discuss some different ideas and misconceptions surrounding opposite gender friendships. My comments are in green and his are in blue.
- In today’s world, it seems like people think you can’t be friends with someone of a different gender. Why do you think that is the case?
I think it has a lot to do with the cultural mindset. Unfortunately, media such as film and television have corrupted what people perceive to be healthy and natural relationships. Not just romantic relationships, friendships as well. They put these friendships on a pedestal as a rarity and something unusual when it shouldn’t be. There’s been such an emphasis that you can’t be “just” friends – for instance, if someone of the opposite gender is trying to be friends, the only reason that they are doing that is because they want something more from you. While that can be the case sometimes, I think that’s untrue most of the time.
I think another reason why is because of lack of communication. Or rather, lack of communication about intentions regarding the relationship. I think that generally speaking, when people attempt to have opposite gender friendships, they don’t communicate their intentions and people make assumptions and get confused about where their relationship stands.
Definitely agree with the fact that the culture has through film and social norms made the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship not only usual but the expectation. More often than not I have found that when you help or even talk to a girl you are immediately by others and sometimes the girl herself thought to be “interested.” When in reality you can have a conversation, assist, and even hug (shocking I know) without having to be interested in a relationship other than one of friendship.
- Do you think that stigma/cultural mindset is involved? For instance, it is said that you can’t be friends unless you are boyfriend/girlfriend, etc, etc.
Definitely! I think there is a great deal of stigma involved in the lack of friendships between girls and guys. I think that the misconceptions surrounding the topic and the lack of conversation about it definitely contribute to it.
In fact most people have become so saturated in the mindset of boyfriend/girlfriend. We as a society have begun to encourage our young children as young as 2nd-3rd grade.
Or even younger!
- Can you share one instance where having a friend of the opposite gender has been helpful?
Honestly, it’s hard for me to think of just one! Over the years, there have been many instances where I found that having perspective from the opposite gender has been immensely helpful. I think that being able to talk someone who you trust and is able to provide solid advice from a mostly logical standpoint is very helpful; I have gotten advice on topics ranging from how to deal with certain situations to dealing with feelings etc. As I have gotten closer to some of my guy friends, I have found that I have such a strong support system and that has been such a blessing. I really love being able to go them for advice and support knowing that they have my back and vice versa. Also, I think that having opposite gender friendships teach you what qualities to expect/look for in a life partner and what to expect in terms of how you should be treated in a relationship.
In addition to just more people to talk to, I have also found that they are much more likely to give you good honest feedback. It gives you an ability to get a second opinion on things and get a unique perspective.
- Do you think that having these relationships makes you a better/more well-rounded person?
Yes, I feel like having guy friends has made me an overall better person. I am normally a very focused, intense individual and the guys remind me that it’s okay to have fun sometimes and to relax a little. They have helped me to learn to open myself up a little and trust people again. Additionally, having guy friends has helped me broaden my worldview.
I think that you will find it hard as you go through life to work in an environment in which you don’t have any female friends. So yes it most definitely makes you a better person, it is also necessary for you to operate in life.
- How do you foster these types of relationships?
Be honest about what you expect out of the relationship. Look for people you genuinely connect with; don’t focus so much on gender. Only when one does not make opposite gender friendships a big deal will these kinds of friendships normalize. Sometimes, the people you don’t think you have anything in common with will become some of your closest friends.
You should be up front about how you want the relationship to go. I find that if you treat them as sisters and show Φιλαδελφία Greek for brotherly love which is what Christ teaches that we should show to all people.