Observing boundaries in cross sex friendships - The Nation Online

Observing boundaries in cross sex friendships

 

There have been several findings that women who keep male company instead of fellow female company are happier. Granted. It is said that these women who feel comfortable with men as their close buddies suffer little stress from their friendship compared to those whose close friends are female.

But today, I want discuss how best men and women can be friends without offending either’s spouses.

I have ever observed wonderful platonic friendships between men and women while observing respectable social distance. And then, we have other women who have no sense of decorum when it comes to socialising with men in the name of friendship. Unless one is looking for an affair, I think friendships between men and women ought to be handled with maturity and clear boundaries.

For example, when a woman is friends with a workmate, it does not make sense to call or text the male workmate after working hours just to ‘chill’. These things have a way of escalating from one step to the other if not properly checked. Caution should be exercised even more when the male colleague is married.

When a single woman keeps asking for attention from a male married friend, it rubs his partner the wrong way. And if/when the partner reacts, we hear sentiments such as: “Married women are insecure, they are jealous and what have you”. But truth of the matter is, every spouse is territorial of their partners and any attempt to push boundaries is taken as an attack on the marriage.

The coming in of social media is another factor that is blurring the line between a totally healthy and platonic friendship and an affair. What justification does a single person have to be texting a married friend at 10pm just to wish them good night or ask what they are doing? Such behaviour does not only portray one as having ulterior motives, but also portrays one as loose!

On the other hand, when one is in a committed relationship, but has friends of the opposite sex, it is important to make clear boundaries.

Just because the friendship is platonic, does not mean that the friends should not observe respectable boundaries and a choice of topics for discussion.

I have ever noticed the so-called platonic friends discussing sex and intimacy in spite of their marital status. I find this unhealthy.

And then there is the issue of sharing photos! Just because one is friends with a person of the opposite sex, does not mean that their inboxes should be full of their photos. This is recipe for disaster.

As people of good will, friends with the opposite sex should not be to upset our partners, underrate them, discuss them or make them feel threatened by our presence. Our role should be to be that trusted support system everyone requires.

In a nutshell, friendships between men and women are a great development, so long as they are enjoyed within the approved parameters. If the friendship strays, it is time to reassess the significance of such a friendship.

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