Can Men & Women Be Friends? Apparently Not

And it’s not for the reason you think

Grace Whitley
Oct 25, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Here’s the context: I organically became friends with somebody who happened to be a man. We met through a mutual friend, shared some common outdoorsy interests, and started hanging out pursuing those interests. We got on really well — I would even have considered him my best friend. I’m married, and so is he — which was great as it immediately set the boundaries for us. This would be a friendship and a friendship only.

We did lots of cool stuff over our year of friendship. Those interests that we shared (like rock climbing) mostly required a partner, so off we went together and did them. It didn’t matter that we were in two different decades of our lives, or that we were from two very different countries, or that he’s a man and I’m a woman. Those things were totally irrelevant: we were just good mates hanging out and doing fun stuff.

I think it’s important to note that this relationship never crossed any lines. I treated him, spoke to him, and shared with him as I would any other friend, and I can only assume that he did the same. I always felt totally comfortable with him, I never worried — or even thought — about him being male and me being female…

Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

Until three days ago. But again, it’s not what you think. First, he bailed on our plans for that day — no big deal. Then, he called me and told me that he and his wife had been having some problems and he’d just come from a therapy session. (I knew they were in therapy and would give him an ear to listen when he wanted to talk about it but I never thought it had anything to do with me.) In the session, they had decided that he would cut contact me with me.

Confused, I asked why. He said that he wasn’t putting enough emotional energy into trying to fix his relationship and was instead investing that energy in our friendship, doing fun things with me instead of having hard conversations with her. I can understand that — but why cut all contact? No more activities? Could we not dial down the hangout time but continue, say, belaying each other rock climbing? Apparently not. Despite there being nothing untoward about our relationship, it turns out that she didn’t trust him anymore and she didn’t want him to see me — even at a sweaty climbing gym.

First, I felt really sad. Not only was I losing my best friend, but I was losing my partner to do these things with. Then, I felt really angry. I asked him if it was because I was female and if he was allowed to see his other, male friends. Yes, me being a woman played into it and yes, he was allowed to see his male friends. That’s so messed up.

Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash

Our friendship committed only one crime: comprising of two people of different genders. We navigated this with grace, and my own husband had no qualms about our time spent together. It seems our friendship was doomed from the start, and the fundamental problem of being born different genders meant we weren’t able to continue to be friends. Just one more way that gender politics contribute negatively to people’s lives.

I want my life to be rich with people. I want to have a variety of friends, with a variety of interests, from a variety of places. I don’t want to be limited to only women, omitting 50% of the population just for being male. But now I feel like I’ve been dumped. All the time and energy that I invested in that friendship: gone. Should I avoid making friends with men? Are male-female friendships an impossibility? I really don’t know.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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Thanks to Ryan Hussey

Grace Whitley

Written by

Writing is what I do instead of sleeping. Feminist, chemist, protagonist. Made in NZ.

The Bigger Picture

Oddly specific. Universally applicable. Submit your writing to

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