I’ve always gotten along better with women than with men.
Most of my friends are women and all of my closest friends are. I have never found it terribly difficult to be friends with someone I am not sexually attracted to or romantically interested in (yes, folks, those are two different things), nor have I found it difficult to be platonic friends with someone I am sexually attracted to. I don’t conflate the two. But I have noticed something about the women I have always grown close to.
We become incredibly close and assure each other that our friendship matters more than anything in the world. We tell each other that, when we become involved in romantic relationships with other people, it will not change our friendship. Friends forever.
That’s what we say.
Time and time again I have dated other people while I have had a female best friend. For the most part, that is not a problem because I let the person know that I have a female best friend and I am transparent about her importance to me and her place in my life. If the romantic interest doesn’t respect that, our relationship doesn’t go very far. They have always coexisted quite well.
In every single instance when the best friend has gotten involved in a serious relationship with someone, though, we drift apart and our friendship fades. Shifted to the realm of Facebook Likes and occasional comment about how we should hang out sometime soon.
It never really bothered me in the past because I knew it was going to happen, so it came as no surprise. I’ve always found it interesting, though.
This raises the question, of course, of why this always happens? I don’t think it is a sex/gender thing, by the way. I think men have similar problems with being “just friends” with women… unless, of course, it’s a GBF situation (that’s gay best friend, for those not in the know).
We are socialized from an early age that, whatever sex/gender you are romantically interested in, you may only have one person who fits that description in your life. We are socialized that attraction between friends is wrong. Hell, we are socialized that mutual sexual attraction must lead to a romantic relationship (as if sex and romance are remotely similar).
This is all part and parcel of the pathologism of sexuality in a capitalist society.
We are taught that the purpose of sex is procreation… which, to a certain extent is true, but I’ll leave that for another post. We are also taught that procreation is only moral when it is between a legally recognized union. And, while some of those notions have loosened up in recent years, they are still the dominant mode of thought.
So why does this happen? There is a thought that those who control the means of production in our economy want the huddled masses to reproduce in order to create new workers to continue to build their empires. I don’t think that’s really the case anymore, at least not consciously, but I absolutely believe that, during the Industrial Revolution, the wealthy very much tried to use any means possible (including sexuality) to control workers.
Sex was studied and pathologized so that heterosexual (vanilla) sex between two people was considered normal while anything else was aberrant sexual behavior and should be shunned. Sexual stigmas arose that still hold tremendous power today and have cast a shadow upon many people’s desires. In the process, however, a deep-seated presumption of the normalcy of acting upon attraction also became entrenched in our society. When you are attracted to someone, you do what’s natural because that’s what you are supposed to do.
Forget about the fact that institutions like marriage are not natural, but are entirely man-made. Forget about the fact that any instinct a human has, by definition, is natural. Society built an idea of what is “normal” and “natural” and it has very little relationship to anything actually normal and natural.
So what does this have to do with men and women being “just friends”? Well, men and women are socialized from an early age to believe that there is only room for one person of the other sex/gender in their life.
While they are single, it is easy for a woman to become friends with a man and vice versa. However, when one of those people gets involved in a serious relationship, the perceived threat that the newcomer feels causes latent feelings of jealousy that manifest in hoarding behaviors, i.e. “I am going to hoard my human so the other person no longer has access to them.”
If you ask me, that is very selfish behavior and is the foundation of an unhealthy and untrusting relationship. And everyone does it.
I’m not writing this with the expectation that it will make a damn bit of difference, because I know it won’t. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’re sitting there reading this, nodding your head, and assuring yourself that you don’t do this. Guess what, though?
You have to do what feels right to you, so I’m not sitting in judgment. But you should not compromise your beliefs and your healthy friendships out of a fear of loss. Anyone who would make you choose is someone who has their own insecurities to work out. And it is okay for you to work it out with them, but you are worth more than that type of relationship.
Having said all this, I am left in the same situation I have always been in. With the knowledge that my next best friend will only be that until she falls in love. After that, I’ll have a void to fill.
Like I always have.