Recently I wrote about non-“romantic” friendships between people of the opposite sex. After reviewing the comments and doing some pondering, I came up with a couple of further thoughts. First, I believe part of the idea is that it is healthy for us to have close friendships with multiple people. Generally speaking, we all need more than we can get from one person. To expect to have all our relational needs (love, encouragement, support, etc.) met through a single person is quite likely a recipe for frustration. I previously suggested that close friendships between people of the opposite sex are possible and can be rewarding. However if one (or both) of the people has no other close friendships, that cross-gender friendship will quite likely have problems. I expect this is also just as true when people are married but have no other close friendships.
Dan talks a lot about intimate friendships between the sexes, and I did as well in my previous post. The nature or level of relationships are, in reality, complex. While we have a few words for different levels of friendship, our relationships really aren’t limited to a few boxes. It is really more like a spectrum (actually, a grid is probably closer to the truth, but I’m going to try and keep it simple). Beyond that, friendships don’t stay at the same, but rather we are almost always growing either closer or farther from people. I say this to make the following point: I think that having friendships with people of the opposite sex is beneficial at all levels. In other words, you don’t have to be “best friends” with someone of the opposite sex in order for the relationship to be rewarding. (I alluded to this point in the examples from my own life.)
I think the bottom line point is this: we have often segregated friendships based on gender. We’ve decided that same-sex friendships are the most crucial, while cross-sex friendships are dangerous. However, the argument is that these beliefs aren’t wholly accurate, and that we are cutting ourselves off from beneficial relationships due to these beliefs. It seems reasonable to me to suggest that it is healthy to have close friendships with people of both sexes. If we only have one close friend, or if we only have close friendships with people of a single gender (whether it be the same or opposite), our relational lives are probably not as balanced as they could be. I know I feel this is true in my own life. I have a handful of guys who are close friends, and I’m very thankful for them. However, I presently do not have any women whom I’m that close to, and I sense this absence. (There are several women whom I would consider good friends, however we do not keep in regular contact due to circumstances, mostly geographic distance.)