Yes, Martha, Men and Women CAN be Friends
I’m going to tell you a love story, it’s not your typical love story but it’s a fabulous love story nonetheless…
Way back in 2001, during my second year of teaching I had an incredible parent volunteer in my classroom…for the sake of anonymity lets just call him Schean…hahaha…just kidding he has never been one for anonymity so instead I will call him Dean. Dean worked very flexible hours and was one of my most supportive parent volunteers. He was excited to come in for any and all fun classroom events and made these events even better by gracing us with his energetic and hilarious presence. Back in those days, I was a brand new teacher and hadn’t yet learned to command the classroom quite like Dean did. When he came in the students literally (and figuratively) ate out of the palms of his hands.
Next door, my amazing team partner had an equally incredible parent volunteer in her class. This parent volunteer is also one who is not afraid of the spotlight so I will call her Marlene (or Schmarlene for the sake of anonymity). Marlene had a very similar vibe and spunk to Dean. Since my team partner and I were sharing a classroom at the time our two volunteers worked together to coordinate many fun events.
As Dean recently told me, "I like to think we set a prime example not only for other adults but for our kids that males and females can laugh, joke, cry and love the other as good friends with no strings attached."
Marlene added, "That's probably why our relationship has worked all these years. hahaha."
While coordinating said events Marlene and Dean, Dean and Marlene became very good friends. I watched this friendship grow over the next six years that their kids were in our elementary school. I couldn’t wait to see which matching costumes they would come in for Halloween each year, or which fun events they would plan for the school together…their friendship was one of those rare friendships that everyone around them loved and some people were jealous of. To this day they truly love each other and have each other’s back. I'm proud to say that they are both still friends of mine…when I set up to see one of them I’m lucky enough to get to visit with both of them.
Here’s where the love story becomes not your typical love story. For all this time they have both been happily married…to other people. It never even crossed my mind whether this friendship may have been something more. I don’t know if it crossed the minds of others but not mine.
This might be due to my own value systems…some of my core values that I hold most dear are honesty, trust and respect for others. That being said, I believe that any form of cheating in a marriage (unless all people involved in the situation are aware of it and openly okay with it) is wrong. You will never convince me otherwise. I’m very clear about this with anyone I know.
I’m lucky enough to have both male and female friends from all areas of my life and I don’t choose friends based on gender, I choose them based on vibes and values.
I get why wives who don’t know me might want to get to know me when I first become friends with their husbands. This is something that I like to do sooner rather than later when I become friends with married men if their wives feel that this is necessary. Many of the men I’m friends with have wives who are comfortable and confident in their relationships and don’t feel the need to meet their husbands friends. That is fine.
Other wives, for a variety of reasons of their own, want to meet their husband’s friends. I will happily meet them and usually once we have met these women feel confident in who I am.
My husband and I are in the process of getting a divorce. I’m happy to say, that although we obviously had problems, trust and respect were never among our key issues. He is a teacher and, as is the case with many male teachers, has a lot of female friends. I didn’t feel the need to become friends with those female friends but am happy to say that many of them have become good friends over the years.
I get upset when I hear the common saying that men and women can’t be friends without one or the other party wanting more. For one, this is a very misogynistic statement and shows how much our culture needs to grow in this area.
For another, I could give you twenty examples of friends of mine where this simply is not the case. I’m so thankful that these men (and some of their wives) are close friends of mine. Two very close friends of mine are a couple who I met during my marathon clinic. He fed me a steady supply of raisins during our long training runs and then we ran back to his house after and his wife fed us breakfast. Nearing the end of the clinic another runner made a comment about his wife and was surprised when he told her that his wife was not a runner and not in our clinic.
This has become especially hard now that I’m getting divorced. Some women who were previously comfortable in my friendships no longer are. Again, I get that….no need to justify those reasons to me, but ladies, if you are questioning whether or not I’m trying to steal your husband, let me assure you I’m definitely not and IF they were interested in that it would make them far less attractive of a friend in my eyes.
Sending love and kindness to all of my married and unmarried friends out there…male and female.