The day I secured my belief that heterosexual boys and girls can’t be friends because there would always be sexual tension, I was twenty-two, watching When Harry Met Sally with my then boyfriend. Harry said to Sally, boys and girls can never be friends because there will always be sexual tension; every guy wants to have sex with his girl friends. Sally vehemently disagreed. After the movie, I turned to my boyfriend and asked the same question. He, too, agreed with Harry. He didn’t give me much evidence to prove his point, but I had him up high on a pedestal, so I believed him, unwavering, because as a girl, I didn’t question my boyfriend. He was older and wiser.
At 22, I decided, boys and girls couldn’t be friends. After all–all my guy friends in high school, except one or two, I’d had secret crushes on. Never mind my heterosexual friends Shane, Earl, Fred, Carlos, Billy whom I had developed sincere non sexual friendships with. But did they always see a potential for something else?
I had no idea, then, the danger that stood in my path by cementing this belief. You see, I have several close family members who have cheated over and over again on their significant others. This belief was toxic in my veins, spreading like venom crystalizing my thoughts; it would continue to hurt me into my adult life because– I married a man who gets women. When I say “gets”, I mean genuinely understands how we think and behave because he is an observer. It is my favorite aspect of him. He has this skill because most of his life, most of his good friends are/were female.
Now the paradox is that this is what made me fall for him–his ability to see me, really see. Very few people in my family see me inside out and love me as I am. N does, with patience and some frustration, but always with love.
But. He also “sees”, truly “sees” his close female friends. With each encounter he has with his female friends, I explode with jealousy and anger and internal conflict. On one hand as a progressive 21st century woman, I logically can see that these are friendships and they are making him a better man. Yet, that lil twenty-two year old keeps reminding me that men and women cannot be friends!
I fight her, succumb to her tight grasp on my thoughts, and stand up to fight again and again. She is incredibly strong that one and I only recently began lifting my new belief. The warrior in me the one who is fighting to debunk her ancient belief, fills herself up with examples of friendships that have remained platonic. But then I remember all the rom-coms I’ve uploaded into my brain, which have also created this barrier, trenches upon trenches, of the belief that once married I am all the woman N will, should need, and he will, should be all the man I need.
I have a circle of support systems in place from colleagues to high school friends to long time friends. Each person serving various roles in my life so that when I go home to my husband, I won’t ask him to be everything to me.
It’s unrealistic to think I can be everything he needs as a partner. He, too, needs his support system and the freedom to choose the people in his tribe–one of whom is me! He chose me to be his partner for life, but not his everything.
I am breaking up with that twenty-two year old who sat there and believed, absorbed another’s illogical beliefs, who was fed by the media, who didn’t have enough contradicting beliefs to stand up to illogical one. While there may be some truth to this, I also know that humans need male and female friendships to learn empathy and kindness and to grow. A balance is important for us to be the best partners we can to our spouses, significant others, friends. I need my circle and he needs his and neither are about stepping outside the marriage. It’s quite the opposite. Perhaps it’s about having the circle hold your relationship with your spouse tighter.