Thursday, August 28, 2008

The irony of platonic male-female relationships

Before joining my sorority, I have always had more guy friends than girl friends. I think that aside from my sorority sisters, that is probably still the case. Lately, I've been wondering if men and women who have a mutual attraction to each other, could ever truly be just friends.

"When Harry Met Sally" is a movie with some great dialogue between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan about such topic.
Harry Burns (B. Crystal): You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright (M. Ryan): Why not?
Harry Burns: What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don't want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.

I know for a fact that I have guy friends that I am not attracted to. But on the other hand, if I do have guy friends that I am attracted to and the feeling is mutual, does this affect our friendship? I suppose to some extent, depending on the level of attraction. I think the sex thing gets in the way more from a man's point of view. From a woman's point of view, or at least mine, it's the fantasy of a relationship and the mutual attraction that gets in the way. For me, the sex part has to wait, so I try not to think about it.

I used to be an entirely all-or-nothing kind of person. "If we can't be together romantically, I don't want to be together at all; it's too hard." Really healthy thinking, right? Now I think that if we can't be together romantically, I'd definitely like to be friends so that person can still be a part of my life--excluding certain people. Can mutual attraction ever be fully set aside in order to pursue a strictly platonic relationship? My feeling is that it can, but only with time, and it is certainly easier said than done. Even though I risk getting long-winded, I will attempt to explain my thinking. If for some reason or another I cannot be with a certain guy, but I want to be friends, there is a lot of holding back on my part. It's sort of a self-preservation thing. You don't want to share anything too personal and become vulnerable, so you keep the other person at arms distance. In my recent experience, when the mutual attraction is undeniable, it's hard to leave flirting out and conversations always seem to come back to the topic of "us" and "what ifs."

I always say this: the heart is a fragile instrument of love. When it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes it is necessary to put our own needs before others. I am overly cautious about protecting my heart because I know how emotionally involved I can get when invested in another person. If like me, being overly cautious is the only way you know how to look out for your heart, then better to be that way rather than not cautious at all. Only you know your boundaries and limits when it comes to pursuing a friendship with someone you have feelings for. Stand firm in your convictions about what is right and be careful. Want to talk about what is healthy? Avoid walking a dangerous line back and forth between pursuer of friendship and pursuer of love. I am talking about myself just as much as the next person. Seek discipline through God's word and find direction in His plans for your love story. Be willing to accept that when God says, "This one's not for you. Just be friends," He must have something better in mind for the both of you. After all, God only wants what is best for us.

"Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)


Lara said...

Love the blog! I totally agree - sometimes it's really difficult to find and draw that emotional line between friendship with a guy and something more. You know, how close is too close? But I have faith that it can be done (with lots of continuous effort from both parties).

Laura said...

hi Jollene! (this is Laura Li)
Just wanted to say, your words are very wise :) there are certain boundaries, but usually casual male/female friendships are achievable...