friendship

"My husband knows he can't be everything to me, that's why I have male friends."

I’ve recently befriended a man.

This isn’t unusual for me; since the first day of kindergarten, when a fellow classmate asked if he could sit with me during lunch, I’ve always found it easy to find a friendly connection with the opposite sex.

This man is of a different generation to me, different political persuasions, and whereas I’ve always lived where I was born and raised, he’s travelled the world several times over. He is a war veteran, former investigator, musician, and antiques dealer.

In other words, I’ll have to live several more lifetimes to do all that he has – or, I can invest in this new friendship and learn from his experiences best I can.

Under most circumstances, this would not be something worth commenting on. Only I’m a married woman; and I encountered a group discussion online the other day, in which a woman bemoaned the close friendship her husband had with another woman, and for his sake and mine, I feel compelled to say something.

Men and women can be friends. As surely as women can be friends with women, and men can be friends with men.

Men and women can be friends, even when they're in relationships. Image via Getty.

I’ve read the studies; I know what the research says. That men will often read more into the relationship than women will, and as a consequence of unmet expectations and needs, the friendship will deteriorate. Alternatively, as was the fear of the woman I encountered online, the opposite may occur – a relationship that begins as platonic develops into a romantic connection. After all, that’s how many people come to be in committed relationships in the first place.

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In many eyes, a friendship between two heterosexual people of the opposite sex is not worth the risks it presents. What of the alternative? When true connections are made between like-minded individuals as few as a handful of times over a lifetime, can one really afford to cease contact with another because of their gender?

To narrow the pool of those we can learn from, collaborate with, to less than half the population? Less than, when considering age and language barriers?

I think that is too much to ask of a spouse.

Click through the gallery of on-screen male-female friendships worth emulating.

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That isn’t to say there isn’t a line in the sand that should never be crossed. The line is known by everyone, whether they care to admit it or not. It may look different in every relationship, but the deceit feels the same. It can look like deleting text messages, or lying about your whereabouts when you are with the other person.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are no longer nurturing a friendship – you are starting, or are already in, an affair. Retreat.

Here’s the thing though, the reason why I will always keep my male friends, though some might deem it improper - I don’t know anybody with as much passion and talent as Sebastian; I’m inspired to take my art seriously whenever I see him play his guitar.

Then there's Ashley who is unfailingly constant – in the way he loves his family, his partner, in his work ethic. I doubt to soon encounter another with his decency.

Before Pascal, the few books I could fit in between children and work were whatever was latest on bestseller lists – and now I read history-altering novels from hundreds of years ago, none of which I would’ve previously attempted without his recommendation.

My life is certainly richer for knowing these men, and being that they are as unique individuals as my female friends, it would be foolish to hope to replicate their company if I were to let them go.

Watch the video below about the moment women knew their relationship was over (post continues after video).

I am grateful that my husband understands he cannot be everyone and everything to me. He cannot be every male friend, every male mentor.

Just as that woman online could not hope to offer every perspective and experience a woman has ever had to her husband. Though our relationships with our spouses are among the foremost of our priorities, our friends are still of deep importance to us. Regardless of their gender.