It’s a question as old as time itself: Can men and women really just be friends? If that question isn’t loaded enough, how about this: Can two people with a romantic past have a platonic future? There are strong opinions on both sides of that divide. There are some people who are adamant that it’s virtually impossible for the sexes to find a way to enjoy each other’s company without someone wanting to take that relationship to a more physical –and substantially more naked — level. I, however, strongly believe that men and woman can and are completely able to graduate from romantic feelings to ones rooted in friendship.
It’s certainly not an easy transition. The dynamics of the relationship and, ultimately, how it ended dictate whether or not a friendship is something that each person wants to pursue. But nothing is sadder than watching two people who used to really enjoy each other’s company and have a meaningful relationship drift apart and feel like they can’t reconnect when they’ve found love elsewhere. Look, it would be naive to think that every fling, every relationship would give rise to an amazing friendship. Sometimes a one-night stand or summer fling is just that. It’s physical, it gets the job done and you both leave satisfied enough. But in thinking about more meaningful relationships, the ones where both people are invested and you move beyond “he/she’s fine” to I genuinely love spending time with that person, then it might make more sense to give friendship a whirl.
Now let’s be real for a second: The odds are certainly not stacked in your favor when looking to build a friendship out of a fizzled relationship. Firstly, one of you might still harbor some romantic feelings for the other. You might still imagine a scenario where things worked out and you lived happily ever after. Uncomfortable, but certainly something that could be worked through if just keeping that person in your life means enough, be it as a friend or as a lover. Secondly, and probably the most challenging, is circumventing the new lovers in your lives. It takes a really strong person to be able to look at their significant other hanging out with someone they used to be romantically involved with and not have an issue. For some, just the prospect of their boo hanging out with a member of the opposite sex is enough for them to loose their minds. But, ultimately, if your new squeeze isn’t willing to trust you or unwilling to understand that the move from lover to friend is totally possible, then maybe they’re not the right person for you. They should be confident enough and trusting enough in what you both have, sans any outside forces, to give you the freedom and their blessing to build a friendship with someone important in your life.
I have been on both sides and have seen both scenarios play out. I have had former flings that I have developed close friendships with that my husband is fully aware of and understands. He knows that my heart and my soul belongs to him and he is the only man I love. But he also understands that I had a life before we met. I had friendships and relationships and failed relationships that have all shaped who I am today and that some of those are extremely meaningful to me. That doesn’t diminish what him and I have, but instead, I feel, strengthens it. I have used what I have learned from all my past forays into love to become a better version of myself and I think some of the men I was involved with feel the same. They value our friendships, because our past was rooted in a genuine love of each other’s company. Friends or lovers, we truly care about each other’s happiness and in the post-boo friendship we have developed.
Adversely, I have also experienced the wrath of a woman who isn’t so keen on her hubby having female friends. On more than one occasion I have experienced close friendships crumble under the weight of a jealous significant other, both among former boos and completely platonic male friends. While I’d like nothing more than to criticize these women, to call them out for being narrow-minded and unfair, I can at least partially understand where they’re coming from. No one can be inside their significant other’s head. Yes, they can tell you they’re just friends now. Yes, they can say there are no romantic feelings involved. But can you really be 100% sure that’s the case? No, you can’t. But I am a firm believer that if you trust enough in your relationship with your boo, then you have nothing to worry about.
So where does this leave us? There is no denying that the road to friendship after a relationship can be a rocky road, sometimes for the people involved in the relationship and sometimes for their new lovers. However, is it entirely possible to balance these challenges? Yes, it certainly is. Men and women can become friends after a failed romance if they both want it enough. If they value each other’s personality, their wit, their insight, their friendship strongly enough, they can develop a solid foundation to friendship. And in some cases, having someone who used to know the romantic side of you (as well as your shortcomings on the love front) can provide incredibly valuable insight for future love moves. Who better to help you grow in your relationships than a person who saw the best and worst in you, but has moved on themselves?