Opposite-Sex Best Friends & Relationships 

Happy new year & I hope it’s going great for you. Mine is awesome. I haven’t posted in a while so I wanted to get back into the fray with something so conspicuous & contradictory but instead found myself penning something more (if I’m not kidding myself) relatable. That one opposite sex best friend of your mate & their constant interference in your relationship. I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about.

Now we all love our best friends. They play a very vital role in our lives to boost our sense of belonging & purpose, to improve our self worth, to support & comfort us during tough times, to make us laugh, take us dancing, share experiences & understand us on a deeper level that not even our families can sometimes. But we all know where to draw the line. So what happens when the person sleeping next to you does not have a line? When they act unfiltered around their best friend on the regular? When they are so shortsighted so as to toy in the riskiest of manners with a very close opposite sex friend? Ever heard of stories that sound like this:

My husband is always texting his female co-worker & when I insist that it’s too often, he claims it’s just work & I should stop being jealous & paranoid. But he’s always smiling when he’s texting her.”

“My wife is usually on the phone with her old friend from school & she tells  me they are just friends but she acts very personal on the phone with him.”

There is one thing that’s for certain between both scenarios. The mate  with the opposite sex friendship is very much aware of their actions & how their partner feels about the situation but chooses to disregard their partner’s feelings in favour of the thrill or ego boost that the friendship gives to them.

I’m of the view that people of different genders can be best friends & stand fully in support of such friendships but I believe when either or both of these people have romantic partners in their lives, the friendship needs to be checked to make certain that it’s not breaching the boundaries of the relationship. A lot of times people expect to behave the same way that they did with their friends when they were single & assume that their mates should adjust to this way of life instead of them adjusting their friendship to balance out both equations. That my friends, is a very common but wrong analogy.

Raise your hand if your partner has a close friend of a different gender & please allow me to ask you a few questions.

Does it bother you that they talk more than four times a day? That the first call in the morning & last one in the night is from him/her? Do you find their closeness suspect? Does he/she sashay through the door & moves all over the house like they live there? Does she (in case it’s a female) send inappropriate pictures to your partner in the guise that she’s breast-feeding & oops she can’t help but have her naked bossom in the picture or maybe to ask your mate what he thinks of her outfit? That he/she assumes that just because they are best friends, he/she automatically knows your partner better than you hence your opinion matters little?  That he/she has the audacity to inject themselves in things that are none of their business? That he/she buys them intimate clothing? That he/she enters sacred parts of the house like the bedroom without ceremony? That they share too many private jokes? That even things which are yours to know first i.e. your partner’s victories, future plans, potential health risks are first passed by them for approval before you get to know? That your mate blatantly encourages infractions by them against you yet chastises your retaliatory efforts?  That you are expected to tolerate such behaviour from the both of them but if you did something similar you are immediately considered the Antichrist? Are you comfortable with their regular basis meetings to discuss what’s going on in their lives including yourself? That they both overstep the liberty you leave them to enjoy by taking for granted that you will always put up with their behaviour?

If it bothers you, then you’re not alone in this. There are plenty of people feeling the same way you do, afraid to voice it lest they be accused of envy or insecurity. Honestly!  You’re not weak or insecure. You are cautious & intuitive. Don’t allow them to call you otherwise.

So what are the signs to indicate that an opposite sex best friend relationship is a breach on the territory of your romantic relationship?

There are many red flags to indicate lack of boundaries & the easiest to spot is when an opposite sex best friend meets the very many emotional needs of your partner. When this happens, its highly likely that it will encroach onto the territory of your romantic love life. If your mate’s best friend meets their most important emotional needs of affection (expresses concern over every little thing, cares about every miniature detail of their lives), intimacy( lends an ear to incessant conversations about personal problems, romantic problems & socio-economic problems every other day), companionship (spending time together, having hobbies & peers in common), honesty & openness (revealing personal feelings like past history, current situation & future plans), physical  attractiveness or admiration (expressions of respect, value & appreciation); then I suggest you drop everything you’re doing right now, have some quiet time & think long & hard. This is especially important if the friend does a better job in any of these areas than the mate.

Sex was not included. Noticed that, did you? This is because your mate is very much aware that something of that calibre is off limits. That’s why they feel comfortable enough to hurl in your face vehement denials of them never having been physically intimate whenever you pick up the guts to voice your disapproval. They feel safe in their security blanket of never having crossed that line & God forbid you bring it up again because you get labelled insecure or crazy & paranoid. But don’t get lulled into a false sense of security for it is these apparently innocuous non-sexual relationships that often slip under the radar unnoticed which turn into full blown emotional or physical affairs.

It is a well known fact that many opposite sex relationships involve people that if circumstances were different, would be potential sexual partners. Indeed many opposite gender friendships are maintained because of a simmering attraction. One or both of these people are keeping their ‘friend’ on the back burner in the event that their current relationship falls apart. This is especially true of men. Men more often than not befriend women whom they have some sort of physical attraction to.

The nature of such friendships is that they are private, personal & bilateral. They are private in such a way that they are very one on one & information often kept secret between the two parties. Matter of fact when you’re within hearing distance then it’s whispered or they remove themselves from your vicinity. They are personal in the sense that personal information is revealed especially problems faced accompanied by a willingness to help when needed. And they are bilateral in such a manner that both parties actively participate in this gross over-sharing & prove that they both have what it takes to help support each other whether emotionally, financially, morally or however.

It goes without saying that if one mate in the relationship has such an intimate relationship with their opposite sex best friend, the other mate will undoubtedly feel uneasy to put it lightly.  The respectful course of action if you have any regard for your partner would be to modify the friendship or end it altogether, depending on what the two partners agree upon. Any opposite sex friendship especially one so intimate as a best friend should be carefully evaluated because of the risks involved. A close connection with someone who meets so many emotional needs is dangerous. Do not take unnecessary chances with your relationship.

Meryl Streep very recently said, “Disrespect invites disrespect.”

Wise words.Being overly critical of your partner to your best friend denies your romantic love life the respect it needs by giving power to your other relationship. Your friend will likely take it as an invitation to play a more significant role in your life eg. that of an attack dog. That it’s okay for them treat & speak to your mate in any careless manner because you have invited them to with your blatant disrespect for familiarity, breeds contempt.  A relationship is between you & the person you are with therefore the best person to talk to about the problems in your relationship is the person you are in a relationship with. Stop letting outsiders plant their opinion in something that they are not involved in.

Relationships typically go through up’s & down’s. When you’re going through an up, things are going great & the opposite gender friendship may be harmless at such a time even though it may still be an irritation to the other mate. It’s however a whole other story when you’re going through rough patch. It can be a conflict, sexual dry spell, jadedness or just old fashioned boredom. When this happens, most of us turn to the liquor, exercise, television, work or our best friend for a shoulder to cry on. So picture it if they are opposite sex persons. Before you know it you’re both comforting each other, asking each other what to do, sharing intimate details of your relationship & communicating more frequently & intimately. As this happens, the dynamics in your romantic relationship suffer even more. And why not? Three is a crowd after all.

The mate with the opposite sex close friend will start to leave the room to communicate with their friend, meet them clandestinely while leaving their partner in a state of anger, anxiety & hurt. When asked if they think what they are doing is right, they become outright indignant, belligerent & will try to flip the situation around so that the hurt party must go on the defensive trying to desperately explain- to no avail- why the friendship is being conducted wrongly & how it’s affecting the relationship. Often, the explanation falls flat & all that is left is for them to be accused of jealousy & paranoia ignoring the fact that such a friendship in & of itself is a betrayal because when you commit to an exclusive relationship, your partner expects you to make them your lover, closest intimate confidante & priority.

If you have an opposite sex best friend & are unsure whether you have breached the boundary, I’ll make it easy for you with a pop quiz.

  • Is your partner unaware of your friendship?
  • Is he/she disapproving of how it’s conducted?
  • Would you let him/her sit in on one of your uncensored intimate conversations?
  • Do you delete some of the conversations you have with your friend to conceal them from your partner?
  • Would you be uncomfortable if your partner had the same relationship with someone of the opposite sex?
  • Are you physically & (or) emotionally attracted to your friend?
  • Have you ever compared your mate to your friend?
  • Have you ever fantasized about your friend?
  • Do you & your friend share highly personal details about your lives or complain about your relationships to each other?
  • Do you feel compelled to hide or shade over the truth eg.”I had lunch with some friends.” When in fact you had lunch with that one person.

If any or more of your answers was”Yes,” then your friendship could be a real threat to your relationship & it might be in the interest of your love life to re-evaluate it. Not all close opposite sex friendships are dangerous but it’s in your favour to err on the side of caution. It’s advisable to confer with your partner about the nature of your opposite sex friendship often in order to avoid misunderstandings because a totally innocent friendship, if not kept in check, can cause irreparable damage to a relationship.

Spending time with friends is one thing but if there are elements of that friendship that threaten your relationship, then something is wrong.

Ensure that your partner is 100% on board with your close interaction with your friend & is completely comfortable with it. Do not share with another person what you haven’t yet shared to your mate. Honour your partner’s wishes by drawing boundaries. Keep in mind that if you have to hide it, whisper it or delete it, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Address unresolved issues in your relationship in a timely, calm, open manner & avoid complaining to your friends about your partner. Never ever make your mate feel inadequate because you are telling them without words, that they’ll never be enough. Protect your relationship in the long term.

And for you out there being called insecure when in actual sense you are not, trust your instincts. Intuition is not insecurity & it rarely lies. It takes a strong person to stick by their values so do not compromise yourself just to help someone step all over you. Stand by the vision you have of your relationship & remember that he/she has to choose you over compromise, over excuses, over busy, over temptation, over hesitation, over waiting, over indecision & over friendship. He/she must choose you over & over again.

For Caroline

“When it comes to sexual assault nobody says, ‘Hey men shouldn’t drink.’ It’s always about women changing their behaviour & dressing differently. Why can’t we hold men accountable for their behaviour?” Jon Stewart.

I thought she was going to die. The way she sobbed, I was sure she was going to weep herself to death. I’ve been to funerals but never have I ever seen grief so deep that even her whole body, not just her eyes, wept too. Curled in a fetal position as if to shield herself from more harm, sobs racked her body & it was painful to witness.

Her name is Caroline (not actual name) & she’d been raped by her brother’s boss.

I was going to post something totally different today, then this happened & I felt obligated to put my original post on hold, write this quickly & post it because something needs to be said. Someone has to stand up for this girl because it certainly isn’t going to be those that should i.e. police & friends who seemed to be so mired within rape culture that they fumbled the entire interview considerably.

The female detective was the biggest culprit. She was so clumsy in her enquiry I wondered how she had ever achieved her rank. She kept asking Caroline why she had taken so much alcohol at the office party that her brother, Arthur (not real name) had invited her to & why she had opted to wear such a revealing dress. She would throw out careless remarks such as, “Ekibi abawala enaku zino mwambala bubi atte ne munywa nyo kyoka omusajja bwabakwata nemwekabya.” Which translated in English means the problem with girls nowadays is we dress up so provocatively & drink too much then throw tantrums when men sexually assault us.

Adding insult to injury was one of Arthur’s (Caroline’s brother) friends who kept insinuating that this was so unlike their boss. That he must have been too inebriated with alcohol to behave so out of character. The cherry on top was when the incompetent detective started nodding her head to what this fool was saying & together they actually had the guts to ask Caroline if this couldn’t be handled through mediation, instead of criminal procedure. This country!

Rape culture at its finest. Blaming the victim for being drunk & dressing provocatively while at the same time defending the attacker saying he was drunk. Nice. Might as well have said boys will be boys.

The pervasiveness of sexual assault by media, social ideas, institutional tolerance & culture that normalise, trivialise & mitigate sexual assault to blame the victim is what rape culture is all about. Victims are doubted, shamed & harassed which explains why only about a third of rape cases is ever reported.

The scope at which society is so warped that it’s got its priorities backwards especially when it comes to protecting the female body, is staggering. As girls, we are raised to be wary of men,to avoid walking alone in lonely places especially in the dark, to dress in such a way that we don’t arouse men’s massive sexual appetites, not to let them touch us in a certain way et cetera et cetera. And I get it. They are trying to look out for us in this very unsafe world. Gotta respect that.

My problem comes in when boys are not raised with the same attitude. To understand that no means no & forcing your unwanted attentions on an unwilling female is not just frowned upon, but found repulsive.

Honestly if you would instruct your daughter about caution then you would surely teach your son about consent. In the long run, this would make the world a safer place for girls than any caution ever could. Teaching girls to be careful not to get a sexually assaulted yet failing to teach boys not to rape is gross negligence on society’s part. Is masculinity so fragile & delicate that we deem it more important to train girls to reject boys politely than it is to train boys to accept rejection with dignity?

Dress codes are one of the things perpetuating rape culture the most. Telling women that they were asking for it by the tightness of their top or the length of the slit on the side of their dress is bogus. Months old babies get defiled all the time & so do Arab women wearing burqas which cover their entire body, were they asking for it too?  I’ll have you know that rape by definition cannot be asked for. It’s defined as unlawful sexual activity, usually sexual intercourse, carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will, usually of a female or with an underage person or person incapable of valid consent.

So how in the world is a woman asking for it just because you find her skirt too revealing? It’s a thing of power & violence so quit telling boys that the length of a girl’s skirt is to blame for his lack self control. Our clothes do not determine our consent. Clothes do not come into this. Hell if they did, I’ve watched the old Christian movies & those men that crucified Jesus had skirts so short, they would make Rihanna proud. Yet somehow women managed not to rape them. Like I said, clothes have no bearing here.

We need to raise our sons with the understanding that: Stop OR Turning away OR I don’t want to OR Shoving you away OR Leave me alone OR I’m not ready OR I don’t feel like it OR Being drunk/ drugged OR Get away OR Screaming OR Don’t OR Crying; are all indications of lack of consent. Also if you make me afraid to say no i.e. you are my superior, lecturer, boss, I owe you, I need a favour from you, you threaten me; it’s not consent. Our boys need to learn from a very early age that only a sober, firm, uninfluenced “Yes” is consent.

Stop victim shaming, blaming & finding excuses for men. Let’s apportion blame where it lies. At the feet of the rapists. Women don’t get raped because they were drunk or took drugs or not careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them. Rape is only the woman’s fault when she’s the rapist.

Caroline should know that it was not her fault. That she didn’t deserve it. And that they are those of us among her friends that will be here to support her get through this. It was ugly, traumatic & God only knows what else. I am deeply sorry it happened to you & I pray the scars he left on your soul don’t define you eternally.

I stand with you Caroline & with all the other victims out there who may or may not have come forward. For all the Carolines out there, this is for you.