Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Man Friends, Part 1

on May 12, 2015

Venus & Mars b&w

I have a lot of male friends – maybe more than is the norm (or, let’s face it, strictly necessary) for a married woman in her 40’s. I’ve thought a lot over the years about why this is and how I’ve managed to maintain these friendships, and I’ve decided to tell you all my secrets for keeping man friends. Guys, this is for you, too – if you want to know how to be friends with a woman – just friends – this is what you need to know.

First let me say that my husband is the best man friend I’ve ever had. When we met we hit it off right away with a combination of similar interests and a sense of humor. The other stuff came along in time – shared values and goals, trust, commitment – but the friendship has remained. To this day he’s the person I most enjoy being with. We still find ways to make each other laugh, we adore traveling together, and we look forward to going out on dates. We love each other, of course, but we LIKE each other, too. I still see him as a distinct person, someone who has a life and thoughts and concerns and history that is completely separate from mine. You may think that’s an unusual way to view one’s spouse, but I believe it’s the key to a happy marriage. I’m with my husband because I choose him, out of all others, to share my life with – not to become my life. It’s a conscious choice I make every day, and every day I am thankful to have this amazing man as my husband.

Please also understand that my closest, dearest friends are all women. There’s a bond that women have based on shared understanding that is much stronger than any of my relationships with men except for the one I have with my husband.

So, now that you understand those two things, I want to tell you about the other men in my life – my man friends.

I’ve always gotten on well with men. I’m not entirely sure why (I suppose some of my man friends would have to tell you that), but I’ve always had friends who are boys. I do know that sometime in my early teenage years I figured out that being friends with boys was much easier than being friends with girls, in a general way. Boys were unlikely to say mean things just to hurt your feelings, or to purposefully exclude you from group activities, or to take pleasure in publicly humiliating you. I experienced all of this behavior from girls I knew. As a young adolescent I was overweight (which was unusual in my day) and I wore glasses, which made me a prime target for bullying. I found a respite from that social nightmare by hanging out with the guys.

I’ve also noticed that even though we’re all “grown up” now, some women still behave this way; if I’ve had problems with a boss, it’s always been a woman boss. That’s not to say I haven’t had some good women bosses – I have. The best boss I ever had was a woman. But so was the worst. I’d rather deal with men in that capacity because most of the time they’re really only interested in your work. Yes, personalities do come into play, but again, it’s unlikely that a man will try to embarrass you publicly for the fun of it. Throw you under the bus, yes. Take credit for your work, yes. Blame you for their mistakes, yes. But at least they won’t get all personal about it.

So, here it is – my big secret.

I like men.

I realize this won’t be a shock to anyone who knows me, but hear me out. The secret to being friends with a man is to like him for who he is and to have no expectations about what your relationship is or can be.

It’s that simple. And that complicated.

I love all my man friends – straight or gay, married or single – just the way they are. I don’t need or want anything from them. For my married or committed friends I am a huge fan of their partnerships, and for my single man friends I live in hope that they will find someone who will love them. I am here to listen to their problems if they choose to share them with me. I will go to the grave with their secrets. If they want my opinion about something I am happy to give it. The same goes for my advice – and I don’t care if they take it or not. I’m here to celebrate their victories and commiserate their setbacks. I’m someone they can turn to who will always be there, never judging, never demanding anything. The only think I ask is that my man friends respect the friendship as I do, and that they want the same things for me that I want for them – happiness, success, and fulfillment. And that they have the courage to be my friend in the face of occasional disapproval.

Ok, that’s enough for now! Next week I’ll share my Rules for Maintaining a Healthy Platonic Friendship.

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