Learning cross-gender friendship

There are quite a few reasons why people may resolve to not enter partnership, temporarily or permanently, with respect to one concrete or all potential partners. One reason is that somebody might find he or she is not the type of person who finds satisfaction in partnership, marriage and family life. Another typical reason is voluntary celibacy, for a time or life-long, in the sense of “giving priority to one’s relationship to God”. Staying away from partnership however does not mean to be alone, or to be confined to same-gender friendships only. Cross-gender friendship is possible, but it’s not easy to stay away from flirting and partnership. Here are some thoughts that might help:

  1. Avoid exclusivity. Marriage adds uniqueness (of relationship character) to a friendship, i.e. marriage is friendship plus exclusivity, and that’s it. This exclusivity is rooted in the exclusive character of sexual intercourse. Therefore, in a cross-gender friendship, avoid exclusivity of social intercourse to stay friends. You do so practically by having multiple cross-gender friendships of comparable quality, i.e. by not allowing one to be your “special
  2. Have common friends. So the typical setting is a group of friends coming together. This avoids the friendship to be mainly of one-to-one character, as this would shift it into proximity of partnership.
  3. Don’t set goals for the relationship. Friendship is something “superficial” in the sense that friendship can never be a goal to reach, it is in all cases a later conceptualization of a pre-existing relationship quality that developed unconsciously. A friendship is what it is and develops as it does, without designs and plans and pre-defined directions. If one however sets a goal (like: reaching absolute trust) one formalizes (or: reifies) the relationship, giving it way too much importance. One could even define: partnership is a reified friendship. For example, agreeing on a binding character implies a formalization (“reification”) of the relationship. Which is the reason why engagement and marriage transform friendships to partnerships. Even talking about the friendship and even thinking about it too much implies a reification and therefore shifts it into the direction of partnership.
    Lovers talk about their relationship, but friends are just friends. There is no such thing as “friendship” to talk about!
  4. Don’t speak about the relationship. People think that, in good friendships, one can talk about everything. And they mean everything. This is true, with one exception: in a cross-gender friendship, don’t talk about your
    friendship, if you want it to stay a friendship. The reason is: cross-gender friendships are “latently extendable” , i.e. friends might become couples. If you don’t want this, don’t talk about this or the relationship gets instantly a
    “flirty touch”. This is even more obvious when you talk about the possibility of entering partnership – regardless whether you say that you do or don’t want this, you find yourself in the middle of flirting and relaxed friendship has gone. Friends are friends, but partners agree to be partners. Agreeing to be friends is an oxymoron.
  5. Use talk for purposes, not for one another. Lovers are important to one another foremost as persons (cf. also your bible: I Cor 7:33-34), while friends are important to one another foremost as partakers to fulfill a common purpose. So lovers talk to get to know one another, and friends talk about a common purpose (and alongside, get to know each other better). To stay friends, talk like friends do.
  6. Have a common orientation that’s not your relationship. Whereever one enjoys a social relationship, concentrating on one another seems a very obvious and promising idea. Just, it shifts a relationship from friendship to flirt and partnership. So in cross-gender friendships one needs something outward to jointly concentrate on. Proper alternatives must be interesting, meaningful and promising. It can be a goal for third persons or a group of persons. It cannot be a personal problem of one of the two friends: while it’s fully o.k. to help each other in these, they cannot serve as the relationship’s focus, as it is equivalent to focus on each other as
  7. Act thoughtlessly. Too much thinking blocks cross-gender friendships, as centering attention on thefriendship itself rather than an outward goal shifts it in proximity of partnership. So it’s better to act in such a friendship without much thoughtwork, even if this produces some added errors and hurts. But it really is better that way: errors and hurts are correctable, while otherwise the whole friendship is at stake. Acting “thoughtless” implies to talk about personal experiences and problems naturally, without thinking previously about the possible effects on the relationship.
  8. Accept the non-binding, non-exclusive character of friendship. Friendship and partnership are distinguished by the non-binding resp. binding character of relationship. Both has its upsides and downsides, and
    first of all, you need to know what you want. Then, if you want friendship, get accust omed to the thought that your cross-gender friendship might cease or practically end, e.g. by moving to another place. Preparing for the potential end of the friendship implies to use “redundancy”: you need to have multiple friendships of comparable quality (i.e. also, multiple cross-gender friendships). Then you are mentally able to let go; while you’d stick to a single cross-gender friendship way too much, making it practically a binding friendship, that is, (pseudo-)partnership.
  9. Assume that your friend can live alone. A friendship is a latently transient relationship, so do not make it a binding, undissolvable one by assuming or producing dependence, or by showing or accepting possessiveness.
  10. Train a kind of friendship that won’t be affected by one friend entering partnership. You train this by training your character: train to be not overfocused on your later spouse, but get accustomed to the thought of having friendships in parallel to your marriage. In case of cross-gender friendships, the relationship should be with the couple as a whole, of course, to prevent mistrust. Especially women have problems to continue other relationships in parallel to a partnership, in many cases ending all friendships in favour of a newly started partnership, entering a degree of dependence that’s not healthy in all cases.
  11. Utilize oppositeness of lifestyle and character. Cross-gender friendships get easier if the friends have lifestyles and characters which are incompatible in a partnership setting. That is, lifestyle and character should be so different that none of both can imagine to live together all life long 24 hours a day. While both enjoy the temporal community of friendship, of course. Such circumstances foster great relaxedness in dealing with each other: something that would be explicit flirting in other circumstances is now just kindness


Start date: 2007-08-09
Post date: 2007-11-04
Version date: 2007-11-04 (for last meaningful change)







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