What I get from my cross-gender friend

This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”.  See the full list of participants at the bottom of this post.

friends

I write about cross-gender friendship with some regularity, but I don’t often write about why I have a male best friend.

Here’s the deal – I have a male best friend because that’s just how it worked out. We drove together to a couple of gigs, found out that we’re basically the same person, and decided that we wanted to be best friends. I wish it was more dramatic than that, but honestly, that’s how close friendship often works. You find someone who “clicks” and you become friends with them. I think most of the time when we enter friendship with some kind of motive, we will be disappointed.

But now that I have a cross-gender friend, what does that mean? What do I gain from this relationship?

  1. A better sense of self. Because I know that our relationship is often under scrutiny, this friendship has forced me to be more honest. And the person from whom it has required the most honesty is me. Because I want to honor my husband, as well as Rich and Misty, I have to be honest about how I am feeling. While I do not love the suspicious underpinnings for much of this self-reflection, I do appreciate that it is an outcome of this friendship.
  2. A better marriage. I know that the narrative is that cross-gender friendships destroy marriages, or at least have the capacity to do so. I in no way want to deny that friendships can evolve into something that is unhealthy for a marriage. But I have found that as I have developed relationships apart from my marriage, my marriage thrives. This takes work and commitment to honesty, but I think it’s well worth the effort.
  3. A better appreciation for my single friends. In the Church, we do a really, really poor job caring for (or about) singles. I have friends who write about this far better than I possibly could, but my friendship with Rich reminds me that if friendship is important to me as a married person, it matters just as much to my single friends. When we magnanimously allow cross-gender friendships before marriage, but then ban them after marriage, we steal a friend away from someone who may want to be a part of the new relationship. This friendship makes me want to reach out and be more inclusive of those who are single.
  4. A better perspective on gender issues. Being married and having sons helps me have a better understanding of how men view the world. But friends shape our worldview in a unique manner, and having a close friend of the opposite gender can allow me to get feedback on ways that I present ideas that a female friend might not be able to notice or that my husband might overlook because he’s married to me. My approach to gender issues is more nuanced because of my friendship with a man.

As much as I appreciate all of those things, what I really get with my friendship with Rich is a close friend. Someone to get a coffee with when we have a break from teaching lessons at the same time. Someone who will go with me to Mountain Stage. Someone who will eat a bowl of guacamole with extra cilantro with me.

These things don’t have anything to do with our genders. It just took us being open to friendship in the first place. 

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Don’t forget about the upcoming Sacred Friendship Gathering on April 26 & 27! You can still register for only $85 through the end of this month. You’ll get to hear me speak along with a lot of other fantastic speakers. I’d love to see you there!

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Chris Jefferies – Best of both

Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible

Lynne Tait – Little Boxes

Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age

Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs

Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine

Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church

Paul Sims – Navigating the murky water of cross-gender friendships

Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers

Amy Martin – Friendship: The most powerful force against patriarchy, sexism, and other misunderstands about people who happen to not be us, in this case, between men & women

Maria Kettleson Anderson - Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships

Bram Cools - Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?

Hugo Schwyzer – Feelings Aren’t Facts: Living Out Friendship Between Men and Women

Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul

Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ HopefulLeigh

    Thank you so so much for point #3. Love you!

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      You know, it’s totally true. I HATE that singles who develop friendships that don’t develop romantically totally get the shaft when one person gets married. That is profoundly unfair. And the inability to see that? Points to a much larger problem of how we treat singles in the Church anyway. But like I said, you can write about that way better than I can.

  • Dan Brennan

    Alise, so beautiful! I’m so thrilled and honored that you are coming to Sacred Friendship Gathering and will be speaking. Great post, my friend. I love your courage, freedom, and boldness.

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  • Sheila

    Yes! Amen! Cannot wait to hear you and Rich speak at Bold Boundaries, Alise.

  • dan mcm

    Coffee… music…. guac w/ cilantro…. what’s not to like?

    Good post. I’m pretty much in favor of friendship in general (I think you actually pointed that out to me once), so you know, cross-gender, same gender, whatever. Friends are friends. (must resist urge to throw in MWS musical reference…. arrghh!!!)

    Really, it’s as simple as what you said: “You find someone who “clicks” and you become friends with them.” Yup. As long as you approach any friendship with the goal of being a good friend, an amazing thing happens – you typically become a good friend! There’s always potential for being selfish and hurting each other, regardless of the type of relationship…. just avoid that!

    Should be simple, right?

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  • http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ Liz Dyer

    I made a mistake when I created the list of links. I should have used the name “Maria Kettleson Anderson” rather than “Maria K Anderson” If you can I would appreciate you making the correction. I apologize for the inconvenience.

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  • http://www.kathyescobar.com/ kathyescobar

    thanks for this, alise. what a gift. i can relate to all of the things you gain or get from this friendship and i like the summary–the truth is, i just get a really good friend. and that is one of the most valuable gifts we can get. look forward to hanging out in april!

  • http://profiles.google.com/jennifer.ellen Jennifer Ellen

    What a beautiful post on the gift of friendship, Alise! I’m with Leigh in appreciating number 3, and I feel so blessed to have married friends, male and female, who are committed to loving me well.

  • Amy M

    Extra cilantro!!!

    The singles point is a good one, and I agree with you 100%. It’s almost as if the same narrative that sidelines the idea of cross gendered friendship also sidelines singles. Well, of course it does. People always find it odd that my husband and I have a lot of single friends. But kinda like you said, once you value friendship for friendship, then the singe, married, whatever stance doesn’t have a lot to do with it, or the need for it. We all need it.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447541059 Jim Fisher

    Add my chime to Leigh and Jennifer. #3 is why we do this. Many of our closest friends are single moms and most of our friends are single women. With me being more of an extrovert than my wife, they often start out being my cross-gender friends, dancing partners, biking buddies, or whatever. In time, my friends become our friends and we often hang out together in groups. And the best times are when I get to serve them something I cooked from scratch with fresh bread from the oven sharing God’s Love with a meal and intimate conversation.

  • http://blog.scilla.org.uk/ Chris

    I love point three about single friends. My wife and I are good friends with a single woman living across town. We both meet with her fairly often, singly and together. She now has a steady man in her life and I think there’ll be a wedding in due course.

    So now we have two friends.

    None of this would have been possible if we were not willing to make a single woman our friend.

    I value every friend in my life, male and female. All of them are precious. Single or not.

  • http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ Liz Dyer

    Alise,

    I’m still making the rounds and reading all the wonderful posts from the Feb synchroblog. I didn’t want to rush through any of them because there are so many good ones.

    I loved your post and like so many others love that you brought up how impractical and callous it is for us to expect our spouse or ourself to just give up a friend we had before marriage because we are now married. It just doesn’t seem right and is especially insensitive to our single friends.

    My husband and I did that when we got married years ago but I regret it and hope for a better scenario for my sons and so I have been trying to teach and model something different for them.

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