The definition of friendship between genders is a fluid concept that typically evolves when one of the counterparts elects to be in a romantic relationship with someone else. I have generally catalogued the males in my life with whom I was not in a committed, exclusive relationship as friends; this is despite the reality that when I am off the market, my circle of friends becomes, for the most part, homogenous. For the longest time I was of the belief that guys and gals could genuinely be platonic friends and nothing more. I have come to find that generally, one is waiting in the wings for his/her shot at romance. Even if the opportunity for something more does not present itself, it seems the notion that there could be a chance with someone with whom you have already established trust and comfort, remains.
I have recently, thanks to the creative contribution of someone with whom I went on a spree of dates, broadened my understanding of relationships to create a new category of relationship, the “in between.” After getting to know one another, we realized that a difference in a significant core value would keep us from pursuing a more serious relationship, yet we hesitated to call the whole thing off. We had discovered we liked, admired, and respected one another and enjoyed each other’s company. The physical chemistry remained, making it difficult to just be friends especially because our dance did not initiate in friendship. Yet, neither of us wanted to walk away completely. We each found value in sustaining some level of connectedness and were both in a flexible, open-minded mental space in our lives in which we could carve out a little ambiguous nook for the other. I was pleasantly surprised that, a) He offered an opportunity I did not think he or any man could offer, and b) I was actually comfortable with a grey area, especially so close to my heart.
To say we are just friends would minimize the complexity of our relationship. However, we are not just “hanging out,” which is a term frequently tossed around and one that often produces a look of distaste on the faces of most. That arrangement speaks of apathy and countless questions that will probably go unanswered. We value our moments together because we understand they are likely numbered, and as a result, our conversations do not include tales of other guys and girls, just each other. Were we strictly friends, discussions about who the other is dating would be acceptable and innocuous, yet we tread lightly. This space of “in between” protects us from having to engage in discussions that would conjure up sadness or feelings of envy.
Despite the fluidity of this “in between” concept, I wish for something that emanates maturity and mutual respect. Without judging those who do engage in physical relationships sans emotion, I would find it harmful for me to pretend as though any physical action were detached from my heart strings. “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). To fathom that I could successfully participate in a “friends with benefits” type of relationship now would not be ignorant, it would be knowingly acting a fool.
Relationships are complex because of the consistent unpredictability of those who engage in life’s alluring tango. I would rather dance, as would he. After all, “We’re all in the dance,” goes the song featured in the 2006 movie, Paris je t’aime (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401711/). I know that on some level, the moment either of us finds ourselves in a relationship with someone else, our time spent together and our connection will wane, illuminating the fact that if we really were just friends, our interactions would not change very much. For now, we have agreed to let the waves in between two concrete, relational constructs sweep us up and carry us into the next phase of our respective relational journeys.