Interviews cnducted by Sana Aqtash
Arab Woman Platfrom asked some of our readers this controversial question, and their replies where as varied as their personalities. Here we share with you some of the feedback we got, and we let you be the judge.
All of those whom said YES:
Bodour Nimr, 24 years old, single, Jordanian
I do believe that a friendship between the sexes is possible. On a daily basis, whether at work or university or public places men and women get to meet and interact with one another. When I meet someone I instantly filter if he is potential husband or just a friend. Personally I do have a male friend that I met in university and although we graduated and moved on in our lives yet we remain close friends till this day, I appreciate him on so many levels but will never allow our friendship to go beyond being just that, as I do believe that a woman is the one who has control over a relationship.
I am hoping my future husband will accept my friendship with my male friends, and I will have to address this before marriage, if he doesn’t we have to work out some sort of compromise. Still I would want my husband to be my best and closest friend, the one person I can be open with. As for me, I know I might sound as if I have double standards, but I am not sure if I will accept my husband having a female friend, I guess it will greatly depend on the woman herself, and also the kind of honesty and trust our marriage will be built on, you could say these women would have to go through a screening process.
Karim Ahmad, 26 years old, single, Syrian
Now a days it’s normal to have friends from all over the world, so why not from a different gender. I have female friends, some of whom I met through work. I am a realistic kind of guy and once married I will assume that my wife may have male friends and I will accept that, in return I hope she will accept my female friends as well and not force me to remove them from our social circle. I think when a woman has male friends and vice versa you get to understand one another more and learn how to deal with each person.
I know that I will never marry a female friend or look at her in that way, as for me when I meet a woman from the very first time I can decide if she is marriage material or someone to be just friends with, so I never cross the line or think to take a friendship to the next level.
Honestly there are things that I would share with my female friend that I might keep from my wife, just because I realize how some women are very sensitive, and more so if she is a wife, and as my female friend is just a friend she might be more accepting with no negative judgments.
Zena S, 29 years old, single, Tunisian
I am single and love the attention that my male friends give me. I met some of my male friends online and by doing so I cannot see them as potential partners. However once I label someone as a friend that means he passed some tests and I could see him as marriage material, there is always room to take things to the next level.
I would like to keep my male friends if I get married but it will depend on my spouse if he will be O.K. with it or not. As for me I am not sure if I will accept my husband having female friends, I am the jealous type I might end up killing him.
Sami F., 48 years old, married, Lebanese
I have many lady friends, mostly I’ve met through work or dating sites online. I miss communication with my wife that is why I seek it elsewhere. My wife doesn’t know about these friendships as she is not open minded and doesn’t believe in such relationships. I am sure if she found out she would want me to end these friendships. My marriage prevents me in taking these relationships further, although if I was single it is a definite possibility.
Sana Aqtash, 42 years old, divorced, Palestinian
Sure I believe in platonic friendships, I have many male friends that I’ve made through university and later in work. I think with such friendships one gets to understand the opposite sex much better and learn how to deal with each other and get different point of views.
I do admit that a few of my male friends wanted to take our friendship further, but I stopped it right then and there, because for me when I chose a friend that is all he will ever be. Once my male friends saw that I was serious and they are putting our friendship in jeopardy, they backed off and respected the fact that this is just a friendship.
If I do get married I will introduce my male friends to my husband and would want him to introduce me to his female friends and unite our social circles. I also realize that my husband might share things with his female friends that he won’t share with me, and that is O.K., in a perfect world I would want him to share everything with me, but I know that sometimes you seek advice with matters relating your spouse and to spare feelings one cannot share everything with his partner.
Abu Nimr, 37 years old, married, Lebanese
I have many lady friends, some my wife knows about and others not, as she is very opinionated and didn’t accept some of them. My female friends help me in many ways as sometimes I need their guidance in matters that concern my wife as I am not very good in understanding a woman’s view, so they help clarify these issues for me. I appreciate my female friends and will never consider them to be anything more.
On the same note my wife has male friends and I am very accepting and understanding of them as well. Sometimes you need someone other than your partner to talk to.
All of those whom said NO!
Lana K., 32 years old, married, Jordanian
I am a very religious woman and I do not believe in friendship between a man and a woman, it is not acceptable in Islam. There for I don’t have any male friends and would never welcome such a union. My husband shares my views on this matter and he doesn’t have any female friends either. We were married in a traditional way.
If I need to share something with someone I do so with my female friends and yes sometimes I do share things that I keep from my husband, some matters are best discussed with women who understand where you are coming from.
Um Ayman, 60 years old, married, Palestine
Many things changed in this day and age, long ago when I was young such friendships were considered taboo, and no one would even dare to admit to having such friendships, if you did have such a friendship you were breaking many rules and looked down upon.
Personally I think such a friendship between opposite sexes is O.K. as long as the aim is looking for a partner for marriage. One should get to know well his potential spouse, but I don’t accept or believe friendships for the sake of just friendship, it is not part of our upbringing or beliefs or traditions. Although I might understand why now a days such friendships are popular, girls need to find husbands and sadly the traditional way of getting married is becoming out dated and if girls don’t socialize with the opposite sex the chances of them finding a husband becomes minimal.
Nidal M., 37 years old, married, Syrian
Personally I don’t have friends per say but more like colleagues from work, and we don’t communicate after business hours. I don’t believe in such friendships because some men are dirty minded and when in a relationship with a woman eventually they would want more out of it. I say this as my wife was a close friend of mine and before we knew it we committed ourselves to being together.
My wife will never accept me having such friends; sometimes she gives me a hard time regarding my female colleagues as she is the jealous type. A friendship with the opposite sex will cause marital problems, once a female friend hit on me and it affected my marriage in a big way, I had to cut all ties with this person and become even more formal with my female co-workers to avoid any problems. The most important relationship in my eyes is my marriage and I will not do anything that may put it at risk.
Rasha H., 33 years old, married, Lebanese
I will not fool myself in believing that such friendships exist in the Arab world, maybe if we were from Europe, or the U.S. it is a possibility, but in the Arab world it is still something far-fetched. Unfortunately most Arabs want so hard to be modern and prove that they are open minded that they indulge themselves in such friendships, but what goes in the mind is much deeper.
Putting religion aside, our culture and traditions doesn’t accept such friendships no matter how hard we try at the end of the day opposites will attract. The more time you spend with someone opening your heart to and sharing things that you will not even share with your spouse, you will be putting your marriage at risk, naturally you will start comparing between your friend and your spouse.
Nada M., 54 years old, married, Egyptian
I don’t believe such a friendship could exist I speak from experience. I thought I had a very dear male friend and I shared so much with, but eventually he started taking advantage of this friendship and began making advances. You could tell me not to generalize that not all men are the same, but from looking at other people’s friendships I come to realize they never last and you cannot depend on them. Either the friend gets married or his spouse doesn’t agree to the friendship and it starts causing trouble so you are pushed aside. Or an attraction arises and friendship alone isn’t enough.
When you are hiding your friendship from your spouse know then that you are doing something not right, that should be an indication that this friendship is associated with guilt and that is unhealthy for all parties involved.
Ahmad T., 39 years old, divorced, Egyptian
I do have lots of female friends, but I would be lying if I say I believe in these friendships. I have them because I need the attention from the opposite sex and because I am always hoping it might lead to more than just friendship. I try to be the best friend and listen and be attentive, my female friends always tell me how much they love me, if only they knew that I am getting a lot more out of this friendship than they will ever do. Honestly I don’t see why women need male friends, as women are much more open with one another and share almost everything together, I think it is because they lack the acknowledgment and acceptance from their male figures in their lives so they seek it elsewhere.
If I ever get married again, I will cut ties to all those lady friends, and won’t accept my wife to have male friends. Believe me I am the best example as to why such friendships should never be in the first place.
*Some names were changed upon request