Can a man and a woman be best friends?

CAN a man and a woman ever be best friends? This is one pertinent question that keeps popping up over and over again. It was first put out perhaps for public scrutiny in When Harry Met Sally. The hugely popular hit was then followed by My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) and Hum Tum in India (a desi remake of When Harry Met Sally) in 2004.

India’s GenNow got introduced to the question with the Imran Khan-Genelia D’Souza starrer Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa (2009). This year we have Friends With Benefits claiming friendship is a four- letter word. In short, they say a man and a woman can never be friends — as for being best friends, that’s a distant dream.

Yet outside the celluloid world, relationships are far more complicated. The roles being played out in the real world are not bound by a script. Real people fail to understand what movies preach and confuse love with friendship and vice versa. Relationship experts say having a best friend from the opposite sex is one of the main reasons marriages are failing these days.

"When two people from the opposite sex get emotionally close to each other, at least one of them is bound to get attracted to the other and this can cause problems if they are married to different people,” says Dr Kamal Khurana, relationship counsellor, Purple Alley.


EDWIN Fernandes ( name changed), a creative director with an advertising agency, is right now going through a divorce and has only himself to blame for it. His story got complicated after his best friend became his wife’s best friend: “ I used to run to my best friend for every problem in my marriage. Consequently, my wife started doing the same. Slowly she got dependant on him emotionally and then she fell in love with him.” With society opening up to having friends from the opposite sex, are we emotionally intelligent enough to handle all these relationships? Not quite, says Dr Rachna Singh, lifestyle expert, Artemis Hospital. “The real problem starts when you are married and have a best friend from the opposite sex. The definition of a best friend overlaps into the definition of a spouse. And then there is a conflict,” says Singh.

A friendship is about companionship, trust and love. And a marriage is about companionship, trust, love and sex. The Sword is the only distinguishing factor. “ In such triangular relationships jealousy creeps causing a conflict,” says Singh.


MANISHA Dhar, 28, an account manager with a PR firm, was puzzled when her college buddy and best friend stopped taking her calls or replying to her text messages. All she got after two months of silence was an email invitation for his wedding – that too a day before the wedding.

“A common friend told me his fiancĂ©e felt insecure when she found him even talking to someone from the opposite sex. Obviously she wasn’t too comfortable with him discussing his life and sharing all his secrets with me,” says Dhar, who couldn’t make it to the wedding after all. “ I was very happy for him. After all he was one of my best friends. We used to talk over the phone for hours in college discussing everything under the sun. And when I say everything it included sex lives.” Dhar admits if the two hadn’t fallen in love with different people, they might have ended up marrying each other. “ We had a sort of a back- up pact like in My Best Friend’s Wedding .” But unlike Julia Roberts in the film, Dhar isn’t much perturbed though. “I have found a new best friend in my husband. But I hope my friend grows up soon,” she says. Relationship therapists term Dhar’s ‘ letting go’ act to be the wisest thing to do.

Dr Khurana says such situations should be dealt with maturity.

“Equations change after marriage. Your spouse becomes your 24x7 best friend. If you are seeking emotional support from another best friend from the opposite sex outside your marriage you are not being fair to your partner,” he says.


MARRIAGE counsellor, Anu Goel, who counselled Fernandes says married people can afford to have best friends from the opposite sex but there’s a rider attached. “ The relationship with the spouse should be very strong. The trust level between the partners should be high.

And both the husband and wife should know where to draw the line. Otherwise it’s not too difficult to have an extra marital affair these days. It’s as easy as blinking!” says Goel.

Ujjawal Suri, 28, a Delhi- based software professional, who is single in the city has many close male friends who are married. “ If you’re a good friend you will take care not to ruin your friend’s marriage,” says Suri, admitting that equations change after marriage.

“You can’t call up your friend in the middle of the night any more, for instance,” he says.

The best way out is to befriend the spouse as well. “ I make sure I have a good equation with the husband too. That way I have two people to turn to, and to get a female as well as male point of view,” says Suri.


Interestingly, Dr Khurana feels discussing marital problems with your best friend amounts to emotional cheating.

“You should first sort it out with your partner. The moment you start giving precedence to your best friend over your spouse, you should know there is something wrong. I consider it emotional cheating,” says Khurana.

Primacy does lie with your spouse — your pillar of support in good times and bad.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2011. MTNPL. All rights reserved.