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Relationship conundrums

I recently read a fascinating discussion on the topic 'Can men and women be friends' - yes, that old 'When Harry Met Sally' question. What struck me most was how many contributors felt there could only be a yes or no answer to this (and any other relationship-related) question. And wouldn't it be great if that was the case? If life could be lived in a simple, black & white manner, where A+B always equalled right or wrong. But, when made up of individual people and situations ... simple, life ain't.

In this case, the discussion centred around the husband of an independent woman who'd believed all her life that the answer to this question was "Yes". Until, that is, she was confronted with a situation in which she trusted her husband completely, but found she did not trust his female friend. The respondents seemed to be divided between those who felt that one particular action of this friend was sufficient cause for a ban, whilst others felt that although the act itself was ill-advised, the real cause for concern was that she was twice divorced, had no female friends and a poor relationship with her daughters.

The discussion ended with the wife holding firmly to her belief that men and women can be friends, whilst acknowledging that all circumstances have to be taken on their own merits. I was nodding away at this outcome when she made a comment that her husband had no cause to fear her relationships with male friends because they were all gay.

The thing is, I knew a woman (long married and with grown-up children) whose closest friend was a younger woman. That younger woman was gay. The older woman's husband almost certainly applied the same criteria as above, and remained entirely unconcerned about their friendship. But those two women are now married. The older woman wasn't bisexual, nor had she previously felt any attraction to other women - she simply fell in love with her friend.

On a different relationship tangent, we have the tale of a single woman, one with decent morals who'd always believed that marriage was sacrosanct. One day, she met a man she found devastatingly attractive and, despite his admission of being married, had a year-long relationship with him. Was she lying about her beliefs, or was there something else going on in her life which led her to put them aside?

Let's fast forward two years and she's in a new relationship. That devastatingly attractive man is newly divorced and he makes contact: would she consider ...? She still finds him devastatingly attractive, but she declines. Was this because she could not countenance hurting her new partner? Was it because she felt vulnerable to being hurt by this man? Or had her life changed such that she'd re-found her equilibrium and could now make the "right" choice?

Life - and relationships - are complex and multi-layered, and whilst it would be very convenient if there were a set of fixed black & white templates, they come in all the colours of the spectrum. Not just because we're all individuals with differing personalities who are governed by a wide range of morals and principles, but because emotional and mental strength is also key in our decision-making.

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