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Can men and women be 'just friends' with no sexual relations?

 She tries her level best not to have male-close friends, just for the sake of her marriage

Whether men and women can be 'just friends'; meeting regularly to catch up; taking each other out for lunch or dinner or buying each other gifts, without either of them secretly having other expectations is a tough question to answer, however, Anne Muiruri tries to investigate it.

What's that thing you have been procrastinating over?

Jackie, 34, a married woman, recently tickled this writer with an encounter she had with her husband. She says she almost exchanged blows with him over a mobile phone gift bought for her by a man who she considers 'just a friend' on her birthday. That she accepted a phone from another man angered her husband so much so that he almost unleashed terror on her.

"Almost a year ago, a friend of mine who had sympathised with me because of the mulika mwizi (simple phone) phone he had seen me with for long, bought me a smart phone after I jokingly requested him to do so on my birthday. Little did I know that it was going to land me in trouble with my husband," she says. She narrates how, upon casually explaining the source of the phone to her husband brought out the beast in him. Never mind, she says, he had refused buying her a better phone, even after severally nagging him to do so.

"He snatched it and flung it on the ground while yelling at me, prompting a protracted verbal combat. He told me in no uncertain terms that there is no such thing as 'he is just a friend'. He proceeded to lecture and warn me against ever receiving gifts from men. To him, men and women can never be 'just friends'. He warned that such men always have an agenda, and that they are very 'dangerous' but pretend to be 'harmless'", she explains.

Since then, Jackie says, she tries her level best not to have male-close friends, just for the sake of her marriage because her husband is very jealous.   

Many other related tales have been told of men and women who claim to be 'just friends', who regularly meet over coffee as they catchup. Needless to say some even lightly touch each others' hands make a point, but insist there is nothing more to it, its just friendship. But the a million dollar question is, can a man and woman simply be platonic friends? A simple enough question but one that has plagued many people since time in memorial.

While one side argue that even the notion of men and women being friends is absurd and laughable, another school of thought argues that those who believe men and women can't be friends come from the dark ages where women stayed at home cooked, cleaned and men were in the workplace, and thus the only way both sexes could be friends was when they needed each other for romance or procreation reasons.

However, times have changed and men and women work in the same environment and have more things they may require from one another, other than just sexual relations. Crystal Kimeto, 29, a business woman, is of the school of thought that men and women can be friends without anything sexual. "Before I met my husband I was very close with my ex, after our relationship did not work we surprisingly became very good friends. And I had no problem with it. My husband knew about our friendship all along.

"However, just after we got married last year my husband banned our friendship. He told me that married women should not have friends of the opposite sex. I now talk to him secretly, and we even meet once in a while for lunch, but my husband does not know. There is nothing wrong we are doing and I refuse to feel guilty. After all, I knew him even before my husband," says Crystal.

Amos Kariuki, 44, a business man seems to disagree and does not believe that women and men can simply be friends. Hear him:"Men want to sleep with women, plain and simple. The rest are sideshows. No matter how you put it, no man is happy just being friends with a woman. What is there to gain in that kind of relationship, anyway?

"There is not a single woman in my social circle that is so bad looking that I would not want to have relations with if given the chance. Men do not randomly just make friends with women, especially attractive ones. Unless such women are their friends' wives or girlfriends," he explains.

He adds: "Otherwise if you see a man, claiming to be 'just friends' with a woman three things are very possible. Either, they have had relations, or he is friend with hopes of doing so when, for instance, her marriage hits rock bottom or he just doesn't find her attractive enough to have relations with her!"

Justus Ogolla, a University student, also agrees with Amos and says that no man wants to be 'friend zoned'. He says there is always more to those kinds of friendships.

"Why would I want to be 'just friends' with a girl? No man will voluntarily stay in the 'friend zone' with a girl; if he remains there then he is always hopping to take things to the next level. I mean, what is in it for me? I take her out for coffee, dance, assist her when financially stuck and I get nothing in return? Forget it!" he scoffs.

On the other hand Caro Kimani a psychology student says friendship with the opposite sex especially when one is in a relationship or married is a recipe to disaster.

"Friendship usually comes with emotional intimacy and this leads to a level of confidential that excludes others. And when a man or woman who are in a relationship share intimate feelings with a third party, then that creates a wedge in the current relationships. And lets us be adults and not pretend, emotionally intimacy often than not leads to physical intimacy .That is simply how we wired as humans," explains Caro.

However, Juliet Mbatia who works at an insurance company does not understand what all the hullabaloo is all about men and women being platonic friends.

"Men and women can be friends without anything sexual. All my closest friends are men. I have many close friends some married, others in serious relationships and others single but nothing has ever happened between me and them. Come on this is 2014 we are not living in the dark ages," says Juliet.

Juliet is currently single, and says that the women in her male friend's lives are never jealous or believe there is something going on between her and their men. She says they understand she is just a friend.

"Not long ago, I went out with one of my male friends who even has a girlfriend, we had fun and I drunk too much and because I couldn't make it to my place, I ended up staying at his house and nothing happened. We both slept in separate bed and in the morning we had breakfast and he dropped me at my house," explains Juliet. Never mind she says she was high, in case anything happened, could she be in a position to have known?

Also Nick Mutula, an administrator says that men and women can only be friends in happily ever after land but not in the real world

"Only in an imaginary world can men and women be friends. And yes I have female friends but they fall in three categories, my exes or ladies I have slept with or friends with benefits, there is nothing like a platonic friendship between men and women; those are just dreams girls make up in their heads.

"Women need to understand that if a man is making an effort to hang out with you, it is probably not just "as friends". He is merely accepting friendship, while waiting for his moment to strike. Differently put, most men who pretend to be 'just friends' with women are wolves in sheep's clothing," says Nick.

"I had a girlfriend who tried to pull that 'I-have-a-male-best-friend' on me, I told her off and threatened to also go out and get myself a female best friend, she got nervous! It is very simple if a man is a friend with a woman he wants to date her, and if she is taken, he just want to have some good time with her. Nothing like 'just friends'," continues Nick.

When it comes to this very burning and often controversial question on whether men and women can simply be friends without any romantic or sexual feeling coming at play, everyone has an opinion and probably a story to share of how it worked or did not work; and the stories can go on and on.

However, over the years psychologists and relationship experts have argued that women, unlike men, believe men and women can be 'just friends' and strictly keep it platonic.The jury is (still?) out.

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