While people often assume that platonic friendships between opposite genders are close to impossible, Inez Ong has been a close friend with her fellow Ngee Ann Poly schoolmate Tan Ming Zhe for seven years.
“I never considered dating Ming Zhe as I consider him as my support system,” said Inez.
Both 19 years old, Inez and Ming Zhe have known each other since Secondary 1. “After chatting in the [secondary school] group chat, we just started to hang out in the same clique.”
Ming Zhe shared: “Our perspective of life is similar and at that time we also viewed our studies in the same way. Basically, we could relate to a lot of things and our experiences were also very similar.”
While they no longer hang out every day due to their busy schedules, the two still keep a strong yet “low-maintenance” friendship.
“We are not the kind of friends that have to necessarily text every day in order to stay close. However, I think Ming Zhe and I support each other a lot so whenever either of us needs help we would help each other no matter how busy we are. We would always be there for each other during tough times,” Inez said.
Their strong bond is also a reason why both parties never considered the possibility of a romantic relationship blossoming between them.
Inez shared: “In a relationship if something bad happens, the two parties will just stop talking. If I were to date Ming Zhe and things like that happen, I think I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. As such, I would rather not go into dating territory with him and bring unnecessary harm to our friendship.”
Ms Cassandra Ng is a 25-year-old radiographer who also shares a “low-maintenance” platonic friendship with Mr Patrick Tan, 23, a Singapore Polytechnic graduate who is waiting to serve National Service.
The two first met as “newbies” at Uniqlo five years ago in 2016, where they would often work the same shifts and go for supper together afterwards. However, it was a trip to Sunway Lagoon with other part-timers in 2017 that brought their friendship to a new level.
“There was a particular night [when] all of [the other part-timers] decided to go to the gym, but the two of us were just like, ‘Nah we’re not gonna go’, so only the two of us stayed behind in the hotel room watching movies and eating supper,” Ms Ng recalled with a laugh.
From the get-go, the two already had an unspoken agreement about the nature of their relationship – which was to be strictly platonic.
“There’s zero attraction between the both of us and I never considered dating him because he’s younger than me,” Ms Ng shared.
Likewise, Mr Tan said: “When we first met I was an [Institute of Technical Education] student whereas she was going for her undergraduate studies in university. Now, she’s a working adult while I’m still waiting to go for National Service so [we are in] different phases of life where it doesn’t really match for us as partners.”
While dating was never on the table for them, Mr Tan recalled that many people in their social circles would question the nature of their relationship when the two first started getting close.
“A lot of her friends actually asked if we were dating when I appeared on her Instagram stories,” he shared.
“I think it has to do with the way books, movies or media in general shapes the way we think about guy and girl friendships. But I think we should normalise more platonic friendships that can purely be [just that].”
While having friends of the same gender are important, Ms Ng stressed that it’s also equally important to have platonic friendships with people of the other gender. “Your female friends can’t always give you good advice, especially about guy problems. Sometimes you need a guy’s perspective.”
She added that it’s important to handle these friendships well, especially if you’re attached. She cited trust and communication as key factors in this.
Ming Zhe experienced some challenges firsthand. While his friendship with Inez was strictly platonic, his ex-girlfriend was still wary of Inez.
“My ex-girlfriend hated Inez. She even told me to talk less to her,” Ming Zhe said. “I didn’t comply and it took quite a bit of time for me to help her understand what kind of friendship Inez and I were in,” he added.
To Ms Ng, communicating and drawing boundaries are essential in any platonic relationship. Likewise, Inez shared: “I think if the boundaries are not clearly set, it would definitely be possible for the friendship to escalate to a relationship.”