i’ll let you absorb that for a second.
his best friend all through high school was a girl. they never dated each other. never wanted to date each other. they were really, say it with me, just friends. when she got married, she wanted him in the wedding party. he was a bride’s maid. fortunately he got to stand with the guys and wear Chuck Taylors with his tux. we’ve been in 4 weddings where Chuck Taylors were required. not exactly sure what that says about our friends. but i digress.
craig managed to have a close friend who was a girl and it worked out just fine. her parents even trusted him enough to leave him alone in the house with her younger sister (my best friend in high school) who was recovering from minor surgery while the rest of the family was out of town. said younger sister just celebrated her 17th wedding anniversary with craig’s college roommate. friends and lovers. it can work out.
and this is kardashian sized but…
it can get complicated.
doing the research on whether or not men and women can really just be friends was exhausting. honestly, the statistics and findings were all over the map. Psychology Today says yes, but with about a gazillion qualifiers. survey groups swung from of course! to absolutely not! while others divided straight down the middle. however, the common thread in all of it, that everyone focused on as the determining factor in the success or failure of male-female friendships, is how to deal with, drum roll, sexual tension.
you guys know this can get in the way, but don’t actually care much since you tend to start friendships with girls because of sexual attraction anyway. gross generalization, i know. but it has plenty of truth to it.
for girls it’s different. those 80’s movie clichés about the guy getting stuck in “friend mode” are real. what’s not real, is the girl suddenly waking up and realizing that she really does love him romantically and they live happily ever after. okay, to be fair, it can be real. that’s exactly how it happened for craig and i, but it’s not that common. girls’ ability to disconnect friendship from sex makes it easier for them to believe they are in a totally platonic friendship. most of my guy friends in high school got cemented in that brotherly role for me. some were okay with it. some, i found out later, wanted to bash me over the head with the magic wand of lust. i was totally clueless. my advice? if you want to date the girl you’re friends with, tell her. if she completely rejects you and the friendship ends, that’s actually all right. you can move on. and you should move on. craig did that. told me he wanted to date me. i didn’t speak to him for 3 months. then we became friends again and about a year and half later, we were engaged. sound confusing and contrary? it is. but it’s the best i can do with this particular relational nightmare.
the male-female friendship does have a dark side for girls though.
when it’s the guy who doesn’t see the girl as anything other than a friend but she’s into him, it can get messy. a girl will be anything, do anything, give up anything if she holds out even the most remote hope that he will come around. of course this is not always the case. there are girls out there who can stay cool and maintain the friendship while working through the process of letting other feelings go. but, frankly, they’re rare. a guy friend of mine was seriously pining after his ex-girlfriend. his close friend, a girl, was in love with him. desperately. it was actually hard to watch. she’d drop what ever she was doing, night or day, to be there if he called. she ignored other potential relationships and loathed his ex. he knew all of this. his ex started dating someone else and he did something incredibly stupid.
he started dating his friend. she was in heaven! and he was using her to get at his ex.
i took him aside and told him he was cruel and totally mental. cruel for using his friend’s feeling for his own ends and mental for thinking it was going to work.
he went to his friend and told her that i said he should break up with her and did it. so now she hated me, too. fortunately he also told her my reasons because although it took her 5 YEARS to get over him and forgive me. she did both. but it cost her heavily.
moral of the stories?
there are rules. in all the research i did, there are common threads of advice that make all kinds of sense. they aren’t miracle cures to solve all the ills of the guy-chick jumble but they sure can’t hurt.
1. be honest with her and yourself. in order for a real male-female friendships to work, there has to be understanding on both sides. this is easier when one or the other is already in a committed relationship because the boundaries are automatically set. however, if both people are unattached, then you have to make sure you are both on the same page. if you see the signs that she’s becoming like the girl who was in love with my friend, and they’re pretty obvious, you need to make sure she understands that it’s never going to happen. you may even have to end the friendship for her sake. if you’re the one that’s hung up on her, tell her. then you can decide together how best to handle it.
that’s it. just 1. i know i’m a list maker but in this case, the best and only thing you can do to have successful girl-boy friendships is to talk. communicate. make sure you’re both walking down the same emotional path. there may come a point when one or the other has to veer off. that’s all right. it happens. and being attracted at some point isn’t the end of the world. that happens, too. either the shine will wear off and you can go back to being “just friends” or you have to choose a different path. it could be with her, it could be without. but at least you’ll know the person well enough to make the decision that’s best for both of you. because after all, you’re friends.
there are more rules when you are in a committed relationship with someone else and trying to maintain friendships with girls. but that’s a blog for another day.