just friends…yep, i’m gonna go there.

my husband was a bride’s maid once.

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.

but…

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.

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14 comments on “just friends…yep, i’m gonna go there.

  1. magic wand of lust? awesome.
    Can’t wait for you to rip the “Friends with Benefits” misnomer apart!

  2. Jenn says:

    Ah friends, it can be difficult and rewarding. I have some really close guy friends, even one who we got to that we both like each other stage. But we knew long term it wasn’t worth it. So I stepped back and he move forward. He had a lovely lady and son and I know he’s always got my back and I love him to pieces but only as a friend. And I know this is jumping into your next blog topic, I stay out of their relationship. We don’t do not discuss her – my job because I respect him is to respect her and their relationship, anything I wouldn’t want to happen/said if I was here does not happen/said.

    Though it also can be disasterous, I was friends with a guy for 4 months last year and we danced around the dating part, we kissed, we did everything a “dating” couple would and he wouldn’t commit. He kept skirting the issue, but the deeper as a woman you get yourself into these things the harder it seems it is to process reality in its true form. As to the friends with benefits only benefits one person it seems and it sure as heck wasn’t me.

  3. the whole friends with benefits thing may have to become it’s own blog. but for now, i’ll say this….

    guys, more often than not, if you’ve got a friend with benefits, she wants more from you and thinks maybe she can get it by pretending that it’s no big thing. she probably also resembles “miss insecurity” quite a bit because her self-respect isn’t all it should be.

  4. mo says:

    haha…I kept thinking about that old song while reading. “How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?”

  5. Sandra says:

    Had to comment because I’ve had a male best friend since junior high. We never dated, though he swears he asked me out once, and never stole kisses or anything. We just enjoyed each others company, laughed till we cried, and shared our deepest darkest secrets–still do. Then after 12 years of friendship a spark ignited (perhaps via the magic wand of lust) and viola. Now we’s married w/2 munchkins. So, yes men and women can be “just friends” but it’s never too late for it to grow into something more.
    PS When Harry Met Sally is like our life story (w/o the fake…y’know)

  6. […] just friends…yep, i’m gonna go there. twitter twaddle […]

  7. alyssaemi says:

    I’m the idiot best friend who’s hoping for hope and had a crush of varying degrees for about a year and a half now. Maybe one day he’ll wake up and realize but more than likely he won’t. I think the worst part is that I’m aware of all of this and not willing to do anything about it.

  8. Jonathan B says:

    I’ve been close friends for the better part of a decade with a married woman in online gaming circles. I know her husband through the same circles, but he was always kind of a backgrounder and lousy at keeping contact, so I’m much closer with her than with him. But one of my purposeful things has been to always send a hello to him through her, and periodically comment on his Facebook or other venue.

    Even if you don’t have a lot in common with the husband to build a guy friendship on, I think it’s important to make a regular habit of acknowledging his existence if you’re friends with a married woman. It’s a subtle way of saying to him (and to yourself) that “Yes, I remember she’s married and I’m not trying to get in the way of that.”

  9. […] posted about this a while back.  it came up recently on Lindsey Nobles’ blog and created some good […]

  10. Courtney says:

    I love what you’re saying here. I agree that both parties should be honest with themselves first and foremost, but I also feel like if it’s the lady who’s hung up on the guy then she also has the right to bring it to his attention. Most anything in this world could be settled with a simple conversation – too bad us human beings don’t really know how to have simple conversations (thanks, Emotions! Totally appreciate that).

  11. […] so the video i posted on friday kinda hit a nerve with a lot of yous guys and dolls. […]

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