Can Men and Women be Just Friends?

mary shoesFriendships vs Relationships. Can men and women really be just friends? Or will one always want more? Can men and women bond like same sex friendships? The male- female friendship boundaries and desires must be communicated at the start of a friendship. It must not be left to chance or assumptions.

Men and women can casually be friends. Opposite sex friendships should be intermittent in order to avoid confusion or embarrassment regarding the status of the relationship. Confusion can and often does result when one of the friends develop feelings beyond those of a friend and leaves one baffled when the love is not returned. There is no surprise in cases of confusion when one takes into account the generous time and effort directed towards the friendship; their voice or text is the first responded to in the morning, throughout the day, and the last that is heard in the evenings. It can be fulfilling and even empowering, nonetheless, it crosses the boundaries of friendship as that bond is reserved for a different kind of intimate relationship; boyfriend-girlfriend or marriage.

Communication between male-female friends ought to be limited and prudent yet direct because of the very nature in which each sex uses and processes communication and information. Women generally use communication to promote intimacy; intentional and unintentional. Many men use communication to simply solve and fix problems. Additionally, direct communication is imperative to a true male- female friendship in order to avoid false representation. Consider the male friend that compliments everything from his female friend’s walk to her smile. Innocent and friendly enough, right? Or could it be that he be setting the stage for future romantic or sexual encounters? Or consider the female friend that calls upon her male friend to do such things as fix her car or a give a back rub? Could she be soliciting resources and comfort? In addition to role conflict, there is the concept of decreasing attractiveness to potential mates. No one wants to enter into a relationship in which they immediately feel that they must compete for respect, time and attention. In opposite sex friendships it is not uncommon for a friend to convey their closeness and dominance to potential partners. The likely partner may feel threatened and become disinterested in pursuing a relationship. How tasteless would it be to be on a date with a potential dating partner discussing all of the wonderful qualities, support, and benefits of your male friends?

Jealously is perhaps the most complicated issue involving male-female friendship. Jealously can occur within the opposite sex friendship when one enters into a new relationship. The time and attention that the friend had dedicated to the friendship decreases and the focus is redirected on the new relationship; this can cause jealously and even resentment. Also, a new boyfriend or girlfriend may not be accepting or trusting of the nature of the male-female friendship. Consequently, trust issues are rooted early into the new relationship; chances of a successful relationship diminish. The most common cause of jealousy in more established relationships occurs when the significant other feels insecure or neglected by their partner. The significant other believes that an excessive or inappropriate amount of time is being dedicated to maintaining the male-female friendship. It is obvious to most that the greater part of one’s time and energy should be applied to maintaining and enriching his or her established relationship or marriage. Jealousy also exists when the significant other is not familiar with their partner’s opposite sex friends or if the details of the friendship are masked; which yields mistrust. Equally apparent, when there is no introduction both the friend and significant other can only make assumptions about one another. Of course, there is no guarantee that if they become acquainted they will create a bond but it can remove doubt, assumptions, and define one’s intentions and commitment.

In brief, male-female friendships must begin with open and honest conversations that establish both friend’s intentions and desires. For example, “I am not looking for sexual or romantic partner and at any time this friendship begins to drift to that level I will walk away to avoid my feelings or your feelings being hurt”. Let your friend know you are not looking to or open to the possibilities of a relationship beyond a friendship. Still you must be cautious in ongoing communication because feelings can and do emerge. The central problem is that often those feelings are not matched at the same time.
Conversations about your significant other: “If our friendship causes concern or unhappiness within my relationship or marriage the friendship cannot continue”. This conversation establishes to your friend that your significant other has a more dominant presence in your life.
To your significant other: “If at any time my friendship with “insert name” makes you feel insecure or unhappy we will discuss it and if you still feel the same I will end it”. Why I believe this discussion is necessary is because it not only confirms your commitment to your marriage but restates its value. You are not trying to disguise or minimize your partner’s feelings or concerns you have conceded to ending the friendship to ensure someone else’s feelings. Remember if your significant other has all of the characteristics of a true friend your desire to fight or hold on to it will not be as imperative
One more male-female conversation to consider: “I am not actively looking for a relationship but I am willing to become friends and see where it goes”. The conversation expresses that you are open to the possibility of a friendship becoming more exclusive but communicates that you are also exploring other potential mates. This conversation can open to the possibility of having a friendship with sexual benefits with no exclusive attachment or expectations. If that is the desired result, communicate that possible development. All the same, once it is agreed it is generally not acceptable to use deception to demand more. Keep the rules consistent. If the communicated terms are broken, the friendship is likely to suffer and should be ended to prevent hurt, angry and confusion.

So, do I believe men and women can be just friends…..

I believe that with boundaries and a narrow window of opportunity for romantic or sexual development males and females can have a limited but healthy and fulfilling acquaintanceship. Accordingly, I do not believe that men and women can have the same kind of friendships that same sex friends have. Our basic biological makeup or society is not designed to cultivate such relationships.

Do you think that men and women can just be friends?

Share your stories and insight!
Fatimah

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