Can Men and Women Really Be Just Friends?

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“When Harry Met Sally” posed the age-old question, and seemed to answer it: No. Men and women can’t just be friends. Attraction always gets in the way. But if you’re lucky, you can fall in love with your best friend.

This popular YouTube video
posits largely the same premise – men will always want to sleep with their platonic girlfriends.

And while I don’t trust college boys to teach any life lessons in platonic friendship, even science validates their claim that men will sleep with their friends. From this Psychology Today article:

“In a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Sapadin asked more than 150 professional men and women what they liked and disliked about their cross-sex friendships. Topping women’s list of dislikes: sexual tension. Men, on the other hand, more frequently replied that sexual attraction was a prime reason for initiating a friendship, and that it could even deepen a friendship. Either way, 62 percent of all subjects reported that sexual tension was present in their cross-sex friendships.”

Pretty predictable, but important for women to understand. If a guy is making an effort to hang out with you, it’s probably not just “as friends”. He’s merely accepting friendship, in lieu of dating you, because it beats the alternative. And what’s the alternative? Having no girl friends, and, therefore, no one to confide in. From the same article:

If a guy is making an effort to hang out with you, it’s probably not just “as friends”.


“Men rated cross-sex friendships as being much higher in overall quality, enjoyment and nurturance than their same-sex friendships. What they reported liking most was talking and relating to women–something they can’t do with their buddies. Meanwhile, women rated their same-sex friendships higher on all these counts. They expect more emotional rewards from friendship than men do, explained Sapadin, so they’re easily disappointed when they don’t receive them. “Women confide in women,” noted Blieszner. “Men confide in women.”

This all reinforces a principle extolled in my book, “Why He Disappeared”. Men don’t choose women because you’re taller, smarter, richer, funnier or more sophisticated. Men choose women because you listen to them, provide empathy and support and affection – none of which he really gets from his guy friends.

As for me, I do believe that men and women can be friends. Here are the ways in which I’ve made women friends:

1) I’ve hooked up with her already. Once we’ve gotten together, there’s no sexual tension. We either become boyfriend/girlfriend or lapse into regular friendship because we’re not mutually interested in each other.

While attraction itself is not a choice, acting on that attraction is.

2) I’m not remotely attracted to her. This keeps things simple. It’s easy to be friends with someone you’d never sleep with. Just keep in mind that men will sleep with women they’re barely even attracted to – especially when drunk, lonely, and horny.

3) I’m in a satisfying relationship. Now that I’m 100% taken, I can’t act on any crush or attraction, so I don’t even allow myself to go there emotionally. The problem is that you’re really not “allowed” to make new opposite-sex friends when you’re married – largely because of the perceived risk involved. It’s generally a good idea to avoid putting yourself in tempting situations, which is why I pretty much stopped making women friends once I got involved with my wife. Before that, however? I probably had a dozen friends that I’d fooled around with once or twice before. My wife has met most of them.

4) Finally, it IS possible for a man to be friends with a woman, but he has to be a very experienced, very evolved man. One who can say, “I’ve been down this road before, and it does not end well.” This is how I can be very attracted to someone, but not act on it. She may be a narcissist. She may be emotionally unstable. She may be trashy. She may be sad. While attraction itself is not a choice, acting on that attraction is. If you have maturity and self-control, you don’t act on your attractions and you can maintain platonic friendships.

Keep in mind that other variations of friends may be fraught with danger. The guy from work may have a big crush on you but can’t act on it. Your boyfriend’s best friend? Same thing. The guy you’ve known since childhood? He may be holding a torch for you for all these years.

So if you’re a woman reading this, check out those four bullet points. If the guy doesn’t fall under one of those categories, he probably secretly wants to sleep with you.

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Comments:

  1. 101
    Lisa

    I agree with your assessment 100%.   I think the reason women struggle with this is because it’s just not the same for us.   I have a few good male friends that fall into one of these categories.   As a single women I will tell you that all of these men are in relationships and I know their wives or girlfriends just as well I make a point to that’s what a friend does a real friend with true intentions of either gender does.   But in the past I was indeed naive about men and them wanting to be my friends.   I had male friends for four and five years and then one day they made a move or revealed their feelings and were angry I failed to reciprocate and I felt very betrayed!   Usually I had been in a relationship and I guess they were bating their time and that infuriating me!

  2. 102
    Lauren

    No it’s not possible girls don’t like being just friends even having a man utter the words makes me say no right away sorry guys but girls will never be just your friend so forget about it don’t even ask her to be just friends I can tell you you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life

    1. 102.1
      Wølf

      Lol nope. I wouldnt bat an eye if someone refused my friendship. I like friendships, but I most certainly dont need anyone other than my girl, my bff, my lil sis & my lil big bro.

  3. 103
    Jim C.

    To each his own. Some people do not care if their mate has close friends of the opposite sex and some do. If you have a problem with it never get involved in a serious relationship with someone who does it. To anyone reading this, WARNING: ANY man or woman who is involved in a serious relationship who are the type who insist on having close friends of the opposite sex WILL CHEAT sooner or later. That is not opinion, that is a FACT ! If you believe otherwise, eventually they will show you a lot better than I can tell you. [whiny voice]”It just happened, we didnt plan anything”etc etc LMAO You didn’t NEED to plan anything because you already had your convenient little set up going. Some people have a amazing ability to feed themselves BS . They actually believe it until circumstances prove otherwise and then they try to rationalize it with excuses that are so bizarre it makes you wonder if they even have a brain.

    1. 103.1
      Wølf

      Completely false ^ both me & my girl have friends of the other sex. As did both of my exs (i broke up with one because of her homophobia and religious attachments and the other hooked up with a female at a party)

  4. 104
    Rainbow_sparkles

    I have to agree with this. Aside from my life long guy best friend who is gay I can honestly say that every guy that has been friends with me over the years has let it be known in some way that they are attracted to me. One example is I had a great guy friend that I worked with for years and I truly believed that it was just friendship and then years later the inappropriate text messages creeped in lol I have many more examples but this one shocked me at the time because we were just such good friends and I believed it was nothing more.

  5. 105
    Elemental

    Ten years ago I met a guy through a group of friends. As a married guy, he was a no go for me, other than conversation. I’ve seen him regularly since then, always in a larger group until about 6 months ago. I’m a consultant and we started working together on small, discrete projects – just the two of us. We’ve had fun and gotten to know each other a little better.

    And last week he set up a late day meeting with me – I thought for another job – but instead, last night at our meeting he told me he’d left his wife, had been crushing on me since we met 10 years ago and wanted us to start seeing each other. Our late day meeting turned into drinks and dinner.

    This guy is amazing. Before I ventured into online dating I knew I wanted to meet someone like him or the other guys in this group of friends, which  was a pretty high bar. I’ve always liked him, had enormous respect for him and enjoyed being around him, but never allowed myself to think of him as anything other than a friend.

    He cooly and calmly told me what he thought of me, all of it positive and very flattering; and how he feels when we’re together (isn’t that a big part of EMK’s post).

    I was surprised, I’m still surprised, a little confused and feeling a bit overwhelmed. But I’m also looking forward to seeing where this goes. From friend to boyfriend? I guess we’ll see.

     

  6. 106
    Talmida

    YES men and women can be friends when there’s mutual respect, without unwanted sexual tension.

    I’ve been in rock bands for the last 13 years. I’ve been the only female in them pretty much all the time. Some of them were single, others married, taken, etc. There’s banter, and the usual innuendoes that come with the culture, but I can assure you we’re not hanging out because the end goal is for them to get me to bed. We spend time and have become friends because we respect each others’ musical skills and crafts, we have goals as a band andwork together on them, hang out with other musicians, etc. They don’t have to hang with me for “empathy, support & affection”, although all those are slightly in the mix, as it would be for any friendship. Ask any of them if they’d want to sleep with me and the answer is “ewwww, she’s always been like my little sister”. And it’s not because I’m a fat ugly slob with no feminine characteristics at all.

    Of course this isn’t the ideal mindset when it cones to dating, but it is very possible to have cross-sex friendships without sexual tension, without friendzoning them because they made unwanted moves, or having slept with them before. It all boils down to if a woman can get a guy to consider her as a person first, with similar  interests and acting in a way worthy of respect.

    1. 106.1
      Kanga

      I can do this with men who are much younger than I or married. Sooner or later, most men my own age put the hard word on.   I do have male friends from my teenage hood who I’m still close to but they sure would have had sex with me when we were teenagers if I had let them! It’s been a few decades now and it’s all pretty well established we will always be friends and I treasure their friendships.   I think you’d be surprised at how many of these men you think would say ‘ew, no way she’s like a sister’, would actually sleep with you.   I thought that for a long time too, but as I get older I have come to realise that most men would just do it if they could. They aren’t going to try to get you into bed, they are your friend for sure but I bet if you offered – their pants would be around their ankles before you could yell,’just joking!!’… I honestly, my whole life thought men and women could be close friends – they can, as long as the female never, ever, ever even lets the door handle squeak as if it might be openable. The male friends I do have, I have, like you managed to get them to consider me a human first and foremost,worthy of respect and actually cool to hang out with.   One of my old school mates actually rang me to ask if I’d be at the high school reunion because I am one ‘of the coolest people he knows’.   I am also very good friends with his lovely wife and have been for decades. Most men though cannot handle being friends with a female – they don’t see the use of hanging around some useless, stupid, whining female unless he can stick his dick into her or at least having the chance to – but don’t make them wait too long for that chance!! Sad but true.

      1. 106.1.1
        Talmida

        Friendship with men is simple, actually: Bring more to the table than the hole between our legs, have stuff in common with them, don’t emphasize “femaleness” and emotionality as a primary driver of your interaction, and treat them like human beings and as equals. That is how I’ve come to have many close friends who are guys AND when they have girlfriends, wives, etc. those ladies don’t perceive me as a threat. Women don’t have to be “useless” and “whiny”. That’s a PUA’s view of looking at women.

        An interesting study had been done looking at same-sex friendships & bonding. Men tend to bond by doing stuff together and not talk much about their inner world, while women more often get together over an activity to talk and share. Because I’m more comfortable with the former bonding style, it may be why male friendships come more naturally to me.

        1. Kanga

          I think you’d be surprised at how many of your male friends would actually sleep with you, if they had the chance.   Now, I’m much older and have had male friends for over 30 years(the same males), I am comfortable talking to them about this and they have all said that if they had the opportunity 30 years ago – they would have done it, no questions asked. Their wives don’t consider me a threat because we are such long standing friends.   The newer friends I make who may be married, I make very certain to include them as much as possible.   When going to university and studying and working with a married man, I always sent any texts etc. to her phone as well and she had my number. Going through a marriage break up myself I never want to cause any angst in anyone elses.   When they did break up she rang me to talk about our studying together as it was HER friends that said she is crazy for believing nothing happened. I could reassure her that every bit of communication went through her, so I’m glad I was transparent in everything I did. Both of them, despite being broken up are now my friends.

          You might also be surprised at how the girlfriends and wives feel about you.   I wrote like the PUAs at the end because if you’ve noticed most of the men   on this page, seem to ascribe to that way of thinking about females.

  7. 107
    Lauren

    I know I can’t be just friends with a guy I’m attracted to he’s not entitled to be my friend chances are I won’t be his friend so I don’t need anymore guy friends thanks so if your going to ask me to be your friend don’t even bother

  8. 108
    Lauren

    No they can’t I’ve had to end a few friendships due to feelings

  9. 109
    Wølf

    Good article but dead wrong. I have never tried to, never wanted to, nor thought about, sleeping with any of my platomic female friends or being anything more than just friends. Under this assumption, do all gay men and lesbians wanna hook up with all of their same sex friends? Doubt it. The article also fails to address that almost all friendships are based on some type of physical attraction (not all attractions are sexual, in fact, most arent) because attractions are based on subtle factors such as health & friendliness because of our instinct of survival, our pack-like attitude, we tend to avoid the unhealthy & less friendly people in society, even when associating with those we have no interest in mating with.

  10. 110
    Bubba Clinton

    I’ve had completely platonic friendships with women. What’s the big deal? Some of them I found attractive and could have slept with (they made it very clear) yet chose not to because I didn’t want to blow up our friendships. After a while the thought of sleeping with then would have been akin to banging a relative…. I have also known women who couldn’t be just friends because of their unrequited interest in me; it was not fun to see them go but I understand it. Women seem to find “The Friend Zone” even more intolerable than men for some reason. Possibly they feel somehow entitled to be desired. My observations, anyway.

  11. 111
    Ray

    Most guys are rejected into friendship!   This is almost always a one sided affair!   The guy wants to have sex with the girl.   She knows that he wants to have sex with her, but because she does not find the guy sexually attractive, she forces him into friendship.   He’s being used to feed her need for male attention, but he is only doing it hoping for the possibity of sex.   This is some selfish stuff and 90% of the time women are doing this to men!    They know why that guy is there, but they don’t care, they just want all of these guys circulating around them so they can fell desirable!

    There are very rare exceptions, but 90% of the time

    1. 111.1
      Emily, the original

      Ray,

      but because she does not find the guy sexually attractive, she forces him into friendship.  

      Explain how that works, exactly? With a knife or a gun?

  12. 112
    Ainalem

    This is a bit troubling to me: “Men don’t choose women because you’re taller, smarter, richer, funnier or more sophisticated. Men choose women because you listen to them, provide empathy and support and affection — none of which he really gets from his guy friends.”

    Evan, I’m sure you’re generally right, but this truism makes my feminist skin crawl. It makes me feel like my intelligence and accomplishments are invalid when it comes to relationships, because all men want are… well, their mothers. I’m of course happy to provide empathy, support, etc. because these are basic human needs, but shouldn’t it be a two-way street? This article makes clear that men are not so great in these departments (which is why men choose to confide in women instead of men), so why should women be giving and giving when men are incapable of or unwilling to provide the same? And why are men’s intelligence and accomplishments supposed to make us swoon if these attributes are not valued in us?

    I appreciate your candor. But at a certain point, shouldn’t we be expecting a little more from men instead of learning “techniques” and molding ourselves to fit what they want? In other words, just because this is the way it is doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be, and maybe we’re reinforcing what shouldn’t be by asking women to accept it.   Would love your thoughts : )

     

  13. 113
    Owen

    What about homosexual people

  14. 114
    Antonia

    Having had two former long-term partners cheat on me/leave me for the woman they had hooked up with in the past and remained “friends” with – I now, very firmly, stay away from this scenario. Any man who remains in contact with his former flames does not get a second date with me. Unreasonable? Probably – but I will not risk the pain and embarrassment a third time.

  15. 115
    Lauren

    I think it kinda depends on if either one is attracted to the other I’ve learned that if I’m attracted to a guy I’m not going to be his friend at all I’m not interested in being just friends with a guy I’ve got a crush on if I have a crush on him then he’s not going to be my friend and yes I’ve done it but I’m not his friend anymore I ended the friendship once he got a girlfriend

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