Why Do Men Stay Friends?

It occured to me this morning that the only women I stayed friends with in my years of online dating were those who I’d hooked up with while we were dating.

That sounds worse than it is, so let me explain.

A client was telling me this morning that she went on a first date, and while she thought he was a nice guy, she just wanted to keep him in her life as a “music friend”. Instantly, I knew that this was not going to happen. And I started thinking about it and wondering why that is.

I mean, it’s easy to say “I have enough friends”. It may be true, but it’s more likely that it’s the rejection talking. And I think that’s the crux of it. Men (and women) do not want a constant reminder of their rejection when hanging out with so-called “friends”. If I went on one date with a woman, and she thought I was nice, but wasn’t attracted to me, that would probably hurt. And since there isn’t that much of an investment in the “friendship” after only one date, it wouldn’t make sense to put in the time to truly turn that woman into a “friend”.

Conversely, if I’ve gone out with someone three or four times over a month – which probably means we’ve seen each other naked – it’s more likely that I’ll see her as a true friend – even if we’re not long-term compatible. Whether she breaks it off with me, or I break it off with her, I’ll be much more comfortable catching a movie with her down the road. Not because we were intimate, but because we had time to build a real relationship. Time + sharing + trust = relationship. And if you’re trying to turn a nice, bland, Starbucks date into a friend, that’s probably not gonna work. If that guy does stick around, it’s because he’s hoping you’ll change your mind about him. Then he’ll be that frustrated guy in the “friend zone” who has a crush on you but doesn’t let on until it’s entirely inappropriate (see: any 80’s teen movie).

To clarify my intentions, I never kept my women friends around to potentially go back to them as booty calls (which is a pretty common technique). It’s more that I tend to think highly of those I’ve dated and don’t see why we couldn’t at least remain “friendly”, if not friends. Luckily, I’ve found a number of women who agreed with me – although we both taper off our friendship when we’re in relationships. Again, I don’t think that’s about sex, but about need. Hell, my guy friends are just as distant once they’re taken as well…

Anyway, while I don’t know mean this as serious “advice”, if you want to keep a man/woman as a friend, you better be willing to go out with them at least a few times. Otherwise, they’ve got no incentive to stick around in the future.

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  1. 1
    Ramon Thomas

    This is common sense to me and you Even because we study this area of human interaction in so much detail. I would add that because the lack of incentive for a man to “get” sex from a woman he will loose interest quickly. The biological drives are always there beneath the surface. It’s the part of our nature that sometimes overrides nurture.

  2. 2

    Why do men that are in a new serious relationship, thinks okay to stay friend with old lovers and girlfriends and communcate with them. Yet you have to totally disconnect & even change your number. Really I think it is rude and direscectfull. Why is it good for the goose but not the gander? They think I am a B…. when I complain that we should be communicating with each other about building our future, not talking with them about their lives etc…

  3. 3

    Why would your husband total your car, he used while his was being repaired and not think he must replace it even though other monertary choices, that could have replaced the car so I could get a job and go back to work. even though he was the one that harped me to take off the collision for 2 years. I should have not took the collison off in the first place.
    Now I am suffering the consiquines of his pressure to do what I know I shouldn’t. now no car, finally got the use of a my fathers car because we are divicoing because of his extreme selfishness. If it had been anyone else’s care the law would have made him replace the car, but since I was married to me I have no recourse??????????

  4. 4

    I was just rereading this column, and need some clarification from Evan.

    In this column you mention you only want to try to be friends, “if I’ve gone out with someone three or four times over a month – which probably means we’ve seen each other naked.”

    In the “When Should a Woman Have Sex With a Man?” you wrote: “This has been my personal policy for the past three years – no committed relationship, no sex – and it’s worked very well for me.” (Which was also repeated at greater length in “Why Men Should Say No to Sex.”)

    I can’t find the column that discussed it, but it seems to be a pretty generally accepted rule of thumb on this board that three months is a good point by which to have declared exclusivity.

    I’m sure you see the question coming, but how are you getting to the naked bodies within 3-4 dates if you’re holding off on sex until exclusivity? Or do you get exclusive that quickly? Looking forward to the clarification.

  5. 5
    Evan Marc Katz

    I discovered, A-L, that there is plenty of foreplay to be had prior to intercourse. And that’s all I’ll dignify in print. 🙂

  6. 6
    susan lucy

    Hi All,

    While it seems Evan, his wife and the women friends he knows are very evolved, I’d like to examine another angle.   While this may not apply to all, it’s something to think about.

    I was often in the “friend zone”.   A place no one truly wants to be.   I had and on and off again friend relationship with someone who liked me and who I liked. Because of our issues we never really got together – but he still wanted me as a friend –   even after he got married.   I think he thought I’d be flattered, or that it’d be fun.


    While some men cheat on their wives physically, some cheat emotionally – right in front of the other person.

    Pardon my language but it’s time women (and men) stopped being someone’s “Emotional Whore”.   And let’s be honest, at least prositutes get paid.  

    This guy wanted it all, the devoted wife and mother, and the awesome fan club female that thought HE was so awesome she stuck around even though he had found someone else.

    In my opinion, this is pure selfishness.   

    If you’re game for such a game, then go for it.
    But if you want to grow and move on from such emotional chains: Cut the ropes, wish them well, and the go find the person that wants ALL of you.  

    Just my thoughts.  

    1. 6.1

      I agree, well said.

    2. 6.2

      Absolutely.   Worst thing about men like this, they think they are doing women some kind of favor.

  7. 7

    I am totally with Susan on this one. I just went through an awful friend after break up experience. Perhaps Evan’s advice works when BOTH parties are in agreement that they want friends AND they BOTH really mean they want only friends. Still, if your just talking to the person until you find another, isn’t that really like Susan states, selfish..you just can’t go cold turkey.

    I had 2 great- well maybe 1.5 months with the potential future..until he started tearing me apart..we broke up..  and I said no to friends..he kept contacting me and I said I don’t want friends.. 3 weeks go by and I thought..I’ll try it..never done it before as usually one or the other always wants more even if they don’t say it…well.. he came over and it clearly wasnt friends..I didn’t sleep with him..boundaries..well.. he clearly didn’t know what he wanted and I started online dating again..of course I heard from him but it was “just to see you in person”… CRAP.., I told him to never contact me again.. Really… I’m NO DOORMATfor some guy who can’t make up their mind and only want me around to bolster their ego until they find someone else…. NADA.. If you can break up with me, then what is the point in friends…staying in touch just slows down the process that is ultimately the same…

  8. 8

    I never really thought about it in these terms, but I guess it’s true. I’ve been out with several men once or twice and it never led anywhere, including friendship. OTOH, my most recent exclusive relationship which lasted 6 months ended with us being very close friends  – in fact, he’s become one of my best friends. Even though we’re not compatible romantically for the long term, our relationship was based on mutual respect, trust and brutal honesty which is why I think we’ve remained close. We help each other out with things, talk about all the losers we’ve dated since our breakup (ha!), and hang out from time to time. Yes, sometimes I think it would be nice if we could work things out, but I enjoy our relationship now as it is.

  9. 9

    Hm.   Not sure about that one.   I used to know someone absolutely adorable – damn shame I didn’t love him.   He loved me but it just wasn’t reciprocated.   That is the rejection theory in practice.
    I would have loved to have stayed in touch with him but he got married (and I was genuinely very happy for him) and although we DID stay in touch for a while, his wife would never in a thousand years have imagined that we weren’t sexual at all.
    We moved in the same social circles and this woman kept staring at me and asking me questions about the relationship I had had with her husband.   She just could not get it that I really did care for him, but it would not make it into marriage (or sex by the way).
    People are different.   I could not have slept with him because I was not physically attracted to him and more importantly, because I knew that he loved me.  
    If we had been, I would have married him.

  10. 10

    Susan, so you’re telling me you’d rather get pregnant and be used physically?! Lol… ok?!

  11. 11
    Mara G

    Agree. What is the point of being friends. There is a reason that the “ relationship” ended.

    One or both don’t want to let go of something that was there….

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