Can Men and Women Just Be Friends?
I find it difficult to be friends with males. There’s always some awkwardness because either one could develop feelings for the other. This leads to one party getting disappointed.
I don’t have many guy friends and I would really like to try but how do I be friends with men when it seems to always lead to sex?
Meg, 26 years old
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This is a common question many of us have asked over the years – can men and women ever just be friends without sex getting in the way?
Fundamentally, I feel the answer is: boundaries. When we connect with another human being, we choose what boundaries we put in place around how we interact. These can include whether we allow people to touch us in certain ways (e.g. you might be a hugger or not) and whether we are comfortable discussing certain topics, or not.
There is an old saying that if you’re talking to a man about sex then he is thinking about having sex, with you. I suspect this may be true in some cases. But does that mean you shouldn’t discuss certain topics, like sex, when you are with male friends? I think the answer once again, is boundaries.
Unfortunately, many women are not taught how to identify their own boundaries or communicate them to other people. This leads to miscommunication when we think they should just know what is okay and what is not. But how can they know unless they are mind readers? [Note, this perspective does NOT accommodate violent or harassing behaviour by men. If they believe that type of behaviour is acceptable, no amount of boundary-setting by you will change that.]
I feel that women and men can be friends as long as the boundaries are clearly communicated and respected on both sides. So, if you want be just friends with a guy, then I would make that clear through your words and actions from the outset.
And if you feel he over-steps a boundary then you need to kindly but firmly let him know immediately. Remember, you are not responsible for his hurt feelings if you reject his advances. If he is a grown-up with some level of emotional maturity, he will accept your “No, thank you” and understand it’s not meant to be.
Of course, it is possible that a friendship may lead to sex – there are lots of romantic relationships that start this way. But the key, as always, is to be clear about what you want from the start. If you only want friendship and he doesn’t respect that boundary, then it would be a good idea to step back from that connection.
Lots of love,
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