A platonic friendship between a man and woman can work, especially in the more comfortable situation of what my friends and I call a "safe" male friend. For example, it's easy to become friends with your best friend's boyfriend because you are already meeting him as a "taken man," and the possibility of something happening is instantly eliminated. It's also easier to become friends if the guy has a girlfriend and you respect his boundaries, or he knows you have a boyfriend and he respects yours. But what happens when you're both single?
The Billy Crystal character in "When Harry Met Sally" says in the famous line, "You realize, of course, that we could never be friends. … Men and women can't ever be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."
Lines Can Blur
Is chemistry always an issue?
I agree that a friendship between a man and a woman can get complicated; lines blur. There are many unknowns, and potentially anything can happen.
How many times have you been just friends with a guy you wanted to date, but you knew the feelings weren't returned or vice versa? Harry would say, "See, I'm right, the sex thing is already out there," but I don't believe that means the friendship is doomed.
Ideally, everyone has his or her emotional, intellectual, social and physical needs met in a healthy relationship. If you're lucky, your significant other can meet most of your needs just by being part of your life.
So, can men and women be friends? Of course, they can, as long as both parties realize that every type of friendship is different, and that your friendships with men will be very different than friendships with women. Whether you are friends with more guys or more girls, each individual friendship will fulfill a different need.
In high school, I realized that hanging out with a group of girls made me feel down on myself. Each girl would fight for the attention and constantly make fun of each other. Therefore, I was delighted when I became close with a group of guy friends. There was significantly less drama involved, and hanging out with guys was fun because they didn't care about trivial things.
When they made fun of each other, it was in good humor.
When I was being "high maintenance" or making a big deal of a situation, they would jokingly say was overreacting.
Through the years, I dated a few of my guy friends, but nothing serious resulted because in each situation, we both realized we were better off as friends. It's inevitable that when a single man and girl befriend each other, one person is going to like the other more at one point in their relationship. The optimum situation would be to have it be at the same time, but life doesn't always work out that way.
Even if you did like each other at the same moment — and everyone you knew thought you should be together — maybe you were better off as friends. Maybe friendships should stay friendships because the reason the relationship works so well is because you're not dating.
Dating can add a huge strain to any relationship. You may realize that qualities he possesses are endearing as a friend, but would not be so cute if he were your actual boyfriend.
Truth be told, it's hard to remain friends when strong feelings get involved. We've all lost friends that way, and it becomes extremely uncomfortable when you tell someone your feelings and they're not reciprocated.
But talking about your feelings with the person you care about is a good indicator to see if the relationship can work.
After all, wouldn't it be better to know that it wouldn't have worked, instead of always wondering "what if"?
The Trust Factor
Once you get past a certain age, it can be difficult to make new friends of the opposite sex that stay "just friends."
At this point in my life, many of my girlfriends feel they don't need any new guy friends. It's not that they are overly opposed to the idea, but with having a boyfriend, it's just not something they need because they realize that flirty element can be inappropriate. Even if it's harmless, they want to reserve that kind of playfulness for their boyfriends.
When you are single and you meet a new guy, it's often the preamble to dating. When you have a boyfriend, you don't need a prelude to dating, so it can eliminate the fun of making new guy friends.
Though it may be difficult or awkward making the effort to develop new friendships when you have an existing boyfriend, we all grow from letting new people into our lives. Just make sure you are clear about the nature of the relationship.
It can be different if you've had many guy friends since you were young. Just make sure your current boyfriend is okay with all your guy friends. If he's the type of person who accepts all your friends — male and female — then it's a good sign that he is confident with himself and what he has with you.
If he insists you need to end your friendships with these guys, then maybe it's time to reconsider your relationship with him. No guy should ever have such influence over whom you meet. Of course, you should always value his feelings, and learn to understand his insecurities by respecting him and not rubbing your male friendships in his face.
I remain close with many of my girlfriends, and I'm also still close with most of the same guy friends. I think it's good to have a balance of men and women friends because each one adds something to life's picture.
So, if someone you previously dated says, "Let's be friends," maybe it's time to at least consider the idea.