The question of whether men and women can be just friends is something I’ve asked myself time and time again over the years. I’ve always got on with men, but I like to think just as well as I get on with women. I don’t think I’m one of those women who only gets on with men but I’ve always thought that technically, there’s no reason why men and women can’t be good friends.
Except … I’ve never really managed it. In fact, the only male friends I have, where we are truly just friends, and no hint of anything else, are my gay male friends. So why is that?
I think unfortunately, and predictably, in my experience anyway, it always comes down to sex and attraction. My friendships with men have either been borne from a sexual relationship, ie. an ex-partner, or a drunken fumble that never quite manifested itself into anything else, or one person in the relationship has always yearned for more. (More often than not it’s me doing the yearning!) I feel there is always the question of ‘Should I?’, ‘Would they?’ ‘Would I?’ ‘Could I?’ on the table … it’s just natural curiosity I guess.
I have lots of examples I could share with you but the most recent example that sparked this post is what happened on the train to me last week. I talked about it on Facebook, but to cut a long story short, I had a panic attack on the train and a guy started talking to me (when I trod on his foot – classic Kate), and then went on to ask me out. I wasn’t interested in him, made up an imaginary boyfriend, still went on to give him my phone number because I felt cornered, and even after I said no to a date once in person, he went on to ask me out again three times via text. I had made it clear a friendship was only on the table, but that clearly wasn’t possible.
Then there’s my ex from earlier this year. His life is quite complicated but amazingly, we’ve managed to remain friends, but only because he’s in another country! He asked to see me before he left but I knew that if I saw him, I’d want him again ‘like that’. So I can only (I feel) have any semblance of friendship with him if I never see him again. Not ideal, but when you have chemistry with someone of the opposite sex, I’m not sure you can ever be just friends. I guess that’ll be a ‘watch this space’ situation whilst I figure out my feelings about him but that’s where it stands for now, a purely virtual friendship.
And finally, there’s my latest date. (Here’s what happened when we first met.) We had three dates, and in a nutshell, we just weren’t a good fit, not long term. I just didn’t feel it. ‘It’ .. hard to define, but the feeling wasn’t there for me. Very different people, and I really tried to make it work but went with my gut instinct and called it off. I’ve always been honest and open with him about how I feel, treated him with respect, and at the end of my very well worded (in my opinion) text to him (I couldn’t face a phone call for various reasons) I asked if we could stay friends because he’s a nice bloke and it would be nice to stay in touch. I know it’s clichéd to say, “Let’s stay friends,” but I think it’s possible after three dates because let’s face, we’re nothing more than friends at this stage. Alas, his reply would dictate that he’s cross with me and doesn’t want to be friends, which is sad. But I get it.
Maybe it all comes down to attraction. You can be attracted to someone of the opposite sex but you don’t have to act on it, as long as you respect how the other person feels. If they’re attracted to you too, and you’re both single, it would beg the question why are you just friends I guess? You can have a history with someone, and still be friends, just as long as you never see them in person again (maybe that’s just me!). But there are jealous partners to contend with, colleagues that may worry a friendship will be misconstrued and a whole host of other worries and concerns, which is sad isn’t it? Throw alcohol into the mix and well … we all know how that sometimes ends.
I guess like with all relationships, if you communicate your intentions from the outset, the chances are higher of maintaining a friendship. If you want more, say you do, at least you’ll know where you stand. Conversely, if you only want friendship, say nothing else is on offer, and then the other person can decide if it’s enough.
I asked a few friends whether they thought men and women could just be friends and not one person could give me a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They all said … “Well it depends …” or, “It’s complicated …” They all had stories like mine where sex, or attraction, for one reason or another affected a friendship so the jury is still out. But I do remain hopeful that male/female friendship is possible, with no strings, because if nothing else, it allows me to have just the smallest insight into the male psyche in the hope that one day, in the very distant future, I may be able to understand what makes a man tick. But let’s face it, that’s highly unlikely!
I would love to hear what you think.