It’s been said many times that it’s not possible for a guy and a girl to ‘just’ be friends, and many treat this as though it were commonly accepted knowledge. Yet look around, and you will see countless examples of precisely that happening. Most of us have at least a few friends of the opposite sex, so are we just odd? Is this just an incorrect interpretation of the situation? Or are those friendships weird and wrong? Here we will look at what’s really going on.
Conventional Wisdom: Wrong as Usual
First of all, it’s important to understand that a man and a woman can just be friends – let’s lay that to rest right away. There are countless examples of male/female friendships that work perfectly well, and it is indeed normal for most people to have a fair few friends of the other gender. While men and women have very different views and lives in a number of ways, these differences can actually make for a more enriching relationship as you both bring something different to the interactions. And having a wingman or woman who knows how the other side think is an invaluable asset…
The reason people say that it can’t happen, is that they believe there will always be an element of romance involved. The idea is not that a man and woman can’t be friends, but rather that they can’t be ‘just’ friends. If you spend lots time with someone, find them funny and charming, and also happen to be attracted to them, then of course you are going to at least consider what they’d be like to date. Yes: if you have any friends of the other gender, then they have probably imagined what it would be like if you were together at some point. Haven’t you? It’s like looking at a piece of cake and not even thinking about eating it…
So Where Do We Go From Here?
The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not that’s necessarily a problem. Of course a lot of the time you are going to find that you think about the friend for a brief moment, then quickly decide it wouldn’t work or that you’re not attracted to them. In that case, think yourself lucky as the topic won’t be an issue in the same way it would otherwise be (as long as they feel the same way).
Alternatively of course, there’s a chance that you’ll consider them as a potential partner and decide that you are quite interested – or at least that you fancy them on some level. Again, this needn’t actually be a problem and in some cases you’ll find that your friendship actually benefits from it. A little sexual tension and the odd flirtation can add another level to your friendship and bring you both closer.
The only reason this is a problem, is that it can sometimes lead to heartbreak if one of you then ends up dating someone else. If you feel a strong attraction for your friend that goes beyond a slight crush, then you should tell them so that they have the option to take your relationship further. If that happens then this is only good news – as you’ll find that the best relationships are actually often the very best ones.
If they don’t, then you just need to be willing to accept that fact – and it might take some time apart to come to terms with this and to get over the friend. At this point you have to ask yourself whether your friendship is important enough to be worth the strife. It’s difficult to carry on being close, but not impossible. And it would be a terrible shame to avoid ever becoming friends for this reason – every relationship is valuable in life. You wouldn’t avoid ever getting a pet for fear that it would one day die…
Interested Third Parties
The bit where things get difficult though, is when one of you has a partner. If you’re constantly hanging out with an attractive member of the opposite sex and clearly have chemistry together, then you can’t expect your partner to be particularly overjoyed by that fact.
Again, this doesn’t make your friendship impossible – you just need to do everything you can to reassure your respective partners. That means inviting them along with you to events sometimes (double dates) and it means encouraging them to become friends in their own right. Likewise, you should make sure to avoid unnecessarily worrying your partner – there’s no need to go for candle-lit dinners for two for example.
And early on in your relationship, you shouldn’t allow your partners to push apart your friendship. If they ever give you an ultimatum, then you should be very weary of them as you never know when they’ll ask you to cut something else important out of your life as well.
However, if you’ve had your partner a long time and they express reasonably that they’re concerned about your relationship with your friend, then it is worth considering their feelings. At this point you may need to decide what your priorities are – and if your friend is really a good friend, then they should understand.
So in conclusion, you definitely can be friends with members of the opposite sex. Sometimes it can be no more difficult than being friends within your gender, but when challenges do arise, it’s just a matter of managing them. It’s not like inter-gender relationships are without their challenges (think competitiveness), it all just depends on the two people and on how much they want it to work.