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Can guys and girls be “just friends”?

August 2, 2009

I’ve always been the girl who is ‘one of the guys,’ which I’m sure is extremely hard to believe seeing as I’m a little prissy. But in high school, I hung out with 5 guys…in college, I was always the girl hanging out at the Fraternity houses. I attribute part of this to the fact that I was an only child and wished I’d had brothers. The other major part of it was I had too much estrogen in my life due to dance team, pom squad and sorority sisters. I needed a break from the drama and girl fights!

Lately, however, I’ve had a chance to meet some amazing women in San Francisco, thanks to the Comfort Food Club, and now lean on them when things go wrong. I have 1 or 2 really good guy friends that I can call up, like my Sweetcheeks, who can talk me off a ledge and give it to me straight.

Recently, I was told by a guy I care deeply about that he just can’t add a relationship to his already crazy schedule and as much as he really likes me, I should be with someone who can give me the attention I need and deserve. Then came those words we all love to hear, “but I still want to be friends.” ARGH!

I was honest with him, that I don’t understand how maintaining the friendship is going to be any easier then being in a relationship with me as it still requires a bit of work and commitment. I also told him I wasn’t sure if I could be just friends…that I think I’d always hope for more in the long run. Yet, I don’t want to sever ties as I think he’s amazing and we’ve connected on a deep level. We both agreed that the timing majorly sucks right now for a relationship.

But how does one take a step back to being ‘just friends?’ He’s still the one I want to go to when something good or bad happens to me. I still want to do nice things for him, like send him surprises, which I can’t share as I may or may not do them. I even wonder if there could still be a spark the next time we see each other (we live in different cities which helps and hurts things).

My fear, as this has happened in the past, is that we become surrogate boyfriend/girlfriend for each other…or at the least, that I will for him. I’m an encourager by nature…a nurturer, and as he is busy, I will naturally be there to cheer him on and ask how things are going. No harm in that, is there? Isn’t that what a FRIEND would do? Yet, I already know it will become a danger zone for me as I’ll get sucked in and will continue to care deeply for him.

The responses I’ve received from friends have all been taken with a grain of salt as I need to figure this out on my own. Responses coming from someone in a long distance relationship who says this guy’s being genuine and not just brushing me off, multiple responses telling me I deserve better and it’s his loss, and even Sweetcheeks tells me that until we agree to sever things completely, why not see what happens as friends.

I do think guys and girls can be friends, but don’t know how to take a step back from ‘being interested in someone’ to ‘friends.’ I need to find that switch that allows me to care for him and shut it down…or at least dim it a little. Maybe then the ‘friends’ thing will become clearer.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2009 7:28 pm

    I’m not so sure you can step back easily if at all. From my experience, “just friends” only works when there aren’t (and weren’t at any point) any intimate feelings for one another; once they exist, they don’t really fall off with any ease.

    • August 2, 2009 9:14 pm

      OK–I’ll bite…if “just friends” doesn’t work, then what’s the next step. Break it down, oh wise young one.
      Also–aren’t you on vacation?!

  2. Pas permalink
    August 2, 2009 7:32 pm

    Oy! this is the classic case. and you already know the answer to it! It happen to both guys and girls including myself in the past. If you still want him to be more than friend but he is not then you have to move on.

    If the girl tell me “let be friend” it mean she doesn’t interested in me sexually. I will still keep the girl in contact but only meet up once in a blue moon.
    I know…it’s hard. I’ve been there. but trust me on this. There are so many people in the world you should be with someone that really want you.
    Here is some interesting article about friends zone. it written for guy but apply to both. http://su.pr/2vXSH0

    cheers!
    Pas

  3. August 2, 2009 8:01 pm

    To be honest I think it’s incredibly difficult to be “just friends” with someone that you’ve had feelings for. An attraction is one thing, but to pursue a relationship? Not sure if it’s possible. At one point one of or both of you is going to start wanting more.

    Maybe after time has gone by and wounds have healed, maybe then can you be “just friends.” The relationship will have adapted and while you still might care for each other, the longing or desire will have fizzled.

    Just my two cents.

    • August 2, 2009 9:17 pm

      Jenn–such words of wisdom from far away. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the ‘after time has gone by and wounds have healed’ part. I feel silly that it was short lived and I fell hard…hard enough to have wounds now. :S

  4. August 2, 2009 8:49 pm

    Karen, you should go see 500 Days of Summer. It covers this (kinda). The truth is that relationships for all their BS (friend or lover) come down to two things: expectations and assumptions. When two people’s feelings grow at different rates, or their assumptions and/or expectations are different, its really hard to have any type of relationship.

    I am impressed that you guys had a mature discussion around it. He laid it out for you; its up to you to accept or reject the offer. It sounds cold, but thats the truth.

    Now, can guys and girls be friends? Yes. I have many female friends (not because I am gay, dammit!) and I know girls who have many guys friends.

    It goes back to expectations and assumptions. In all the times I fucked up the girl/guy dynamic, I was unclear about my assumptions and didnt listen (or didnt hear) her expectations.

    You are an awesome person. The rest doesnt matter.

    • August 2, 2009 9:21 pm

      Micah-interesting thoughts on growing at different rates and having different expectations. We were completely open from the beginning and weren’t into playing games, thus why things got deep fast.

      Honestly, timing sucks right now for both of us as we’re both focusing on multiple things. However, I was willing to sacrifice something else for him and he needs to sacrifice the relationship so he can focus on his work. Understandable, but it hurts.

      Will check out 500 Days of Summer. Thanks for the tip.

      Also…I’m contemplating a counter-offer instead of just accepting or rejecting his offer…cause that’s how I roll! 😉

  5. Kirkaldy permalink
    August 2, 2009 9:43 pm

    Interesting… Random lurker here. Perhaps a bit of patience and acceptance are necessary.

    I am a believer in fate so id say if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. If it’s not meant to be, you’ve just got to accept it (meaning try to remain friends with this person) or not (meaning end your friendship). Good luck.

    • August 10, 2009 11:35 pm

      Random lurkers welcome here. 🙂

      Fate–I believe in it to a point. I think it may be because I’m jaded and have yet to see it work first hand in the relationship area.

      I can’t believe I’m such a mess over this. There is now more to the story, but not to be shared publicly. Let’s just say that it must mean I care about him a lot to be such a wreck.

      Thanks for reading.

  6. August 3, 2009 4:38 pm

    Okay, at the risk of sounding like the often-overly-callous-yet-honest guy that I am, I’m going to lay it out here for your consideration. Bear in mind, I do this for a living (dating and relationship coach / talkshow host on the same topic), so I’ve seen it MANY times before:

    He hasn’t chosen you. People follow their emotions. This is why we do incredibly stupid stuff while we’re emotional (often called ‘in the moment’) such as having sex without a condom, lashing out at someone, etc.

    It’s pretty clear that you haven’t connected with this guy that much on an emotional level. Sure, there’s a logical connection here (and I can tell by the way you write you’re a very logical thinker in the first place), but there’s little shared emotionally. The sense of rapport you have is likely (and of course, I’m guessing here, since I don’t know you personally) largely based on logical commonalities and you care for him, which makes sense.

    He also cares for you, but there’s something missing, namely that emotional connection which leads to the spark that connects him back to you. If he had chosen you (in other words, if he felt connected to you on an emotional level), he would have figured out a way to make things work out better than they did, even if that meant keeping you on the side so that he could enjoy you once in a while (remember above when I said I was callous, yeah, here it is). Guys are pretty good at doing this, as it’s in our biology.

    Somewhere along the line, the emotional connection he felt with you (if any -and I’m sure there WAS some of this, or you’d never even have become friends in the first place) was outweighed by the amount of maintenance required in the relationship. Either you became a bit needy, or he decided that there was simply no attraction (not necessarily sexual/physical, but logical/emotional) anymore, and the ‘relationship’ was no longer worth the effort.

    Of course, he mentioned that he wanted to stay friends, and sometimes us guys even mean that, but it seldom works when one person has any sort of sexual attraction towards the other that goes without reciprocation. That imbalance leads to further neediness, which further destroys the attraction, in a cycle that only gets worse, not better.

    In this type of situation, your best bet is to back off for a while, give him plenty of space, and move on to something else. It doesn’t mean you have to cut him out of your life, but it does mean you should forget about ‘making him yours’ for the time being.

    Besides, you’re lovely, and maybe he’ll eventually come around. Even if he doesn’t, you’ll be in a much better position to manage future relationships once you understand the dynamics I’ve discussed above.

    Cheers,

    -Jordan Harbinger
    The Art of Charm & PickUp Podcast

    • August 10, 2009 11:38 pm

      Jordan-thanks for all the insight. Makes a lot of sense (there I go being logical).

      You’ve nailed some points and have given me some things to think about.

      He has so much space right now he could rent it out and make a fortune. We’ll see what happens…

  7. August 5, 2009 5:21 pm

    What about FWB- Friends with Benefits? If you can’t get it all, take some, I suppose. I don’t know. 😉

    Stay friends though. Its not worth losing a relationship (eg: friendship) over. If it’s meant to be, it will happen, come hell or high water.

    Ok. Lurker out. 🙂

    • August 10, 2009 11:40 pm

      FWB–always the question that comes up. But, fortunately…or maybe unfortunately, I’m not one who can do that.

      Now, strangers with benefits is a whole different blog post.

      Keep on lurkin’

  8. August 10, 2009 8:26 pm

    i’ll tell you from current experience – with a lot of patience, honesty, and humor, it can definitely work. but it certainly takes effort on both parts to build an even stronger friendship then you currently have, that may potentially one day become more.

    • August 10, 2009 11:43 pm

      For some reason I have “You’re the inspiration” by Chicago running through my head right now. 😉

      Absolutely agree with your comment, but…how long do you hold on to that hope of ‘one day’ becoming more? People already want to set me up and I even had some major flirting happening the other night with a guy, yet stopped as I was thinking I didn’t want to hurt my ‘friend’. I can’t always put him first.

      As someone wise one Tweeted, “stop making him a priority when he sees you as an option.”

      You and me…drinks…SOON!

      • August 22, 2009 6:00 pm

        ahh, tough question. ultimately, you’re the priority – and to be honest, flirting with others isn’t a sin. at the same time, if your interest is in one person, it certainly wouldn’t be fair to waste the time of others dating. at least this is how i’ve approached it. yes on drinks – we can discuss further. =)

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