You Realize Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

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That’s what he tried telling me anyway. My brother-in-law said there’s no way men and women can just be friends. If the characters from When Harry Met Sally couldn’t settle the question decades ago, then I certainly couldn’t change his mind.

Our conversation didn’t mirror the iconic scene from this movie. But if I had to pick a side, I’d be closer aligned to Sally’s philosophy:

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there’s no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don’t. You only think you do.
Sally: You’re saying I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they ALL want to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive.

Unlike Harry, I believe the male species has evolved. Surely, men can have platonic friendships with women and expect nothing in return.

The parameters may shift when you’re married. To avoid impropriety, I try to exercise discretion when interacting with my guy friends. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think married people should spend too much time alone with the opposite sex. Unless, of course, both partners agree.

This is an unpopular opinion, I know.

It’s difficult to answer such a question with a simple yes or no answer. There are always caveats to consider. Caveats are what make stubborn issues fascinating after all these years.

Do you think attraction gets in the way of friendship?

 

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55 thoughts on “You Realize Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

  1. I’ve always been able to relate to men better. Women, even at this age, are so catty and have their groups. I just don’t fit in well. Men always accept you. I feel much more comfortable talking to them. My husband has female friends that he goes out to lunch with. I have no problem with this. I think couples can trust each other.

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    1. I agree, Karen. Having friends of the opposite sex is okay as long as there’s no trust issues. Otherwise, it could become very problematic. As for women being catty, I can relate. I tend to shy away from these types of cliques. I’d rather have one quality friend than ten fake ones.

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  2. I’ll go one step further… if you are my age and work with a bunch of people younger by a couple decades… you of course better not be mooning over a kid my daughter’s age… lol…. but I have learned that not only is gender just a label but age is just a number! I’d miss out on a lot of sweet friendships!
    Great idea for a post!

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    1. Oh Diane, have you actually witnessed that? Do men really gawk at women decades younger than them? Yikes! As for the gender issue, it’s absolutely a generalization. There are many variables to consider when opening up to the opposite sex. Having an honest track record is good start.

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  3. I think it depends on the man or woman in question. My partner, for example, cannot have female friends. Attraction always gets in the way and it turns into a major problem. He’s drawn to women that find him attractive because of the ego boost. He also tends to befriend women he’s attracted to. This generally leads to a bad situation, and it’s caused problems for us in the past. He really can’t be trusted with the female friends he chooses.

    For me, male friends can be a problem too. I’ve lost more than a few male friends because they were attracted to me, tried to convince me to leave my partner, and things got awkward. I choose to walk away because I didn’t want to deal with it.

    So, I guess it’s partially right. Friendships are strained when attraction is part of the equation. It’s best not to be friends with people you’d date if you had a chance.

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      1. Daydreams, Harry’s position is totally valid. Of course, attraction can get in the way friendship at times. I don’t think there’s a blanket answer to this question. There are many things to consider when forming a bond with the opposite sex. I don’t believe a one-size fits all rule applies here.

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      2. Your timing is impeccable . . . I needed a pick me up today. My hubby took the kids to soccer practice so I can have time alone. Wish you were across the street. We could squeeze in lots of talking in less than an hour!

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    1. Fox, your experience is more common than you think. I’ve seen many marriages unravel because the husband/wife gives into temptation and decides to stray. It’s a slow drip. Kind of like the boiling frog analogy. You don’t just throw a frog into boiling water because he’ll hop out. Instead, you turn up the heat slowly, when least expected.

      I applaud you for keeping your guard up. You’re a smart woman.

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  4. i am friendly with a lot of ‘men’, husband’s been of my friends, fathers of my kid’s. i’ve generally had an easy rapport with them and it hasn’t been any issue with my husband. i guess it would be more if a problem if i wanted to sleep with any of them. haha

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    1. Ha! You gave my first belly laugh of the day! Yeah, your hubby would definitely have a problem if you wanted to sleep with his friends. It would make baseball season or any other social function VERY awkward.

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  5. Ha- I’m always telling my 19 yr old daughter this! She has all these guy “friends” and they always end up wanting to date her. So yeah, I agree with Sally. I had lots of male friends when I was young (female friends too) but looking back I see that there was usually attraction on someone’s part. Now as a long-time married person, I agree with you about being careful and respectful. My husband and I are comfortable and secure in our relationship, but neither of us would just go and have a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex either- that would be weird.

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    1. Miriam, I was completely oblivious to the male mindset when I was younger. It was only after my husband gave me the low down that I became enlightened. He told me his friends used to believe a girl was interested if she flipped her hair a certain way and smiled. I was shocked!
      As for giving your daughter a heads-up, that’s very wise. It’s better to be prepared for all the possibilities than to be caught off guard. I’ll be sure to file this advice away for my own daughter!

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    1. Sounds like you know how to balance your male friendships, especially since they’re friends with your hubby, too. Things would become odd if they wanted nothing to do with him and everything to do with YOU!

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  6. The husband and I were discussing this very thing this weekend. He happens to tend to make female friends at work. This has only bothered me one time because the woman involved clearly wanted to be more than friends and knew me and our son. So I did NOT like her and they are no longer friends. It doesn’t bother me because my husband needs to have friends he can talk to and if those friends happen to be women whatever. I know he’s not thinking about them sexually and I generally trust that they aren’t thinking of him sexually either. As for me having male friends, I used to. Nowadays I almost exclusively hang out with other moms so the subject doesn’t really come up. When I did have male friends, my husband never minded. I do believe that men and women can be friends, but I also agree that it often happens that the men have at least some sexual interest in the women, even if they will never act on it. Did that make any sense?

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    1. I’m much like you, Danielle. I mostly hang out with other moms, too. But, you bring up an interesting point about women at the workplace wanting MORE from our men. Anytime I sense that happening, I make sure my husband is aware of my impressions. I refer to this gut feeling as my wife-o-meter. It’s been fairly reliable thus far!

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  7. I have friends who are women, but I would never just go hang out with them without my wife. It’s not about my her having insecurity issues; it’s about being respectful of her feelings in addition to the fact that she’s truly my best friend. Everything is better when I can share it with her.

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      1. Ned, you sound like my husband. He doesn’t view the male:female dynamic as an insecurity issue at all. He considers our friendship sacred. As such, he doesn’t undermine the parameters we’ve established. So, for us, there’s no need to hang out with the opposite sex often.
        Guess we should consider ourselves lucky for marrying our “best friends!” Seems like a rare find these days.

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  8. Anka, I like Ned’s answer above. I think it’s true things get dicey when you try to mix it up. Of course, it depends on the relationship. So long as the parameters are met and there’s mutual understanding, that’s the important thing. That said, I think attraction always gets in the way. And, if it doesn’t get in the way of friendship, it’s still always there.

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    1. You’re right, Amy. There’s no clear cut answer here. It really depends on the parameters a married couple establishes. For me personally, I always keep my guard up. Like Ned said, I don’t want to disrespect my spouse. And when you’ve been married for nearly 20 years, you definitely know what sets the other person off!

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  9. My husband and I have been married 26 years. If she is his friend, than she is my friend, too. If he is my friend, than he is his friend, too. So call me old fashion, too. The only male friends I have had in the past (before I was married) were gay.

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    1. We’re definitely on the same page, Shawn. Perhaps we’re the small remnant who still believe in honoring our partners, even if it requires making some unpopular decisions.

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    1. It’s not that we CAN’T grab a cup of coffee with the opposite sex. For me, it’s simply because I don’t WANT to. It has nothing to do with trust and everything to do with my desire to have exclusivity with my man. I truly covet the time we spend together.

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      1. Excellent hypothetical! The funny thing is that both my husband and I have totally cut ties from our past. We never run into ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, or friends we went to school with.

        But, let’s just say I did run into an old friend, and he asked me to have coffee with him. My answer would depend entirely on my mood and energy level. I can barely keep up with things now. To be honest, meeting up with an old friend isn’t on my list of priorities.

        My whole world, at this stage in my life, revolves around my husband and kids. Might sound boring to some, but that’s where I’m currently pouring my best energy.

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    1. TL, I completely agree with you. There is NO one size fits all solution. Like you said, respecting your partner’s wishes is a huge variable in establishing boundaries with the opposite sex. Keeping the communication lines open is another.

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    1. Kerry, you’re so eloquent my dear! You summed up what I was trying to say beautifully–“once married, you reserve the deep needs for your spouse.” Certain needs, emotional or otherwise, can ONLY be fulfilled by your spouse. Even if it means sharing a toothbrush . . .

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  10. I believe there can be friendship between the genders! Of course there is the risk of attachment developing, in some cases, but that can come in many different forms.

    I agree with everyone’s comments about respect. Respecting your partner’s place in your life means you make decisions that include how your actions and friendships would affect your partner. Even in same sex friendships there is risk that that friendship can harm your relationship.

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    1. Interesting point, Colleen. It didn’t occur to me that same sex friendships can be just as disruptful if not monitored properly. Like chocolate, coffee, or socializing outside the parameters of marriage, things should be done in moderation. Maintaining a fair and proper balance is key to enjoying the good things in life!

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  11. What I think I’ve learned from the French is that, the attraction part shouldn’t be seen as a problem. It can even enhance a friendship as long as it is kept in check and never allowed to go too far.

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    1. Leave it to the French to set things straight! Wouldn’t it be great if we could all enjoy good people, good food, and good wine without any complications? What a dream world . . .

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  12. I am a 54-year-old happily married man and a distance cyclist. During the summer I ride with several attractive young female cyclists — many days I spend more time with them than I do my wife. However, I have a rule that my wife has to meet any woman I am going cycling with (I want to stay happily married). Last year I introduced my wife to an extremely attractive (and physically perfect) young female cyclist — with one glance my wife realized that no one who looked like that would be remotely interested in me! Happy wife, happy life.

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    1. Words to live by . . . you’re a smart man! You and your wife clearly have a transparent relationship. Sounds like you have a fool proof system in place, attractive young cyclists crossing your path or not . . .

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  13. First of all, one of my favorite movies! 🙂 Second of all, I have a hard time answering this because I actually married my best friend and we truly did begin as friends and nothing more. That developed into something more. Of course, we were both single at the time. I had more male friends when I was younger, but seem to have an equal number of both nowadays although I don’t spend much time with any of them. Who has time for all that? LOL!!!

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    1. My hubby and I started out as friends, too. Maybe it’s a trick question for us or maybe it’s not applicable at all?? As for the movie, it really does transcend time.
      I’ll be dropping by your place as soon as I feed the kids and put them to bed. You know the drill.

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  14. Some of my best friends have been women and they were all with my wife’s knowledge. I’ve never been one of those guys to brag about his conquests (not that I had any) or do the general braggadocio thing. I’ve never been comfortable with it. One of the great things about talking to a women is they listen. Guys always want to jump in and solve your problem. Sometimes I don’t want my problems solved, I just want someone to hear them. That’s also a reason I love my women doctors. They listen before they react.

    Good post Anka.

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    1. Nelson, what can I say? I couldn’t agree more about a woman’s knack for listening. If you only knew how many times I’ve said, “I don’t want a solution. I just NEED someone to listen to me.”

      As for doctors, I’ve never had a male physician. For one, I’m too modest to be seen by a male GP. And two, a male doc would spend five seconds with me and then head out the door.

      I appreciate your honesty. It takes a lot of humility to admit that men have these tendencies (generally speaking).

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  15. yes. I think it’s always there–at the core. Whether requited, desired or otherwise, it’s a more primal instinct than cerebral or spiritual bonds.

    in my experience. And I tended bar for a lotta years—saw a lot. Lived internationally for a time, too, so, I dunno. Not a tiny pool from which to draw parallels…

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    1. Charron, you’re a Renaissance woman. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty in your lifetime, enough to fill hundreds of pages in a book.

      Also, you touch on something that I overlooked. And that is, attraction taken at face value, is primal. But attraction alone cannot sustain long term relationships.

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      1. You got me! I couldn’t resist adding a separate editorial. I could discuss the topic of ‘attraction’ for days. There truly are no bounds.

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