I was leading a breakout session on singleness when a young woman asked if it was possible for men and women to be friends. My answer was yes . . . . . maybe.
I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years. When I was in high school I was the recipient of the, “I see you as a friend” line an awful lot. So when I went to college I was determined to not be friends with girls at all. This was a serious decision on my part. Now I did have a lot of dating success in college. But here’s the funny part. The first girl I went out on a date with in college became one of the best female friends I’ve ever had. Now we only went on a couple of dates and there is a lot more to that story but it’s still really ironic.
Since college, I have served in different ministry capacities I’ve worked with lots of women. I would consider many of them great friends. I would also say that I’ve had a positive impact on many women through my ministry, some of whom I would also consider friends.
So my answer to the question, can men and women be friends? Yes . . . . maybe. Let me explain.
First of all, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, you shouldn’t be friends with the hope that it will turn into more. In other words becoming friends as a way to avoid actually asking the girl out or because you know she isn’t attracted to you but you hope she will be later is a terrible idea. It’s sort of shady actually because you are not really being her friend.
Secondly, I think you can be friends but you can’t be “just friends”. Here’s what I mean by that. “Just Friends” is a way of avoiding something. A lot of times it’s a way for the person who isn’t attracted to someone who is attracted to them to be nice and try to avoid rejecting the person. In other words if I ask a girl out and she says, let’s just be friends, that is her way of saying no but you’re not a bad guy or anything. It’s not an invitation to a lifelong friendship. Seriously, I promise it’s not. If you ask someone out and they tell you that, you need to walk away. Right then. That doesn’t mean don’t be friendly towards them. It just means don’t be intentional friends.
Now if you were friends and then you became attracted and she says that, then fine, you might be able to stay friends at some level. But you need to be careful here. You need to be sure that you have emotionally walked away and aren’t sliding into being her friend so she will like you.
On the other hand if you don’t really know this girl and you met somehow and went out a couple of times and she drops that line on you, do not, I repeat, do not strike up a big friendship with this person. Again that doesn’t mean if you see her out or something that you are mean to her but don’t “pursue” her by being a friend. If you are really into her the best thing you can do is say, “I don’t really need more intentional female friends. I was hoping for more. If something changes let me know.” I promise you that this is the way to go. It’s the only way you will keep her respect.
Finally, you should not be “best friends” with a girl. You should have men in your life that fill that role. If most of your close friends are the opposite sex you are in trouble. You need to begin to deal with that. There’s not space here to delve into that but you need to.
One way to know if you are really friends is to ask yourself a couple of key questions. If this person started dating someone would you be excited for them? Would you want to hang out with them and become friends with their partner. I’ve had that happen a lot. In fact a couple of my best guy friends are married to women that I knew before I knew them. If your answer is no, you need to back way, way off the friendship.
Does this person like me as more than a friend even though I don’t see them this way? I’ve been on both ends of this. My thought would be that if that is true then you need to back way off. It’s not loving them to inadvertently stoke that fire. And that’s exactly what you are doing if you hang out with them all the time. You are just adding to their hurt and you are keeping them from pursuing other people. Please don’t pretend you don’t know they like you – you know.
So what are you thoughts? What has been your honest experience here?