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ImageI received this comment from a woman who emailed me last week. She was asking me a question and mentioned this during the conversation:

“I moved to a new area in January and haven’t made any guy friends I can talk to about this kind of stuff. Frankly, any guy friends I have made in the past year haven’t really been friends. They just wait in the dark until they jump out and confess their love for me or simply make a move.”

Wow, I can imagine the frustration. It can definitely be tough when you’re looking to make new friends and can’t trust people to not have hidden agendas.

When I read that, I realized that I’ve actually heard that comment many other times when casually talking to women about their dating and social lives. This issue certainly causes a lot of frustration in our personal relationships. One person expects a casual friendship, and the other person has another idea entirely. It can be very awkward when people have different expectations from the relationship.

Can men and women be just friends? Or like my reader has experienced, do most men simply present an air of friendship while waiting for the opportunity to “jump out and confess their love to her or make a move.”

Let’s explore this question from a guy’s perspective.

First let’s make sure we’re clear on our definition of friendship here. I define a platonic friendship as a relationship where two people regularly spend time together outside of work or school, and neither of them wants to make a romantic or sexual move on the other.

So can men and women be platonic friends? My short answer is yes, we can. But it takes a very special set of circumstance, and unfortunately the odds of a healthy friendship where no one makes a move on the other are pretty slim.

How do I know the answer is yes? Because I personally have several female friends that I hang out with pretty often, and I am not actively trying to date any of them. Yes, it’s possible.

But am I the rule? Or am I the exception? As a straight man who writes dating and relationship advice for women, I know I’m a bit of an oddball in this situation. Because of what I do, I am actually interested in what women have to say and thus friendships come a bit easier for me. However, I definitely know plenty of men who would disagree with my answer.

Here’s an important concept to keep in mind.

If a you meet a man, and he is interested in spending time talking to you or hanging out (even as “just friends”), he is definitely attracted to you at least on some level.

This is just a simple truth. When we meet a new woman, we simply won’t be interested in hanging out with her on a friendly (or romantic) basis unless we find her at least somewhat attractive. When we first meet her, we don’t have much information beyond her appearance and the first impression she makes.

Does this mean that all men who are friendly to you are eventually going to make a move? No, of course not. Like I said, I believe platonic friendships are very possible. But to fully understand the situation we have to be aware that that bit of attraction often shows up.

So we must ask why a man would pretend that he just wants to be friends if he’s actually attracted to you? Simple answer:

If a man doesn’t think he has a shot at dating you, settling for your friendship is simply “the next best thing, better than nothing.”

The fact of the matter is that asking a woman out that you just met is a scary thing. The fear of rejection is a very powerful force, and it often immobilizes men and keeps them from being honest and direct. Pursing a “just friends” relationship is a much more low-pressure way to get a woman to spend more time with you and to get a chance at something more. It eliminates the possibility of rejection too, since he didn’t actually “ask you out.” He was just “being friendly,” and not “hitting on you.”

Pretty crafty, eh? Yea, we thought so too.

Essentially, it’s a defense mechanism that we use to avoid rejection. Yes, women, we men can be just as insecure and self-conscious as you can. Go figure.

Can you be friends with an ex or someone you previously dated? I answered this question here in another article.

Here’s how it usually plays out in our heads when we take this “friendly” approach:

Guy meets girl.

“Wow – she’s cute – better play it cool, man. Don’t want to scare her off.”

Guy has casual conversation with girl. Girl demonstrates that she’s a quality lady with good things going on in her life.

“Dang – this girl probably has guys asking her out all the time. This conversation is going  ok though, let’s see if I can keep it up.”

Guy continues conversation, finds some things that he has in common with the girl. Guy hopes that she will make the first “flirty” move. She doesn’t. Or maybe she’s even in a relationship.

“Man I really want to ask for her number, but she’s not showing me any signs that she’s interested. NO WAY am I going to make a move and risk rejection, that’s a sucker’s play. It will just make things awkward.”

During the conversation girl mentions that she needs help with a problem or that she wants to learn something. Maybe her computer is broken. Maybe she needs help with a class. Maybe she wants to learn French or how to play the guitar. Anything.

“Yes! That’s what I was waiting for. I can help her with that.”

Guy mentions that he can help with whatever she mentioned, and gets her number so that they can meet up later to talk about it. The girl isn’t attracted to him, but is thankful that this nice new guy offered to help.

“Bam! Done – now I have her number, and I didn’t have to ask her out or flirt with her. Now I get to be the nice, helpful guy who isn’t a creep who hit on her too soon. I am so smooth.”

This goes on for a while and the guy helps her with whatever problem she had. Things are going fine and it seems like a normal friendship is developing. But then all of a sudden, when the guy feels that they have built up enough rapport and that she just might finally feel something for him, he makes his move.

Awkwardness ensues. We’ve all been here.

Or maybe he never works up the nerve to make a move. Maybe he never gets the feeling that he has a chance, so he decides he’s content with just her friendship for now. He thinks to himself, “Maybe someday I’ll get a shot. For now, I’ll take what I can get with her friendship.”

Sometimes it works and the guy lucks out. Most of the time, it doesn’t.

Fortunately, most men eventually develop the inner confidence to not have to use this approach. When a man is secure with himself and what he has to offer, he is much more comfortable being direct with his intentions and not having to fake a friendly approach. Guys, if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid of being honest. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and awkwardness. Unless you’re really okay with being just friends with a girl, don’t pretend to be.

So the bottom line is this. Yes, men and women can be friends, but 99% of the time, one of the people in the friendship is attracted to the other on some level. Usually, it’s the guy, but I have seen it the other way around. If both people in the friendship can be aware of this, accept it, and move past it, then perhaps the friendship can work.

So then how do actual friendships develop between men and women?

First of all, the man has to be mature enough to be comfortable with the idea that this woman might not be sexually attracted to him, but is open to a genuine friendship. Same goes for the woman.

Then, they find a shared interest or hobby and start to build rapport.

At this point, some attraction could develop and the two could decide to date each other.

But if not, we could have a friendship. The risk at this point is that one person is initially attracted to the other person, but not vice-versa. If so, this person has to be savvy and mature enough to recognize that making a romantic move isn’t a good idea and then move past those feelings. The sexual attraction goes away, but the shared interests stay there and the two realize that they could have some fun together as friends.

Like I mentioned, some men will always expect something more than friendship from women, and some men don’t believe men and women can be friends. It’s simply up to you to figure out who is being genuine, and who is worth spending time with.

I’ve seen plenty of good platonic friendships in my social circles. It does happen. Personally, I’m always open to friendship with women who enjoy engineering, dancing, fine whiskey, or country music (or if they’re fans of my writing – haw, haw). There are definitely other men out there who feel the same way about their interests. Just go out there, be social, and have fun!

Cheers,

The Date Advice Guy

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