If you lovely readers were lucky, you read Cory Copeland’s and my first joint post on sex (because apparently asking a virgin about all the things she’s never done is “fun”). Obviously Cory the Vagrant chose the topic. This time around, it was lady’s choice. So I went for something simple, easy, and not likely to make you say “ugh” – can men and women be just friends?
You just cringed a bit, didn’t you?
As frustrating and annoying as this topic might be (Cory was not immediately enthused by the idea), it’s something that needs to be discussed. It would be easy to simply say, “No, men and women can’t be friends” as we cut ourselves off from the opposite sex. But is that healthy? I think we miss something if we deny ourselves meaningful relationships with the opposite sex; possibilities for fun, growth, and new experiences. I mean, where would Cory be without me?! (And he probably just rolled his eyes.)
So Cory and I discussed the various pitfalls that come up when a guy and girl go the romance-free, just friends without the benefits route. Can it be done? Or is it a myth? Read on.
Cassi: So, my dear Vagrant, I remember when I first suggested the idea of discussing whether or not men and women could be friends, you said “ewwww” (direct quote). Was that in reference to the idea of men and women being friends, or just the nature of the topic?
Cory: Actually, I think I got confused as to what we were talking about during our conversation. But that topic does have a way of making the skin crawl, doesn’t it?
Cassi: So why do you think that topic kind of makes us cringe? Is it because we think that men and women just can’t be friends?
Cory: I think the cringe factor comes from how complicated the subject can be. It’s almost as if discussing the subject isn’t worth all the intricacies and caveats that come with it, you know? Because if a man and a woman are “just friends”, then there has to be almost zero attraction between them. That or either a heck of a lot of self-control. I think that’s why it’s so difficult. If you like a person enough to be friends with them, chances are they hold some qualities you look for in a mate as well.
That make sense?
Cassi: Definitely. I’ve never understood why we are supposed to approach friendship with the opposite sex with a set of blinders, I guess. I have some guy friends that I really admire, but the idea that I have to ignore certain aspects of who they are in order to maintain our friendship is a bit ridiculous.
Do you think we tend to give up on friendships with the opposite sex because we don’t know how to deal with the potential attraction?
Cory: I think that’s a possibility, yes. Although for some–and this is where I’ve messed up in the past–we ignore the things that WOULDN’T allow us to work and we give it a shot anyway, because we’re attracted to them, only to see everything crash and burn and our friendship be ruined. That’s what happens when friends “hook up”. It’s nearly impossible to maintain the “friends with benefits” kind of thing because one of the two involved is going to get too attached. It happens every single time.
But to that end, you and I are friends (and relatively attractive, desirable people) and we’ve never toed the line of sexual inappropriateness or awkward relationship talk. Do you think some people are like us and value the friendship more than the possibility of something grander? Like they don’t want to see the friendship wasted on the slimmest chance of romance.
Cassi: I believe a lot of people are quick or more willing to sacrifice the friendship for the chance of romance. We watch a lot of movies/tv shows and read books where two people start out as friends before giving into the desire for more, and since it’s fiction, it works out. So we watch characters like Chandler Bing and Monica Geller move from friends to lovers to spouses, and we want that. So when we find a friend that we connect with on what seems like every level, we’re willing to risk the friendship for the relationship.
But I think there are other people who aren’t willing to risk it. Maybe they are overly cautious (me) or have experience that warns them against it (you), or perhaps they both just realize the friendship they have is worth more than a possibility of unpredictable romance. I think we are often told that romantic relationships are more valuable than friendship, but I don’t believe that’s true. Our friendship, for instance, is very dear to me. I wouldn’t want to trade it for something else.
Cory: I tend to agree wholeheartedly with all that you said. And that’s rare for us!
The premise of these little discussions is the different views we hold considering our levels of experience (the Virgin and the Vagrant). So I’m curious as to how you’ve come about these beliefs you hold about friends and potential relationships if you’ve never had a boyfriend or physical relationship.
Cassi: Haha rare indeed… And thanks so much for pointing out I’ve never had a boyfriend. So kind. Truthfully, I get put in the friend zone a lot. I’ve pretty much lived there my whole life. So I’ve become quite good at being just friends with guys, or recognizing that nothing will ever happen. And while it’s frustrating that I’ve never been in a relationship, I’ve been able to have friendships with some really great guys. Perhaps I would have risked it if one of those friendships had the potential for more, but in most cases, I realized the value of having a man that was a pretty good friend.
It’s kind of a fine line, I think. You want to date someone you’re friends with, but you don’t want to risk the chance of ruining the friendship. There aren’t really any clear rules on how to deal with that, if that makes sense.
Cory: I was about to say that Jerry and Elaine set some rules up for this sort of thing, but then I remembered that was for a friends with benefits kind of thing…so never mind.
You said you get put in the friend zone a lot. Why do you think that is? Or why does anyone, really? (It’s never happened to me, so…)
Cassi: I don’t know why I get friend zoned a lot. It could be any number of little things, or just one glaring reason. I’m not really someone to put my feelings out there, so chances are I ended up in the friend zone (and I have a hunch this happens to many) because he thought I had already decided to put him in the friend zone. Lack of communication is a death knell for many relationships, even those that don’t get the chance to start. You might not be great at sharing your feelings, but if you don’t show even a little interest or take a chance, how can you expect the guy or girl you like to know? Sadly, we’re not mind readers. Which might be for the best.
You say you’ve never been put in the friend zone, but chances are you put a girl in the friend zone? What were the reasons for that?
Cory: I agree with your lack of communication stance, but I think some of that comes from a fear of being rejected.
“But what if he/she doesn’t feel the same way? I’d rather not take the chance…” I know I’ve been on both sides of that situation and it’s frustrating to say the very least.
You’re right–I have placed a girl or two in the friend zone. But it’s never been a malicious thing or a petty thing. It’s only happened because there simply wasn’t any romantic chemistry and/or sexual attraction. But I have noticed that when one friend has feelings for the other and those feelings aren’t returned, that friendship either doesn’t last very long or ends in a blaze of ill-fated glory.
That’s my next question for you: in your experience, what does being “friend zoned” do to your view of the friendship?
Cassi: Gotta love fear of rejection. I agree. I’ve been in a place where I’d rather not risk what I convinced myself was untold humiliation rather than tell a guy how I felt. Obviously, this method has done wonders for my love life.
To your question: I think being in the friend zone can lead people to three options with a friendship. Either they don’t stick around because they can’t handle the one-sided feelings. Or they stick around hoping something changes. Or they put the friendship above the feelings. I’ve done all three at different times. It’s easiest to walk away, and the worst to hope a guy will change his mind. Those approaches left me feeling frustrated, and left me with the idea that friendship was second best to a romantic relationship. But for a while, I also felt that friendship was the only kind of relationship that I would ever find with a guy. So I “settled” for that.
Since I’ve never been in a relationship, I’m curious as to whether you think male/female friendships can be sustained once one or both enter into separate romantic relationships?
Cory: I think the answer to that depends on all of the parties involved. If the two who are friends find mates who don’t mind them having a friend of the opposite sex, it can usually work. But if the boyfriend/girlfriend has a problem with it, the friendship is usually the relationship that suffers.
As far as one friend finding a romance while the other is still single, that can be a bit rougher to sustain a friendship through. Especially if the one that’s still single is the one harboring feelings for their friend.
Cassi: How do you think we should balance the importance of having healthy friendships with the opposite sex with the knowledge that those friendships might come to an end/change once we enter into a committed romantic relationship?
Cory: I think most of us–whether consciously or subconsciously–enter into friendships with the opposite sex with that in mind, because we’ve been conditioned as such through watching rom-com’s and the like. I think that’s why those types of relationships are so delicate.
Sure, they are possible and there are plenty of successful examples, but it doesn’t change the fact that because it’s a man and a woman trying to be friends, the potential for romance will always add a caveat of caution to the relationship. Really, it’s just human nature.
Cassi: Friendship, like any relationship, is always going to be a bit complicated. Throw in a man, a woman, the possibility for attraction, and maybe a bit of chemistry and things can become messy. But refusing to enter into these friendships because we’re afraid of what “might happen” means we miss out, I think. While we should be, as you said, cautious, we don’t need to hide. Men and women aren’t meant to be separate from each other. And though the friendship may change, evolve, or even come to an end, I’d rather enjoy them while they last than never experience them at all.
Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter. I’m pretty entertaining. (More than Cory actually.)