There are a few scenarios where a young man might ask this question:
- Your pursuit of a girl has failed and you are in the friend zone
- You have had a recent break up and are wondering whether you should be friends with your ex
- You have a female friend and you have started developing feelings for her
So can men and women just be friends? The is answer is yes, they can. But that doesn't mean they should. It is fraught with difficulty, danger and arguably isn't really worth it.
Let me explain.
Men Generally Want More
While it may be possible for you to have a strictly platonic friendship with a woman, research has shown that men generally have some degree of romantic feelings for their female friends.
Cross sex friendships are a historically recent phenomenon and our evolutionary mating drives still dominate our thinking. 1
So you can be friends, but you won't be "just friends." You will be friends with a splash of sexual attraction.
My personal experience confirms this and right now I can't think of a single instance where there was 0% attraction with a female friend.
That's not to say I wanted to marry or sleep with all my female friends, but the thought would naturally cross my mind and a hint of attraction or at least the possibility would always be there.
This doesn't really matter when you are young and single. Being attracted to a friend is not a problem and most likely nothing will happen and you can enjoy the friendship.
It does become an issue as you get older and settle into committed relationships.
Just as you would be uncomfortable with your girlfriend having a male friend with whom there was some degree of attraction, she will be uncomfortable with your female friends.
That's why there is a natural drift away from cross sex friendships as you age and settle down. Couples tend to befriend other couples, while maintaining their respective boys groups or girls groups. Platonic friendships between men and women who are in serious relationships is quite rare.
But I'm The Exception!
Of course there will be some of you who claim to be the exception and can maintain a purely platonic friendship.
If you can, then great. I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm just saying that it is rare and chances are someone will develop an attraction at some point.
If you genuinely have zero sexual attraction for each other then go for it.
You will find this easier if you are confident and successful with women because you will be less likely to fall for your friend.
If you find it difficult with women, opportunities are scare or you are inexperienced then you are more likely to see every woman, including your friend, as a dating opportunity.
Don't Live In The Friendzone
If you ever get friend zoned then it can be a tough pill to swallow.
While you will never convince her to date you if she has made that decision you don't have to remain in the friend zone.
Just don't be her friend. If there is attraction it is a bad idea.
She will still be an acquaintance in your network but you shouldn't make a special effort to build a friendship. If you try all you are doing is accepting second best. Accept that your romantic pursuit failed and move on.
Don't Be Friends With Your Ex
I don't recommend being friends with your ex.
You can never have a platonic friendship with someone you have been intimate with. Even if you are no longer in love, that history is there and always will be.
One person may even retain a little bit of desire.
And it's really not fair for any future girlfriends you have to have the ex on the scene as a friend.
In theory men and women can be friends.
But in practice it rarely works out like that and is generally a terrible idea.
One of you (probably you) is likely to develop feelings for the other.
By all means enjoy female friendships when you are young and single but filter them out as you settle down.
Stick to your male buddies and couple friends and don't give your girlfriend any reason for concern.
- Bleske-Rechek, A. et al. (2012). Benefit or burden? Attraction in cross-sex friendship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29(5), pp.569-596.