When we were growing up, my younger sister had all the guy friends.
And I was so jealous.
Let me count how many guy friends I had in high school…ummmm…zero. That’s right. Zero.
But that’s not because I didn’t want any guy friends! I just got totally awkward any time I tried to befriend a guy. Part of the problem was that I saw all guys as “Mr. Maybes.” Maybe I could date him…or maybe him!—which is a great lesson on how NOT to be friends with guys.
Over the years I finally started learning how to make and keep some good guy friends. By the time I was in my 20s, some of my closest friends were guys! And I’m so grateful for their friendships. They showed me what good men were like, helped me embrace who God made me to be and helped me decide who to date (or not to date).
So today I want to share six tips that made all the difference for me and helped me be friends with guys.
Tip #1: Learn how to talk about a variety of topics.
There are some things I can easily talk about, such as shopping. Makeup. Brand-name shoes I found on clearance. Then there are other things that don’t come as naturally. For me, football. Video games. Cars. (I am what you might call a “girly girl.”)
Some guys love talking about shopping. Some girls love talking about football. But in order to have a wide variety of friends, it’s important to have a wide variety of interests and have conversations about them.
Something that helped me become friends with more guys (and more girls, too) was learning how to talk about a variety of topics. If you need help learning how to do this, check out the book How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes.
Tip #2: Be yourself.
This might seem obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me. I really thought guys wanted me to be either ditzy and blonde (which is totally just a stereotype) or an athletic superstar. And I was neither. But boy, did I try to be that ditzy blonde (even bleaching my hair)! Years later I discovered my fake persona was actually a turn-off to many guys because they wanted me to be ME. They wanted a genuine relationship with a real person, not with a wanna-be. If I genuinely was ditzy and blonde, that would have been fine, but they could tell I was just putting on an act. The more comfortable I became in my own skin (and in my own personality), the more guys enjoyed hanging out with me.
I think this is true for girls, too. In a world of masks, we crave authenticity. The more I can be who God made me to be, the more genuine friends I can make. And sure, there will always be people I don’t click with, but that’s true no matter who I try to be. Plus, keeping up a mask is exhausting. So I decided to cut my losses and just be me.
Tip #3: Look for meaningful friendships.
It’s tempting to want to befriend someone just because they’re cute or popular, but those aren’t good reasons for friendship. Real, meaningful friendships—the ones that last and make you a better person—are built on deeper qualities, like common interests, common values, the ability to connect on a meaningful level and the ability to have fun together. So when you’re looking for a guy friend (or any friend), pay attention to who the person is, not just to their social status.
Tip #4: Be “just friends” in your mind if you want to stay “just friends” in your heart.
This was the hardest part for me. I LOVED imagining what it would be like to date my guy friends. But the thing is, where your mind goes, your heart follows. As I started thinking about my friends in a romantic way, I started to have romantic feelings toward them. And then I just started acting weird…and they could tell…and it got awkward.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you end up liking your guy friend, that’s totally fine! I know quite a few couples who were “just friends” but now are married with babies! But if you only want to be friends, and no more, it’s important to keep it truly just a friendship in your mind, too.
This can be hard to do, especially if all your friends and family keep making well-intentioned (but super confusing!) comments like “Look how cute you two would be together!” But take a minute, stop and ask yourself “Do I want to stay friends or do I want more?” If the answer is “stay friends,” then be just friends in your mind, too. (Which reminds me, if you’re thinking, “Help! I’m crushing on my guy friend and don’t know what to do!”, here’s an article all about that.)
If you’re really good friends with a guy, chances are one of you is going to end up liking the other at some point. It happens in almost every friendship. That doesn’t mean you’re right or wrong for each other; it just means you’re spending a lot of time together. It’s natural to develop those feelings on and off. Sometimes you’ll end up together, and sometimes you’ll stay friends. But if you can have honest conversations with each other, that can help protect both your hearts. Which brings us to the next tip…
Tip #5: Be up-front about where you stand.
One of my best guy friends was so good at this. Every few months he’d bring up a conversation about our relationship. The first time this happened, it surprised me. Out of the blue he said, “Tiff, I love being friends with you, but I don’t want to lead you on. Is it okay if we’re just friends?” He wanted me to know where we stood so that neither of us got hurt or confused.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that. Every few months one of us would bring this up and make sure we were still on the same page. Sometimes one of us liked the other, sometimes we were both a little interested (but prayed about it and decided we didn’t want to date) and sometimes we were both dating other people. But through it all, for 15 years, we stayed just friends. And neither of us were led on because we were up-front about where we stood.
We also tried to make sure that the way we treated each other reflected the fact that we were just friends. That included what we did, where we hung out and how we talked to each other. We knew that if we started acting intimately or like “friends with benefits,” that would lead the other person on and create a lot of confusion. It’s so important to be what you are instead of losing your relationship in a gray area.
Tip #6: Allow the friendship to change over time.
When I started dating James (now my husband), my friendships with guys started changing. We slowly stopped meeting up 1:1 and started inviting our significant others. We slowly stopped talking on the phone and started group-texting with our fiancés. Now that I’m married (as are my close guy friends), we have morphed into couple friends.
Yes, my friendships with guys are different than they used to be, but that’s because James and I don’t want to develop unhealthy, dependent relationships with someone of the opposite gender. We think it’s important to discuss and set healthy boundaries that work for each person and their spouse. These boundaries will look different in every marriage, but our personal boundaries with opposite-gender friends are: 1) We no longer talk on the phone with them, 2) we no longer have deep conversations about life without our spouses there and 3) we very rarely meet up 1:1 without our spouses (and definitely not without okaying it with each other first).
My closest guy friend who I told you about? I LOVE his wife, and James LOVES him. So the four of us will hang out for hours! I’m so grateful that I still get to keep his friendship, because it means so much to me. It just looks different than it used to.
So if you too struggle with developing friendships with guys, I hope these six tips can help you as they’ve helped me.
And comment below: What other tips would you add?