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Friendship Roundtable: Conversation Is the Key

Cynthia Jeub Headshot

When my older sister got married, she told me she stopped having close guy friends, and her husband stopped having close girl friends. I was surprised to hear this because I’d always thought of my sister as quite extroverted. She told me, “We’ve made this decision for ourselves, but I don’t think it has to be that way for everyone. Talk to your guy friends, and your husband, if and when you get married, about what boundaries you need to set for your relationships.”

I think men and women can be just friends, but here’s the principle: Decide on your boundaries, recognize that your friends are going to have different boundaries than you do and be willing to talk about it.

I can’t stress that enough: Be willing to talk about this stuff. If it’s too hard to even have conversations about boundaries with the guy you want to be “just friends” with, there’s probably not enough maturity between the two of you to succeed in being “just friends.”

Friendship is just as much a choice as being in a committed relationship. Most people, however, are not intentional about either their friendships or their relationships. I don’t think attraction is a choice, but we do have power over what we do with attraction. That means being intentional.

If the question “Can men and women be just friends?” means “Can a straight man and woman hang out and have neither person be attracted to the other?”, then the answer is probably not. If you want to hang out with a person, there’s at least some level of attraction, because we don’t want to spend time with people we don’t enjoy. It might not be romantic attraction, but there’s some level of interest holding the friendship together.

I think this question provides the opportunity to discuss more complex relationship dynamics, however. The question can also mean “Can a man and a woman interact within the context of friendship, willing to respect the other person enough and be loyal to their own partner enough to not make it into more than friendship?”

I’ve met many people who can answer the second question with a “yes.”

I love this third question: “When I’m married, will I behave this way with a guy friend?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. Of course, marriage involves two people and I don’t know exactly what my future husband and I will come to agreements about. It’s still a good hypothetical question. Decide what you’re okay with and assert your own boundaries.

I hang out with guys. When I feel uncomfortable, I say it. If a guy friend is married or dating, I make it a point to meet his wife or girlfriend and get to know her, too.

Many more conservative girls and parents will ask me, “Why would you put yourself in such a tempting situation?” The answer is: I don’t. If I’m too attracted to a guy to not trust myself around him (which would definitely be a problem for my own self-control and mean that I have something bigger to work on than this friendship), I don’t put myself in that situation.

I’m all for being friends with a guy before we start dating. However, I don’t want every single male in my age range to be a potential life partner. I love some guys as friends whom I would never date, even if both of us were single. We disagree on politics or don’t share religious beliefs, or our paths in life wouldn’t be compatible. We enjoy each other’s company for other things. It’s perfect for friendship, and friendship is a fantastic thing.

Cynthia Jeub 

Speech-Bubbles MORE ON FRIENDSHIP: Go back to the Friendship Roundtable now!

Image: Cynthia Jeub


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