Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
Men and women can’t be just friends.
It was the main point of a video that made the rounds a few months back in the wonderful world of social media, linked below for your convenience.
Makes a compelling case. But regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on in this debate, I think there is one thing on which we can all agree: dynamics are certainly different when there are members of the opposite sex present in a group of people than they are in a group composed of only men or only women. Translation: Ladies, your “best guy friend” acts differently when he’s with you than he does when he’s with his best guy friend (and he probably doesn’t refer to him as that, either).
As the video points out, the number one obstacle to a true guy-girl friendship are those pesky feelings. You may not have them for your friend, but whose to say that your “friend” doesn’t have them for you? And whose to say that your or your friend’s feelings won’t change (even if it be for no other reason than loneliness or boredom)? Let it be said that this tendency towards “feelings” is actually a good thing, so don’t try to snuff it out, because it only means you’re human. But knowing the tendency exists and being overcome by it are two different things. It’s the difference between living in reality and living in the seventh season of a sitcom. This is why we set boundaries.
The fact of the matter is: we are going to have friendships with people of the opposite sex. It’s a good and healthy thing—except when it’s not.
Given that the guy-girl friendship is a different relationship with different dynamics than a friendship made up of members of the same sex, it’s fitting that behavior patterns ought to be different as well. For example, it’s not exactly appropriate to have a sleepover with your friend of the opposite sex, whereas it’s totally normal behavior for friends of the same sex to stay the night at one another’s house from time to time. But that’s an obvious one (or at least, it was when we were 10, maybe not so much sometimes now that we’re older unfortunately). What kinds of emotional boundaries should there exist between friends of the opposite sex?
I’ve always thought that a good rule of thumb is to think of what it would be like if you or your friend was involved in a romantic relationship. Better yet, imagine it was your husband or wife who had a friend of the opposite sex, and what boundaries you would want that relationship to have. You probably wouldn’t be cool with them going out for coffee three times a week and texting every other hour. If that’s the case and yet that relationship describes your friendship with someone of the opposite sex right now, then it may not be the healthiest of relationships.
If it looks like a date, walks like a date, and smells like a date, then it just might be a date. Persistent one-on-one outings with the same friend of the opposite sex sends a message, not just to other people who may notice (and yes, they notice), but to yourself and to your friend. Better to set the boundaries for yourself now than to be wishing you did down the line when things get complicated.
Have all of the friends of the opposite sex that you please, but it’s of the utmost importance that you also have close friends who belong to your sex as well. I don’t care how well your best guy friend “gets” you— only a woman can truly understand what it means to be a woman and only a man can truly understand what it means to be a man. Trust me, your relationships with people of the opposite sex will be all the more meaningful once you have real relationships with people of the same sex.
And, of course, as all relationships ought to be, ground your friendships, with persons of either sex, in God and in prayer.