Can Men and Women Be Friends?

meg ryan, billy crystal

If you’re old enough to remember When Harry Met Sally, you’ll recall Billy Crystal insisted that men and women can never be friends. In my experience he’s right. Every time a man said he was my friend, eventually he would come onto me or profess his true feelings. It’s left me feeling disappointed and also mistrustful of men and their motives.

Now that I’m practising a year of abstinence, I have had the pleasure of conversing with men without anyone going home with anybody else. Because of my past experience, however, it is difficult for me to relax into a platonic chat with a man because I keep waiting for the moment when he reveals his true motive, or I”m worried that I’m going to give him the wrong idea and somehow signal to him that I’m interested when I’m only interested in what he is saying.

The other day, I was talking to a fellow at work with whom I’ve enjoyed some nice conversations. We were chatting away after a big meeting when he mentioned that he feels very comfortable around me. Oh oh, I thought; here we go again. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. The fact is I have no idea if he was just being friendly or if he meant something more. I will never know because since that moment I have stayed as far away from him as possible.

If I were honest, I would have asked him flat out what he meant–and I would have my answer. Instead I used my cowardly old behaviour of avoidance, much the way I did in high school when I broke up with a guy by ceasing communication. I don’t have the guts to tell you we’re though so I’ll just stop talking to you. How cruel and insensitive. But I didn’t see it that way. I was selfishly concerned with my own feelings and, truth be told, I didn’t want to commit to a break-up.

With regard to my workmate, if I had expressed to someone how I felt about them (whatever the intention) I would be very hurt if they began avoiding me without explanation or addressing the concern. So why do I treat someone else with that lack of respect? The way I treat men is something I need to work on if I expect them to treat me better, too.

Can men and women be friends?


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It’s a tricky dance to pull off, the exchanges you’ve mentioned above. What I can say is, although the possibility exists, there is a chicken/egg problem with any interaction with a coworker or acquaintance of the opposite sex. You begin to question your own actions in the name of being respectful and in the process, you exhibit signs that fall under that list of things men are told we should watch for if a woman is interested. Bam! Problem.

    I remember telling one of my exes when I was dating her from afar that when she laughed at jokes some guy was telling her, whats he was inadvertently doing was sending him signals. Sure enough, he made a move on her, even though she was spoken for. Some people have no respect for a relationship and they assume that a door is always open, even if a woman is married. It’s the signal. It’s the vibe she gives off.

    Now that I’ve thrown my gender under the bus, I have to say that I’m probably one of those guys who can be friends with women. Maybe it’s because all I’ve ever really known is being “just friends.” Years of rejection have taught me that a woman is probably not interested in me. I make the assumption first and then I treat her as if nothing would happen between us anyway. I’ve treated coworkers as friends without any problems. I’ve established online friendships where there is no romantic investment on my part.

    I just know I’m honest. If I’m interested, I usually won’t waste any time showing some kind of interest. Otherwise, it’s not really a big deal for me to just be friends. If it’s all you know how to do, it becomes a habit. Apathetic? Maybe. Still, I’ve shown it’s possible for members of the opposite sex to just be friends without my libido interfering.

    Most women have handled me with avoidance. It has trained me to assume they aren’t interested before they resort to avoidance. Maybe that’s just sad. I don’t know. I am the way I am because rejection has broken me to the point where friendship is all I can get anyway.

    • Wow, thank you for this very thoughtful and honest reply. I, too, am in a less than hopeful state about a future relationship. I am a bit despairing that a man will ever like me for my inside rather than my outside. Men just seem interested in outer appearances but I still believe that I was attracting those types in the past because of the vibes I was giving off and I have to take some responsibility for that. It’s a big reason why I’m staying away from men for a whole year – almost like a rebooting and building a relationship with myself first. I would just love for a guy to say “hey, I like you” rather than trying to impress me or manipulate me, but again I must be doing something to attract that type. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.

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