Can Men and Women Be 'Just Friends'?(both arguments!!)

Industry Observer with CDK Global


The Constant Question (the male responder has asked to stay anonymous)

Can men and women be 'just friends'?As I am constantly finding myself in the middle of its discussion, I have decided to offer my written opinion on the question:  Is it acceptable for one’s girlfriend to have a man as a best/close friend? 

The answer is a resounding, no.  While there may be an occasional exception, just like with any rule, the argument that proceeds will paint a very clear picture why such “friendship” is unacceptable.

Gentlemen, my mini dissertation that follows is not news to you.  All of you have most likely had to deal with your woman’s “close friend;” be it an ex-boyfriend, family friend, college buddy, etc.  I am not writing to educate you on this relationship’s unacceptability, but to give you a document to reference the next time the subject comes up with your special lady friend. 

Ladies, please take what I have written as gospel.  While the argument may be good natured and mildly amusing at times, please take the salient points to heart and spend a moment reflecting on your own “friendships” and how they may be perceived by your boyfriend and by your “friend(s).”

The three proceeding sections; courting, confidence, and consummation will illustrate why there is only one way to interpret “the constant question.”

We, as a species, are sensual beings.  It’s in our nature to congregate together, to enjoy physical and emotional intimacy, and, for the majority of us, to engage in acts of love with the opposite gender (Please note: This argument does not mean to exclude homosexuals.  I’m sure that there could be the equivalent in the gay world, but I do not have the requisite experience to speak on such a matter).  Ask any one who has been in a successful relationship and they will tell you that despite their love for their partner, other people don’t stop being attractive altogether—it’s just how it is.

This natural urge is the backbone of my argument.  As the section’s title suggests, courting occurs when the girlfriend and her “friend” begin/reconnect/have-gotten-to-a-better-place through casual phone conversation, sharing a coffee, or the like.  Despite the woman’s best intentions, her agreeing to talk to or share a beverage with the male “friend” triggers a natural response in the man that he may be on to something.  The girlfriend may even pepper the conversation with talk about her current boyfriend and how wonderful he is, but it will not sway the “friend.”  In our [men’s] minds, a woman talking to us is the same as a woman liking us.  If groundwork such as a past relationship has already been laid, the sense of attraction only grows stronger.

Now, you may be thinking that your “friend” is different or that if you make it abundantly clear how happy you are with your current relationship he will understand and respect said relationship.  This is a deadly assumption.  I have been the “friend” on many an occasion and whether he admits it or not, your current boyfriend has probably been so as well.  Men aren’t friends with women because they want a different perspective on life.  We don’t really want to bounce ideas off of you or gain a better understanding of the woman’s mind.  Men want to be your friend because they find you attractive and have a natural desire to be with you.  This said, we are no longer in the days of caves and any man worth his while today desires to learn more about, empathize with, and better himself for the woman in his life.  However, he also wants to keep what’s his, his.

Keeping that fidelity is not a matter of him trusting you, but rather your man recognizing the male traits in others and being wary of his surroundings.

This leads to our next section:

I am not using confidence’s definition as the “friend” getting more and more gutsy in his attempt to steal away the girlfriend.  The confidence to which I am referring has to do with trust—a developing bond between woman and “friend.”  Think about all of the issues women discuss with their female friends.  Practically everything about a relationship is laid on the table.  Ladies, when you couldn’t be happier about your relationship, or fighting with your man, or confused as to where things are going, don’t you share it with those closest to you?  Now, insert another man (other than your boyfriend) into that circle of trust.  A level of emotional intimacy develops whether you mean for it to or not.

This intimacy is why such a “friendship” is so dangerous.  You’re not doing anything wrong, per se.  You’re just sharing your feelings and experiences with a “friend.”  In fact, you’re telling him the whole gamut of feelings so it seems as if he is just another one of the girls.  However, sharing feelings leads to increased trust.  Increased trust leads to increased vulnerability.  More vulnerability leads to moments of weakness.  Moments of weakness lead to…

In the final stage of the “friendship,” stars align for something bad to happen.  As I mentioned in the previous section, by now there is a high level of trust and intimacy that is much different from the one you share with your boyfriend.  You’ve justified your “friend” by saying, “it’s great to get a guy’s perspective on guys.” Or, “Sometimes I just get sick of hanging out with girls all the time.”  However it has been rationalized, the fact remains the same:  You have developed quite the bond with this other man. 
Now, as we all know, both men and women find people more attractive as they get to know them and find endearing qualities beyond pure looks.  This is no different in “friendships.”  So what happens?  A situation arises where the woman is extra vulnerable—be it a huge fight with her boyfriend, a lack of communication, long distance issues, not seeing eye to eye on the relationship’s future, or any number of things—and the “friend” happens to be there for her.  

As cliché as it sounds, a shoulder to cry on is most definitely an “in” to infidelity.  If you’ve reached the point where you’re breaking down in front of your “friend” and are unable to share your feelings with your boyfriend, you’re as good as lost.  Harkening back to my contention that we, as people, are sexual beings, you don’t stand a chance in this situation.  Combining a deep emotional bond, with vulnerability and physical attraction is a recipe for relationship disaster.

Like I said before, there are going to be exceptions to this rule, but the overwhelming majority of “friendships” that are allowed to continue end the existing boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.  Not all of these “friendships” will play out in the same way or have the stars align, but as men, we don’t want to take that risk.  It’s not a matter of trust or intention.  I stress this because, ladies, we do trust you.  We don’t think that you’re “friends” with this guy(s) because you want to have sex with him.  And we don’t think that you just want to make us jealous.  It’s just that we have an intimate understanding of the male psyche and recognize the situation from our own perspectives.  We want to keep what’s ours and we want to blow up any potential road blocks before we get there.  You should take it as a good sign if your man doesn’t like your male “friends.”  I caution you to be extremely wary of any boyfriend who doesn’t bat an eye at  your “friendships.”  He is either doing something shady on his end, or not strong enough to tell you how he really feels.  If you ask me, either one is a bad.

So please take heed to what I write and think about how your man sees these scenarios.  If nothing else, hopefully I’ve given you reason to pause and a better understanding of men’s attitudes towards other men.


My (Erin's) Response

Daring to Defy the ‘Constant Question’

Reading the dissertation regarding the infamous Constant Question only left me thinking one thing: Before we can really understand how this question and answer form, we have to understand how women operate.  Being a woman made it only so easy to speak on behalf and try to elucidate this common misperception of platonic friendships vs. uncontrollable magnetism.  I believe we are under the false pretense that if the answer is not black and white, then the grey area, by design, symbolizes a ‘way around’ the answer or the point.  In this situation, the grey area represents the off chance that there may be two points to this story or question at hand.  I will use my own works of art and experiences to paint a more unambiguous, clear picture.

Women, I am not, at any point, going to argue the fact that in many male/female relationships, there is no possible desire or appeal to something more than platonic. Although, I firmly believe this is one of the biggest differences between how men and women perceive these common situations.   Leading into example, I have experienced numerous friendships with men I have been friends with post break-up.  These relationships were a mixture of intimate, not so intimate, purely fun, and a few ‘it just didn’t work out’ type relationships.  Looking back, most of these men were men that I saw something worth being friends with, but not someone I could be romantic with.  Many times, with women, it is as simple as that; maybe it s gift of being able to differentiate between the two totally dissimilar sentiments.  It has been very hard for men, over time, to relinquish this truth; possibly because it is without a solution they can live with or comprehend. 

When trying to understand what men have a handle on, it is important to first understand that even their logic is illogical sometimes.  It is also essential for us to understand that women tend to utilize the emotional gamut, which sometimes leads us into the wrong fate.   Yes, it seems logical enough to say ‘it is totally natural for a man and a woman to be sensual beings and to engage in acts of love’, but to a woman, we are more complicated beings than that as a human race.  We do not necessarily have to be cheated on or lied to for us to realize it happens everyday, and to almost everyone.  When you are conditioned in that sense, you start to administer different ways to learn and do things.  If you are with someone but do not trust that person, per se, but they are a great listener or an intelligent mind to engage with on occasion, it is easier to think, as a man, that it has to be attraction or no attraction: WRONG.  This is the kind of thinking that give some men that pesky, towering, cheating flag.  If we only thought that way as a woman, or a person, we wouldn’t be who we genetically are inclined to be; accepting and loving. 

It is no puzzle to anyone when finding out that most men believe intimacy endorses emotion, not the other way around.  It is also easy to assume that women see emotion as a sag way into intimacy.  This is an unfortunate way of trying to figure things out; this may be news to you, but it’s not always an ‘either/or’ situation.  It only seems appropriate to point out that women are not always attracted to men in that kind of manner; believe it or not, there are multi faceted levels within us that make it so we do not pride ourselves on being bait or only being friends with someone, hoping to fill a fantasy.  That’s your fantasy!!  And because it is yours, it is something we will often have to debate or discuss because a man wants to keep ‘what’s his, his’.   This kind of insecurity is what has controlled women and their thinking since the beginning of time.  What I want to know is if men did not cheat as often, would this even be an issue ( I am by no means saying that women do not cheat!!)?  Would the argument be reversed? 

Now, you are probably saying ( I hope you’re saying)  in your head right now ‘Fine, maybe it’s the men who are hoping and praying that a friendship of some sort will soon deem into something more physical.’  If that is what you were thinking, then you have finally figured out what men assume, and what women try to understand.  If you were to ask any woman how plausible it is to remain friends, and only friends, with a man, you will have an overwhelming response saying ‘OF COURSE’.  You ask a man the same question and the response will be the complete opposite.  This is not rocket science; it is simply understanding that we work in different ways fellas.  We are not as unadorned as you perceive your selves; we are not oblivious to the fact that those instances DO happen, but we will not stop being friends with people we adore just because you cannot fathom the idea or get over your insecurities.  This is not something that is our problem or something we even have to try to explain to you.  It just is. 

----Erin Oertli

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