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Can Men and Women be Friends? Answers You Didn’t Expect

What do you think – can men and women be friends? Or, does sexual attraction always get in the way? The truth might surprise you. 

can men and women be friends?

This question is as old as relationships themselves: can men and women really be friends? There are strong opinions on this from both sides. Lots of people vehemently claim that men and women can be purely platonic friends, but many aren’t so sure. 

Many people believe that cross gender friendships must harbor unrequited love somewhere, especially if one of the parties finds the other physically attractive. 

Others feel that people are not that deep– a friend is a friend, and gender is irrelevant. Like anything to do with relationships, the truth of the matter depends on the friendship in question and the people in it. [Read: Opposite sex friendships – 24 rules, boundaries and where we go wrong]

The challenges in men and women being just friends

It’s completely possible for men and women to be friends but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges to deal with. For some, no issues may arise, but for others, the friendship might turn out to be plagued with problems.

The most important thing is to understand whether you harbor any romantic feelings for this person before you decide to cement a friendship. After all, spending more time with them may only increase how you feel about them.

But, if you’re pretty sure that it’s a platonic deal only, why not embark on a fun and supportive friendship with someone you think is great?

To help you answer the question of ‘can men and women be friends,’ let’s check out some of the main challenges. [Read: How to be a good friend – 49 traits and friend codes that define a real pal]

1. Defining the relationship

Of course, friendships are a form of relationship. So, are you just friends or are you about to become something more? People will no doubt ask you and you need to have a clear definition in your head.

You also need to be totally on the same page about it. Talk about how you feel and if there’s any confusion, iron it out. [Read: Falling for a friend – Why it happens and what to do about this attraction]

2. Overcoming attraction and sexual tension

If there are any lingering feelings on either side, attraction and perhaps even sexual tension is going to become a problem. Can you overcome it? With work, yes.

You can be attracted to someone but know that you’re never going to be with them. If you can reach that point, great. There’s no issue in finding your friend hot, after all.

It’s only when you feel the need to take things further and you start developing romantic feelings there’s an issue. [Read: Psychology of attraction – 6 types and the ones that make you fall in love]

3. Overcoming power play

One of the biggest issues when deciding can men and women be friends is equality. Both friends need to have the same level of respect in the friendship. If that’s not the case, don’t be friends with this person.

4. Dealing with doubters

There are always going to be people who don’t understand your friendship. They will assume that you’re sleeping together on the side. Can you deal with people talking about you in this way?

Of course, in the end it doesn’t really matter. People will talk regardless, but it’s certainly a challenge you’ll have to face. [Read: The 12 rules of attraction as explained by science]

Facts about men-women friendships

Men guys and girls have very successful and fulfilling friendships. Contrary to popular opinion, that doesn’t mean they’re secretly crushing on each other either.

To help you understand how friendships between guys and girls can actually be a good thing, check out these facts.

1. Men benefit more from cross-sex friendships

Male-male friendships don’t tend to have the same emotional connection that friendships with women have. So, guys are always going to benefit a little more from a cross-sex friendship.

They’ll gain an emotional connection and reward from having a female friend. [Read: How to make guy friends – 16 hard reasons and ways to avoid hooking up]

2. Women benefit from cross-sex friendships too

But that’s not to say that women don’t benefit too! A friendship with a guy and bring a protective element, a type of familial vibe and a casual warmth.

These are things that friendships with other women don’t tend to bring.

3. Cross-sex friendships are emotionally rewarding

We know that there are benefit for either side, but but the general differences between men and women make this type of friendship very rewarding on an emotional level.

The type of support you get will be different from your other friendships and this is vital in helping you to live a happy life. [Read: How to be friends with a guy – 16 friendly ways to just stay platonic]

4. It’s not all about sex

Many people assume that when guys and girls are friends, there’s something more going on. But, the truth is very different. You’re just friends and it feels almost familial.

The pressure is off and you can enjoy all the perks of having a friend like this without worrying about the sexual element creeping in.

Of course, for friends who do develop a sexual attraction for one another, that brings a whole world of other issues. But, for those who can remain platonic, the rewards are great. [Read: How to be platonic friends without sexual drama]

How men and women remain friends

There is a lot of hype behind “the friend zone” that talks about how guys never want to be just friends with a woman. However, you can say just the same for women wanting to date men.

The truth is that in order for men and women to be just friends, they have to put in some work to keep the relationship platonic. Here’s what men and women have to do in order to be friends.

1. Define the relationship early

Make sure that the both of you know it’s just a friendship from the very beginning. By saying this early, you’ll avoid any confused feelings and the possibility of someone getting hurt down the road.

You’ll also both be on the same page from the start, and your friendship will progress much more smoothly. [Read: 10 casual relationship rules to keep it just casual]

2. Respect that definition

If you have decided that you’re just friends, then you both have to respect that decision. You can’t start liking the other person and then get angry when they don’t reciprocate those feelings. They told you from the very start the relationship was platonic.

3. Never cross a line that you can’t go back from

When it comes to men and women being friends, there are a whole bunch of lines that can get crossed into a place that you can’t bounce back from.

Never do or say something to the other person that can cross a line. Remaining just friends takes a lot of restraint in certain areas where you’d otherwise have freedom. [Read: 22 signs your best friend isn’t a best friend anymore and why you drifted]

4. Never hook up, no matter how drunk you are

People who are just friends simply can’t hook up with each other. While some people have done this and have come out of it just fine, it can cause major problems.

Girls, more so than guys, can have problems with hooking up with their male friends. Women typically associate sex with emotions more than men, and when you sleep with one of your friends, you’re more likely to develop feelings for them.

No matter how many drinks you’ve had, don’t do it. [Read: How to properly break up with a friend with benefits]

5. Don’t joke about dating each other

The second either one of you says something about dating, even if it’s just a joke, it’ll put the thought into your heads and then imaginations will get to work.

You’ll start envisioning this person as your significant other, and that alone can be enough to spark an interest that you can’t go back from. Keep joking about dating out of it.

6. Don’t pretend to be dating for the fun of it

Some women pretend to date their male friends just for the fun of it or because they want a guy to leave them alone at a bar.

The trouble is that one of you can take the “pretending” a little too seriously and do something to make the other person feel uncomfortable in that moment. That annoying person will leave you alone without needing to pretend to date your friend. [Read: 10 signs you’re dating your best friend and don’t know it]

7. Avoid spending too much one-on-one time together

Men and women being just friends works out much better if the two of you are in a group rather than spending all of your time alone together.

Alone time can conjure up feelings that you can’t have if you want to remain friends only. Group settings also take some of the suspicion out of your friendship and can help others see that you’re really only friends.

8. Don’t make too much physical contact, if any at all

Hugging, kissing on the cheeks, and even cuddling are huge no-nos for men and women who are just friends.

Physical contact needs to stay at a minimum. Otherwise, you might go too far and regret doing something that can ruin the friendship. [Read: How to kiss a friend and get away with it]

9. Avoid date-like activities

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going to dinner with your friend. But if you’re thinking about going ice skating, to the movies, or doing anything in an intimate setting, you may want to reconsider.

Going on “dates” that you don’t categorize as dates might still ignite something within your friendship that you’re trying to keep at bay. It can also spark some suspicion amongst others if you’re always going on such date-like hangouts. [Read: 40 ways to have fun with friends]

10. Invite them to hang out with you and your partner

A good, platonic friend of the opposite sex should be able to hang out with you and your partner without issue. If they are really your friend, they will try to be friends with your partner too– or at least be nice. 

However, when it comes to guys and girls being just friends, you should consider it a red flag if your “friend” acts weird around your partner. The same goes for your partner–if they are not usually jealous but takes a dislike to your friend of the opposite sex, you should take notice.

Often the people we love can pick up on things that we miss. [Read: How to know if your best friend loves you]

11. Be honest with yourself about sexual tension

It’s normal to have sexual tension with people you find attractive, even your platonic friends. We’re only human, after all. While there isn’t anything inherently bad about sexual tension, it’s something that you should be aware of and keep a close eye on. 

People get in trouble is when they deny being sexually attracted to someone, and continue to carry on as if the relationship is platonic. You could wind up in a situation where you are tempted to act on your impulses. 

There is no shame in taking a break from a relationship because the sexual tension is too intense– in fact, it shows a lot of self-control and maturity. [Read: How to stay friends after a kiss and decide the way forward]

12. Make and enforce boundaries

When it comes to knowing if guys and girls can be just friends, you need to remember that boundaries are different for everyone. However, there is one golden rule: if you wouldn’t do it with a friend of the same sex, don’t do it with a friend of the opposite sex. 

Do you hold hands with your bros? Do you sit on your female friend’s lap? If the answer is no, then don’t do it with your friend of the opposite sex. [Read: What do guys think of their female friends? 17 honest secrets revealed]

13. Take feelings seriously

Try as you might, one of you might develop a crush on the other. Unfortunately, these feelings are the death knell of a platonic relationship. 

The reality is that you cannot have a platonic relationship with someone who wants more from you. The power balance of the relationship is too skewed– the person who wanted more will feel rejected *or “friend zoned”* and might even lash out at the other person for not giving them what they want. 

It is true that guys and girls can just be friends, but if one of you develops a crush, it’s time to call off the friendship. If you do it right, you may be able to rekindle it after some time has passed. [Read: 23 ways to not fall in love with someone who will end up hurting you]

14. Listen to what your partner has to say about guys and girls being just friends 

Get your partner’s input on how they feel about your opposite sex friends. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are two reasons to do this. 

The first is to find out if you have a jealous, unreasonable partner.

The second reason to ask your partner about your friends of the opposite sex is to genuinely get their opinion. 

Your partner doesn’t need to love all of your friends, but they should at least know why you like hanging out with them. If your partner suspects that your “friend” is looking for more, they may open your eyes to a situation you are not seeing. [Read: Good friends are like stars]

15. Don’t assume the relationship is going to turn into something else 

There is an idea, proliferated by romance novels and rom-com movies, that guys and girls can’t be friends, and a person seeking a platonic friendship can be “won over” with time. 

It suggests a dating loophole where a person who wants a relationship just pretends to be a friend and sooner or later, the relationship will morph into the one they want it to be! 

While it is true that some romances do start as friendships, there is more fantasy than reality to those stories. [Read: Are we just friends or is he interested? 16 signs to know for sure]

16. Remember that everyone is different 

Some people really struggle having meaningful friendships with the opposite sex, which is pretty silly when you think about it. To rule out friendship with half of the population because of vague anxieties is a tough way to go through life. It’s an easy way to miss out on wonderful people and good friendships. 

That being said, guys and girls have been just friends since the dawn of time and will likely continue to do so. But it varies from person to person. You can be wonderful friends with one member of the opposite sex, and be completely unable to maintain a friendship with another person.

17. Be honest

Honesty is the only way your friendship is going to work. You and your friend need to be completely honest with each other. Communication in any relationship is essential, so you need to know where they stand and what they’re comfortable with.

This is a blade that cuts two ways– as you want them to be respectful of your boundaries, remember to be respectful of theirs. [Read: How to set boundaries with friends without hurting or insulting them]

18. Don’t give mixed signals 

If you decide that you want a platonic friendship, you need to stick by your guns. That means you need to treat them as a friend and not someone to flirt with when you are bored, or someone to boost your ego when you are down. 

No one likes to be toyed with, and mixed signals can lead to hurt feelings–which isn’t something you should want to do to someone you care about. 

So, can guys and girls be friends?

What do you think? It really depends on the friends and whether they have any lingering feelings first of all. But, if you can keep things platonic, a cross-sex friendship could be one of the most rewarding things in your life.

[Read: [Read: Sexual tension between friends – How to handle it like a pro]

To make things clear, YES, men and women can be friends. However, there’s a lot more to men and women being JUST friends than you might think.

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Bella Pope LovePanky
Annabel Rodgers
Annabel is a lifestyle writer, cheese enthusiast (Wisconsin native over here) and fantasy adventure author-in-progress who enjoys all things love, dog,...