Can men and women really just be friends?

friends

Raise your hand if you have had some form of a conversation based around the topic of whether or not men and women can simply be friends. Yep, I can’t even see you, but I know your hand is raised. We’ve all wondered about it, discussed it with our friends and drawn our own conclusions. Some say, “Yes, of course it is possible, I have lots of great friends of the opposite gender and while sometimes attraction exists, we are mature enough to handle it and not let it get in the way.” Others say “No, you are crazy, when the relationship gets too personal eventually one party will develop romantic feelings for the other, and if their desire to be more than ‘just friends’ is one-sided it will ruin everything.”

I think this complicated question deserves a complicated answer. In short, it depends, which puts me in the yes and no camp at the same time.

We’ve seen through experience that it is possible for men and women to just be friends, and God often delights in these friendships as He made us to live in relationship. I venture to say that we all have friends of the opposite sex who have helped make us better people and we are grateful for their presence in our life.

When it comes to the question of if men and women can be friends I think the key is in our definition of friendship. This definition could range from “friends” on Facebook to your BFF who you can hardly find a picture of yourself without them in it on Facebook. It is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum that my “yes, men and women can just be friends” turns into a “okay, now you’re entering a danger zone.”

I know that those of you who have a best male friend as a female or a best female friend as a male are already formulating your rebuttal: Look at St. Francis and St. Clare who shared the common bond of founding religious orders. They had a completely platonic relationship and mutually grew in holiness through it. True: But they also rarely saw each other, which made it easier for them to safeguard their hearts, and as saints-in-the-making they were extremely receptive to the graces that God showered down on them and thus possessed a great amount of virtue.

The danger zone hits when the friendship gets so emotionally personal, that you are not free to change your single status to dating without it affecting your current friendship with your close cross-gender friend. Perhaps this change comes as a shock or disappointment to your friend who wanted to be the one to bear the title of your boyfriend or girlfriend. Or perhaps this change creates a negative impact on your friendship because you no longer have enough time for them and the close bond you two have raises some questions from your new significant other. Either way, building a deep platonic friendship like this with the opposite gender is like laboring to build an elaborate building that you intend to one day tear down in part or whole.

Why must it eventually be torn down, you ask? Look ahead to the future; the majority of us will one day live the Vocation of married life or religious life. This means that the majority of us will either live in community with only men or only women, or enter into a marriage with one man or one woman. In both of these situations it is completely inappropriate for us to have a weekly coffee date with our best cross-gender friend. I can guarantee that the seminary rector or mother superior will not let you go on this said coffee date because it can and will make it difficult to discern if Jesus is calling you to be the spouse of His Church or His bride. And your spouse won’t be too keen the idea either. Not because they are possessive, but because they married you because they wanted to be so united with you that they would be your uncontested best friend.

Marriage can be tough and if you want a deep, lasting relationship you have to safeguard it in ways that may call for sacrifice. When things get tough you have to learn to run to your spouse for help. You have to lean on them and give your heart to them, not someone else. Our world is full of temptations and the devil will find any way to break up a marriage, even under the auspice of friendship if he thinks he can pull it off. I don’t say this to instill fear in your heart of interactions with the opposite sex, but rather to remind you to keep your eyes open and consider the nature of your friendships with the opposite sex now because the habits you are building now will matter later.

So yes, men and women can be friends, but there eventually comes a point where unless if they are in a committed relationship, the depth of that friendship reaches a limit – for your sake, for their sake, and for the sake of your future or current Vocation.

(This blog post was originally published at FOCUS.)

______________________________

lisacotterLisa Cotter and her husband Kevin have been a FOCUS family for the past 5 years. Currently she serves as the Family Liaison, a position in which she strives to connect FOCUS’ over 100 wives across the country. She is a proud graduate of Benedictine College where she received degrees in Religious Studies and Youth Ministry and later served as a Resident Director while Kevin served as an on-campus missionary. She is a national speaker as well as a video presenter for YDisciple Leader. In reality, she spends most of her days playing with her young children and trying to avoid laundry. Lisa is not currently on Twitter and her Facebook account has been disabled. You can connect with her by telegraph or Pony Express.

 

22 Comments

  1. this article was amazing! thanks

    By alex bastidas | 3 years ago Reply
  2. I’m not dating anyone right now. I’m not engaged or married yet. I have a best friend. He’s the only real friend i’ve got nowadays as all my other ‘so-called friends’ ignore me now and pretty much have me hanging on by a tread (they’re all still there, in my friends list on Facebook, their numbers in my Blackberry), they might invite me to a 21st Birthday party, but that’s it. They abandoned me, essentially. I’m a very sensitive person, so that hurt a lot, when they walked out of my life. So now, he is the only friend i’ve got who wants to spend time with me, not only during free time in the college library, but outside of college too. I admit, I have feelings for him, but I won’t tell him as he doesn’t date friends due to a bad experience in his past, so I don’t want to ruin things. What makes me feel special is that, most of the time (if not all) he texts me to ask do I wanna go to the movies and I say yes as I love the movies, we both do. So, even though I know what his answer will be, I always ask can he pick me up and drop me off afterwards as it’s common courtesy. I don’t want to put any pressure on him or assume anything, so I ask everytime. He has a guy best friend too, but he seems to be busy with his new girlfriend these days, so I haven’t seen him around the library in a while and my best friend doesn’t talk about him anymore. My best friend and I (as far as I know) are always honest with eachother. I always try (as subtly as possible) to let him know he can tell me anything and I know already that I can tell him anything. Maybe we’re in the danger zone, I don’t know, but nothing romantic has ever happened between us. Our friendship has always remained platonic. I love him very much, but I realize it is not romantic love, but a love for the person he is. I do have a Facebook page, so does he. I set his up for him last year, but he never uses it. Seeing as we only ever go to the movies together, there are no pictures of the two of us up on Facebook or anywhere. Even if he did use his Facebook page and there were pictures, I myself would not feel the need to post them all over my page. If I found a nice one I liked, I might make it my lap-top screen saver, but to avoid other people we know asking ‘are you guys dating?’ I would try to avoid making a picture of he and I my profile picture or cover picture on Facebook. Once, when we were at the movies, we ran into a friend of ours and some of his friends. One of them asked us were we dating. I thought it was funny, cuz the look on my best friend face was priceless. He went all quiet and was really still like a statue. I was looking at him, waiting to see would he say anything, but he said nothing. Then, he seemed to snap out of it, he looked at me and said ‘oops forgot my ticket at the desk’ and I said ‘well, you’d better go back and get it then’. So, off he went and I stood in line to hold our places. He came back, we found out the movie was delayed, so we sat down, chatted for a few minutes and then went in. That was that. I never asked him about that and he never said a word. So, I don’t know if you could call that awkward or funny. I myself thought it was funny as the guy we both knew knows my best friend and I are just friends, obviously his friends weren’t so sure lol. Plus, you know that in most cases if you say to people you know that you and your guy best friend (or in the case of a guy ) or you and your girl best friend are not dating those people you know will never believe you. So, being in a similar situation twice before (once with a former guy best friend and with a guy I barely knew), I have found that trying to convince them nothing romantic is going on never goes down well (you have to remember that even if you’re not interested, they might secretly be interested in you, so saying nothing means you don’t hurt their feelings), so this time I knew to keep my mouth shut. So, I don’t know should I continue this friendship or not. I have tried to get over my feelings for him, but it hasn’t worked. I watched ‘Safe Haven’ a few weeks ago. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the female lead has the same name as me. The male lead resembles my best friend in height and build, with a similar hair cut. My best friend does have a close cut beard (more like stubble really). So, the male character did remind me of him. After that movie, I had my first ever panic attack. I realized after talking to my therapist that i’d had an emotional reaction to the movie and thought of my best friend and I throughout. After a lot of thinking, I did come to the conclusion that that love I feel for him is not romantic love, but love for him as a person, but it does not mean my feelings for him are not strong, but maybe a bit stronger than I would like them to be. I don’t know is staying in this friendship going to be toxic for me or will my feelings go away with time and allow me to carry on. Maybe you could tell me???

    God Bless!

    Katie

    By Katie | 3 years ago Reply
  3. Hi Katie,

    I’ve never had a guy best friend but few of my friends had them. Based on what I saw in them, the blog is really correct and true to the core.

    It really is impossible for a man and a woman to
    remain friends, even to call it platonic friendship simply because there will come a time when one of you would be asking for more than what your friend can give. And this includes more time and more attention or more caring thoughts which will eventually lead to somethinf deeper than just “best friends.” It is a good thing if both of you had the same feelings or somehow has eventually realized that you want to be “more than friends.”

    Clearly, based on what you said, your guy best friend doesn’t know the right definition of your friendship with him because he felt awkward the moment your friends asked whether the two of you are dating or not.

    And if you guys stayed as close as what you want to be with each other, without having the thought of being a real couple, then how can you entertain other people that wanted to be more than friends with you? Not unless of course both of you decided to remain single for each other for the rest of your life.

    I am not in the position to be able to convince you whether what you’re going through is right or wrong but one things is for sure, the Blessed Mother is always there for us to intercede our needs to God and Jesus Christ. Ask her to help you discern about your situation and she would gladly send you her grace to enlighten your mind and your heart.

    By Theresa Rodulfo | 3 years ago Reply
  4. I bet I’d love to hear a response to Katie by the author.! And sure she would too. If you did respond offline, I think many would love to hear it. Would you share?

    By Monica | 3 years ago Reply
  5. Hi Katie,

    I’m a fellow Katie. :-) Just read your comment and thought I’d write. I hope you’re doing well and not having any more panic attacks…!! I really agree with Theresa. I think the relationship you described will become toxic for you unless you both want to date. I know what it’s like to not have many friends (especially girls) to hang out with…I’m in the same boat myself. It’s very lonely. More than ever, though, it’s important during this time to space out the get-togethers and contact (text/phone) with your friend. Take care and hang in there. Not sure whether you’re high school, college (where I’m at) or beyond, but check into bible studies for women, ask a girl for lunch or coffee, get together with an Aunt. Even though your girl friends abandoned you, try to find new girl circles. This is what I’ve been working on, in order to make sure I don’t cling to a guy just because he’s there and willing to hang out with me. Good luck and take care! :)
    ~Katie

    By Katie | 3 years ago Reply
  6. Need advice! I am a female in college. I have many friends, female and male. i have a female best friend but I’ve also had a male best friend for the past 3 years. We’ve known each other for almost 6 years. For the time that we were very close, he has been in love with me. He says that he turns down ohter girls becuase he compares them to me. I still tell him to give them a shot. No matter what, he is still convinced that we are meant to be together. I don’t share the same feelings for him that he has for me. (I’ve been in relationships before and I know what it’s like to have those feelings for a guy). It frustrates me that I don’t share the same feelings becuase I am also convinced that we are perfect for each other. We’ve even tried going on dates and it feels no different. I’ve been breaking other guys’ hearts becuase I keep comparing guys to him. This has been going on for a while and I’ve desperately needed an answer. Am I missing something? Am I wasting my time? If walk away from him will I be walking away from my soulmate? I’m afraid I’ll realize that I’ve made a mistake (no matter the path I choose: him or someone else) after it’s too late. please help!

    By Becca | 3 years ago Reply
  7. This article is so incorrect it burns my eyes.
    Did you know that women and men sometimes grow up to be single? WOW, who’da thought! A person is able to live just as fulfilling life as a person who’s married. there’s more than two options for a person’s life.
    I myself have had a best friend of the opposite gender for years upon years. We’ve each dated different people and there was none of that so called jealousy, and we still remain in a very strong connection. There is no limit for friendship in any case whatsoever. We’ve had the steadiest platonic relationship imaginable, and no one’s “vocation” or “sake” was affected in the least bit. Please don’t write these articles unless you know what you’re talking about: the tidbit about a person either living a married life or a “life of vocation” obviously shows your ineptitude in how people function as living beings.

    By Nuggalo | 3 years ago Reply
    • I think that Nuggalo and Joe Catholic have made very good points here. This article has a strange assumption, as do many people who debate on this topic, that people of the opposite sex will necessarily have a sexual attraction to each other, and furthermore that people are incapable of controlling themselves. It seems to me that ALL chastity ministers assume this. When I look around at all of the men in my life, it surprises and disgusts me that anyone would think that I, as a young female, would not be able to develop a good relationship with any of them without “the danger of temptation,” and them likewise to me. Seriously, I’m going to fall in sexual love with every man in my life? Every man in my life could fall into sexual love with me? That’s nonsense. It horrifies me that Christians have such a suspicious attitude toward the genders and their relationship to each other. We’re supposed to be the ones who truly understand human nature. This is a disrespectful, misunderstanding parody of it. The idea that men and women cannot have a platonic relationship is incredibly disappointing, sad, and just plain disgusting and dishonorable.

      By Mads | 3 years ago Reply
  8. Wow! What a great article!! God bless you for the post. To all of the above who are searching for advice and answers, your in my prayers! J.M.J.

    By marino | 3 years ago Reply
  9. With great respect to Chastity Project and FOCUS, I must disagree with the conclusions of this article. Far be it from me to supersede saints with my example, I can only use myself. I am married almost four years with a pregnant wife due immanently and my best and closest friend is female. She stood by my side at our wedding as my best man and remains my closest confidante, (aside from my wife, as a matter of course) even though she herself is also married. For ten years, we have supported each other without improprieties and I’m not talking drinking buddy kind of support, I mean the kind of friendship soldiers who have been in the trenches share. I would trust her implicitly with my life and she and my wife have become close friends as well. The article’s conclusions that Satan may use opposite-sex friendships as a means of temptation is grossly unfair, as the same could really be said about anything – drinking, gambling… the list is endless. The author’s assertion that her answer is “yes and no” is wholly misleading, as her real answer betrays itself in the last paragraphs. To say that sacrifice for one’s vocation is necessary is true enough, but her insinuation that after marriage one “shares” one’s heart with an opposite-sex friend is, at best presumptuous and at worst, accusatory. If anything, my female best friend has strengthened my marriage – we give each other advice on our respective marriages and we lend each other moral support when we’re in “the dog house” with our partners. Our “coffee meetings” are far less than weekly, but are no more often than they are with any of my other friends. While I agree that some may not have the moral fortitude and self-discipline to warrant opposite-sex friendships in their vocation, I don’t think one can unilaterally decide “no, you can’t do that” for everyone. Everyone’s vocation is different and if you can’t control yourself as a married person or as a professed clergy or religious with a friend of the opposite sex, that’s on you. But no one has the authority to make the decision for you, and certainly no one has the right to judge you. Lastly, I prefer that these kinds of blogs, column’s, etc. confine themselves to opinion or advice and steer clear from didacticism and blunt pontification. As far as I am aware, there is no Canonical injunction agains the matter, so please do not blog as if there is.

    By Joe Catholic | 3 years ago Reply
    • Joe Catholic, I’m so glad that you wrote your comment; it was really encouraging to read.

      I’m not married, but I’ve always held this view that it really depends upon the person and their own weaknesses. I think it really depends upon if you trust yourself enough to never cheat on your spouse. I’ve set many a rule for myself that – like “I will just plain never do ____” and I don’t. Like purposefully getting completely drunk or having sex before marriage. But, I think for those individuals who know that they break their own consciences on the big things, especially on the big things, frequently, they’re going to need to step up and be trustworthy…to themselves. To not break their own rule that they aren’t going to fall in love with a friend of the opposite sex while they are married. A rule that they aren’t going to cheat on their spouse, EVER.

      In my friendships I’ve found that some Christians fight so strongly against this or that as being “improper,” when in reality what is missing is their own discipline. They are afraid of themselves. They have lost trust in themselves and in God’s grace and direction so much that they outlaw even the possibility of some things in their lives because it “might pose a temptation,” when I believe they are really falling into fear, which is bondage. The devil wants you to be in fear. Fear is not of God. We need to be courageous. And if God calls you to a platonic, deep friendship of one the opposite sex while you are dating, engaged, and/or married to someone else, go for it!

      “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

      By Christina | 3 years ago Reply
      • Yes!! This is an excellent reply.

        By Mads | 3 years ago Reply
  10. I agreed with everything until you said there are basically only two choices in life. Marriage or a religious vocation. I became divorced 3 years ago and my marriage was annulled and I have lived my life as a single lay apostle since then. I don’t date and I don’t have a male friends that I go do things with. I have dedicated my life to God as a single person so there is a 3rd choice. Other than that it is a good article on this topic.

    By Donna | 3 years ago Reply
  11. Honestly, I don’t see how the conclusion to this article only applies to opposite-sex friends. If you are called to marriage, then your spouse should be your best friend, period. If called to religious life, well, that’s going to come ahead of your friends, too, regardless of gender (which is why there is usually at least some time spent cloistered). Granted, having a close friend of the opposite sex may be different, but there are still friendships that develop much like a sibling relationship. With the approach you’ve lined out here, there is a limit on ANY friendship when it comes up against your vocation.

    By Colleen | 3 years ago Reply
  12. I loooove this article!

    By Levin | 3 years ago Reply
  13. Honestly, I agree to some extent and disagree to some … sometimes there are instances too that a special best friend of a platonic relationship but of mutual intellectual cooperation and emotional admiration can occur outside an existing boyfriend girlfriend reationship where this can be considered as a different category and level of best friends.

    By Andrew VC Pinoy | 3 years ago Reply
  14. Hi Lisa, can you also write something about being best friends with ex’s?

    By Nadya | 3 years ago Reply
  15. The author definitely knows what delicacy with the opposite sex is all about.

    By Charmaine | 3 years ago Reply
  16. Hi, i often debate this idea with myself too. I tend to go with no, we can’t be friends, but I live a life that contradicts even myself – i have a female friend that I’ve known well and long. While i have been attracted, i never acted on it, also because she has a boyfriend and I’m happy that she is. We still are close friends.

    So whilst i would want to disagree with myself, experience tells me otherwise…

    Also, i learnt in a Sociology course i took recently, that sadly men are the emotionally weaker sex (like you need a class to figure that, but yea). Hence, we like to pretend to be macho and don’t turn to each other, or anyone else for that matter, when we have problems. The only person we relate well with was found out to be wives and girlfriends – the ones we are willing to show our emotions to. Though this is dangerous too, as we only have one outlet of expression. This also becomes a problem when a man’s spouse passes on or leaves. And it indirectly leads to depression and early death among men (just compare male and female life expectancy).
    Women were found to have more deeper and meaningful friendships, which men lack, therefore this needs to change. I think having a female friend apart from your wife would be healthy, as long as everyone is comfortable and respects the other, and other’s partner.

    By aaron | 3 years ago Reply
  17. I am a little confused. We are encouraged to begin dating as friends, but then this blog tells us not to be friends. Please help us understand what can feel like contradictory advice. Thank you :)

    By Michelle | 3 years ago Reply
  18. Well, I think the porpouse of this article is to put everyone on guard. When we discuss these topics we cannot get personal. Of course we all have thousands of examples for each argument, but that´s not the point. God DID create us as women and men, with different physical and psychological characteristics, and there is scientific proof that we are compatible in all dimensions. Attraction can exist between a man and a woman, which was God´s will since the Creation, we must accept that. I think the author is trying to put us on guard, to see that these complementarities DO exist, and that they could be dangerous (I´m not saying they must, but only they could). Maybe not for many years of friendship, but still they could be someday. It´s like playing with fire. Of course nothing´s between you if both are dating with /married to different people, but still there is a risk that in complicated situations, when your sentimental and psychological defenses break down, you can find yourself on the wrong side.
    And there is another thing I want to point out, which is what I always say when this topic is in my agenda. Apart from the time which is spent between friends, there are different levels of communication, each one deeper than the previous one: 1. Everyday information, 2. Exchange of opinions, 3. Life stories, 4. Feelings, 5. Needs and wishes, 6.Integration of all immanent dimensions, 7.Transcendence. I´m sure that the depper you go in these levels, the deepest the risk of feeling (sexual or psychological) attraction is.
    Of course there are exceptions to the rule, just as the friendship between Clara and Francis, but they´re still exceptions. And I´m sure all exceptions are when there´s a strong decision to stay true to God´s will and when it´s clear that the vocation is to be single and serve God in that way. And there are temptations even there. Even nuns or priests, which choose not to have sexual relationships, can be tempted and feel sexual (or pshycological) attraction, and they have to fight strongly to stay true to their promises and to their vocation in life.
    So that´s the point – to be on guard.

    By Mariana | 3 years ago Reply

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