Sound Off: Why Can't Men and Women Be 'Just Friends'?

Can a man and woman ever keep things strictly platonic?

It sounds like a simple enough question, but is it really? I used to think the answer was simply and unequivocally “yes”, but after a recent – and heated – debate with friends, it looks as if the answer is really more like, “it depends on who you’re asking!”

You see, I’m a happily married newlywed who has two really good male friends in my world. There’s nothing but platonic love between us, no question. My husband knows them well, and he also understands that I knew and loved them long before he and I ever laid eyes on one another. I brought this up casually in a recent conversation amongst friends, some single, some attached, and it’s safe to say the debate got a bit heated.

A single guy at the table expressed shock over the fact that I truly think these relationships with my male buddies are “actually innocent." The way he sees it, no man ever wants to just be friends with an attractive woman, and if he says so, he’s straight up lying to you and/or your man’s face. A single woman, who was equally surprised by my revelation, claimed she’d never met a guy who was truly okay with just being buddies and didn’t ultimately want more out of the deal. A married man chimed in that there was no way he would ever be okay with his wife having close male friends, regardless of what order they came in. The only other person at our table who felt me on this one was another married woman who also admitted she has one or two close guy friends, and said as far as she knows it hasn’t been an issue for her husband.

Did my husband initially question the bond I share with these two men? Of course! He’d be crazy not to. But ultimately, as he got to know them, he got to know “us” -- and realized we are merely two great friends who just happen to be of the opposite sex. I had nothing to hide from him because nothing goes on in our friendship that he shouldn’t see. Over time, the initial jealousy faded. Now these guys are welcome in our home when they come to town to visit (they’ve even crashed in the guest room a time or two with hubby’s permission), we can all spend time together without tension, and he’s even developed his own stand-alone friendships with them both.

Plus, on the flip side, he has a close female friend I respect, too. I don’t see her as a threat. She also came before I did, and after meeting her and learning to understand their friendship, I saw no reason to feel threatened by her.

To all those out there who think that platonic bonds between men and women don't exist, I offer you our situation as living proof that in at least one case it works. Some of you will argue that I may not want anything more, but my guy friends are just doing an expert job at patiently waiting in the wings (I know the single guy at our table sure thought so), while others will say, “Oh, they must be gay,” because straight men don’t have female friends they’re not sleeping with or trying to hop in bed with.

I would be lying if I said I don’t understand where both sides are coming from, or the feelings of those who are married and couldn’t fathom being okay with their spouse bringing home a “buddy” of the opposite sex. I hear you, I just can’t agree with you. If the friendship came before the relationship, who’s to say it must be ill-intentioned? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not out there looking for friendship bonds with new men (chile, please, I’m happily married!), but I am going to continue to strengthen the ones I do have. Where’s the crime in that?

Do you think men and women can ever be “just friends”? What circumstances make it okay, and which are just not acceptable for you?

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