Can Guys and Girls “Just be Friends”?


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A buddy of mine (who happens to be married) recently came across an old girlfriend, and they ended up going for lunch and catching up on each other’s lives. He mentioned this to me because they ended up exchanging numbers and talked about getting together again, and he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Especially because he enjoyed seeing her, and it brought back happy memories of the times they shared.

For anyone who’s a regular reader on thezombieshuffle.com, I’m pretty sure you can guess my advice. Umm, did I mention that he’s married? Yeah, he is. From talking to people, and reading assorted relationship books and blogs I know his situation is far from unique. I’ve touched on thoughts on straying when your relationship is in a rut and on affairs before. But I thought this story provided me with an opportunity to provide a slightly different twist on things.

Radio Story

I commonly listen to the radio on the ride in to work, and for the morning show they have both a male and a female host. A number of months back they had a discussion on whether or not guys and girls can ever be “just friends”. Their perspectives weren’t surprising.

The girl said yes, of course, and she cited a number of people she knew who had platonic guy friends. The guy had a different take on things. He said no, not a chance. Guys and girls can be friends, but in most cases the guy is looking for more. And the guy is probably actively thinking/imaging the girl in, shall we say, less platonic situations. His opinion was that the guy is content to be just friends, but if the girl were to “open the door” for things to go further, then the guy would be more than happy to comply.

As a guy, I have to agree with his perspective. I’m not sure if women are just naive about this or if they are just wired differently. But in most circumstances the guy would be more than happy to move beyond the friend zone. I’m not suggesting this applies in all cases. I have a handful of female friends who remain friends. But I also recognize that my female friends are definitely different from my male friends, making the nature of the relationship different.

So can guys and girls ever be “just friends”. My belief is sure, they can be. But it depends on both their history and their present. What I mean by this is that although it is possible, it depends on their shared history. If they have been more than friends in the past, then it changes things considerably. It’s still *possible*, but old feelings will always be there. This is where the present is also relevant. If neither of you are in a relationship then there should be no issues. If one or both of you are? That changes things.

Digging up the Past

A while back I read an article talking about how social media and cell phones has changed the way affairs happen, and it has also caused a rise of broken relationships due to “exes”. Sadly I didn’t bookmark it, but it was a great article.

If you were in a relationship with someone in the past, then no matter how it ended there were good times. It’s normal to sometimes think about exes. Maybe there’s something that reminds you of them, a song, or a sight, and memories that were forgotten come rushing back. Those memories may make you think about them, and wonder how they are doing and where their life has taken them. The social media world has made it easy to take things beyond just memories, and to actively reach out and see how the other person is doing. That’s something I strongly caution against. It’s best if exes remain exes, and remain in the past.

If you are in a relationship, friendships with members of the opposite sex come with a number of potential risks. But adding exes to the mix? That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s one thing to wonder about how someone is doing, but if you are actively looking them up you have to ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. Especially if you are doing it at a time that your own relationship is in need of some attention.

When Does an Affair Become an Affair?

One common misconception people have is about what an affair actually is. Commonly people believe that affairs are only happening with sex is involved. But that is completely untrue. Relationships rarely start with sex. Heck, some couples still buy into the notion that they want to wait until they are married for sex (a dying breed, but it still happens). Relationships are built on connection, and emotion. The physical side simply comes out of that.

What people often think of as affairs is really the physical side, but any emotional connection is just as much of an affair. I found the following on this site, and it sums is up well:

It starts very innocently. Very slowly they get to know each other. It’s often an emotional affair to begin with. Maybe they have long conversations, whatever.
However it happens, eventually they realize that they’ve crossed some sort of line. But they realize it after they’ve crossed it. And it feels wonderful because it was a line they were hungry to cross. But it also feels terrible because they know it’s cheating, and they know they never wanted to be a cheater. But it keeps going.

Crossing the Line

So where does crossing the line start? Where does a friendship start to develop into something more? It starts with flirting. Wikipedia refers to flirting as:

Speaking and behaving in a way that suggests a mildly greater intimacy than the actual relationship between the parties would justify, though within the rules of social etiquette, which generally disapproves of a direct expression of sexual interest. This may be accomplished by communicating a sense of playfulness or irony

Some people are flirts, but if you are already in a relationship flirting is a dangerous game. And you have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of the flirting? Is it to seek attention? To feel beautiful and wanted? To make yourself feel better about yourself? Perhaps the biggest question is, are you flirting when your partner is not around in a way that you would not when they are?

People know when they are doing something wrong. So if you are behaving differently when your partner is not around you are essentially defining your flirting as unacceptable to the partnership.

This is where I disagree with the notion that people don’t realize it until after they’ve crossed the line. They knew all along that they were doing something wrong. They may have set lines that they believed they wouldn’t cross. The problem was, they set those lines incorrectly. Instead of setting the line at kissing or sex, it should have been set at other things. It should have been set as soon as you were doing something that you felt you needed to hide.

textingcheating

Emotional Affairs

There are all sorts of great articles on emotional affairs, but here are a few signs that your relationship has crossed the line:

  • You share frustrations about your marriage or relationship with the other person
  • Your flirting is starting to get more aggressive and intense
  • You are arranging to meet the other person for things like coffee and lunch, but you neglect to tell your partner about this
  • You are thinking about and contacting the other person at unusual times – early mornings and late at night

If you are doing any of the above, you may still be telling yourself that it’s innocent, but in your heart you know that you are lying. It may or may not have become physical, but guess what, it’s still an affair. And if you don’t actively stop it, you run the risk of it getting more serious.

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What to do?

I opened with talking about my buddies lunch meeting. The fact that he was asking my opinion tells me that he already knew the answer to his own question. Affairs don’t just happen, they are a result of choices. If you want to stay faithful to your partner the best thing you can do is not put yourself in a situation that can result in an affair.

One thing about affairs is that happy people don’t cheat. Chances are, if you are thinking about other people then there is something missing in your relationship. In my buddy’s case, he’ll be the first to acknowledge that his marriage is “in a rut”. Being in an unhappy situation makes you more likely to look for happiness elsewhere.

Thing is, affairs are the easy way, and I would even suggest the cowards way out. If your relationship is in a bad spot, look inwards and see what you can do to repair it. Make it your priority and work together with your partner to see if you can repair things. If you find you can’t, accept that your relationship has ended and go your separate ways first.

But acknowledge the fact that you can’t actively work on your relationship if your mind is partially with someone else. You NEED to cut that other person out of your life completely if you expect to have any hope of addressing the issues in your relationship. Unfortunately many people believe they won’t be caught, so they try to have the best of both worlds.

One of my sons occasionally will do naughty things, and sometimes when I ask him to stop he tells me “I don’t want to, it’s fun”. He knows it’s wrong, but he does it anyhow because he enjoys it. That is a self absorbed approach to the world, and shows no respect for the rest of the family. He’s 8 though, an age where the world seems focused just on you. If you are still doing that as an adult there’s a word for it – narcissism. If you are in a relationship it’s supposed to be built on trust, and respect. As soon as you cross those lines and start hiding things from your partner, all you are doing is showing you are not worthy of the trust they have given you. It may start small, but soon you are juggling two lives, and your pursuit of your own “happiness” is liable to hurt everyone around you.

People-Say-You-Dont-Know-What-Youve-Got-Till-Its-Gone

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16 thoughts on “Can Guys and Girls “Just be Friends”?

    • Thanks. When I found that last quote I had to work it in somewhere.

      I think that often affairs are the result of short term thinking. You may be happy and feel good for a while, but affairs are generally doomed to failure, and are very selfish acts that hurt all those around them.

      When you are in a relationship, or you become a parent, your life ceases to be just about you. If you can’t accept that and value the happiness of your partner and children at the same level as your own, there are problems.

      I think affairs are a band-aid that overlook the larger issues.

      Like

  1. Nice summary 3rd paragraph from the end. You make it sound so easy! Was your wife willing to work together to repair things with you? If so, you guys did have it easy. But these affair prone men have already tried and failed. They’ve given up on any hope for addressing the issues in their relationship, which is why they started letting their eyes wander in the first place. But I don’t think the only alternative is divorce. Marriages can be fixed if at least one spouse is motivated. But just consider, when you tell these guys that they need to cut out their only source of gratification in life so that they can go back to what to working on what they believe is a hopeless situation, there’s not a lot of incentive. (p.s. I don’t advocate affairs or divorce)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, and welcome to thezombieshuffle.com.

      It’s not an issue that I’ve ever encountered to my knowledge, I just try to write about all sorts of different things that impact relationships. And this tends to be a big one.

      From the “affair prone men” comment I’ll guess you’re female. Most of the guys I’ve know who have been in these situations are the ones who were cheated on. I think men are more likely to have one night stands, but women are quickly closing the gender gap for cheating. My personal take is that women are more likely to mistake the early passion feelings of a relationship for love, and when that is lacking in their own relationship they can be prone to look outside the relationship for it. Then all it takes is a charming guy to who stirs some feelings in them and you’ve got a the perfect situation for an affair to arise.

      All of which can be avoided if people would stop taking each other for granted, and live their lives with love for each other everyday (or so the romantic in me would like to think).

      As for repairing things being easy, no I don’t think it’s easy at all. I have a post called “When is it too Late” where I write that trying to rebuild is the hardest approach of all. It’s much easier to just walk away. However I also believe rebuilding is the most fulfilling. But it’s not easy. It requires serious introspection, and a shift to focus on the other person as much as you focus on yourself.

      I don’t advocate affairs (would never do it), or divorce. But I also don’t advocate dysfunctional marriages, and if I had the sense that I was the only one trying it would be only a matter of time until I was done. One motivated person CAN make a difference, but over time if the other person doesn’t buy in then I believe the marriage is doomed, and divorce becomes the nuclear option. But it’s not one to be taken lightly.

      Marriage is a choice, and long term love is a choice. Choosing to put the other person’s needs equal to your own is a lifetime commitment. And it doesn’t have to be equal in the effort put in, but both parties have to be trying.

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      • Oh snap. I mentioned men so I’m a woman. Except I’m not. I said men because your buddy is a guy, but my comment applies to both genders. I think that ‘they’ have tried working on their marriages but however hard they tried, or how long, it was enough to lose hope and become susceptible to an affair situation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hah, sorry. Usually a comment about “those men” is made by a woman, and vice versa.

        I agree that affairs are generally a loss of hope. But where does the loss of hope come from? Have they actually communicated? Or does each side have certain expectations that they have never truly verbalized, and because they aren’t being met over a long period of time they believe they never will be.

        Lots of things come into play. But more and more I’m thinking that communication is at the heart of it. Unfortunately if you have poor communication skills, learning to improve them is difficult.

        For me personally, no matter how hopeless things get an affair (emotional or physical) is never acceptable. I made my wife a promise when we were dating that if I ever felt like I was going to have an affair, out of respect for her I would end the relationship first.

        We’ve had some rocky times, and like anyone else I’ve had moments where I imagined what life could potentially be like elsewhere. But at the end of the day, my marriage and my family mean a lot to me, and I’ve never really looked at another woman. The hard times just made me try to understand how we can improve.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! Comes at a very apt time for me personally. I love the last quote, it really cuts to the heart of the matter – it’s true we take things (relationships) for granted. I feel like all of the points you make are particularly relevant to my husband and the affair he had. It’s refreshing to read another mans perspective.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Of all the things that can happen in a relationship, affairs are one of the biggest things that can fundamentally change a relationship. For many they are the point of no return. Some couples make it, but for most of those that are able to stay together things are never the same.

      My perspective on affairs has changed a bit over the years. I still believe they are deplorable behaviour, and not something I would ever do. I also believe they show remarkable selfishness and disrespect.

      But I also believe that affairs can also be symptoms of deeper underlying issues in a relationship. As people we often don’t communicate well, and we are afraid of conflict. So we hide problems and don’t deal with them.

      If we could learn to communicate with each other better, and learn to resolve issues before they grow then I think maybe we would all be happier, and things like affairs would happen with less frequency.

      That’s my theory anyhow. I’m not really sure how to do that. Still working on it.

      I wish you the best in your situation. I don’t know if you are trying to work through it or if this marked the end of your relationship. Trust once broken is very hard to rebuild. But if you are trying to rebuild, and he is committed, this can be an opportunity to address underlying issues and strengthen your relationship moving forward. Things will never be the same, but different isn’t always bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No different isnt always bad, but two years ago (when i found out) i desperately didnt want things to be different. It was really difficult mourning the loss of what was a very good relationship – which makes it sound as if my marriage is over, it is not.
        We did counselling, although in hindsight it was too soon – two days after i found out – but it gave me the head space i needed to get through the initial heartbreak.
        My husbands affair was a very selfish act, by a man who is normally very selfless. There is no way we could have got through this if i had been a blameless victim, there are two people in a marriage you should nearly always look to yourself first i think, ans your conduct. But man it is hard!!
        Our relationship is very definitely different, its scarred and battered and bruised, but its lovely.
        A lot of the time i think the issues are easier to work through if you check your ego for a while, i know i had to. I felt it was my ego that was going to make me lash out, you hurt me, im gonna hurt you, i feel embarassed, you need to pay.
        Its a work in progress – what marriage isn’t!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for sharing your story. What you said is very accurate, there are two people in a marriage, and responsibility for the health of the marriage lies with both. Taking a good look at yourself and taking ownership for your own part in things is needed for any chance at success. But it’s soooo hard.

        I recently started a 2 part post on accountability (part 2 will be up in a few days), and it’s easier to deny your own role, or blame, justify or act from shame or obligation. But nothing can ever change unless you take ownership and act from responsibility.

        It sounds like you have been able to make it through the fires and come out stronger.
        I wish you all the best.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. This post was initially intended to be about differences in outlooks between men and women, but as I wrote it seemed to morph into how those differences can lead to affairs.

      I’m surprised at the response it’s gotten. It seems that the points in this post are things that many people can relate to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great perspective.

    “That’s something I strongly caution against. It’s best if exes remain exes, and remain in the past.”

    So many will disagree here, but I find great wisdom in this quote. They are an ex for a reason, and sometimes, when you encounter an ex while in a relationship, that reason should outweigh the good history you may have also shared.

    In fact, the reason you ended that relationship can sometimes be more powerful than why you should not go astray. Whatever reason you need to refrain from cheating, you should keep it in mind. LoL.

    There are a number of reasons why someone would go astray, but those reasons should be miniscule as to why you should remain faithful. If the reasons to go astray begin outweighing why you should remain faithful, it is perhaps time to seek counseling or have a lengthy conversation with your partner about separating.

    Cheating in my opinion, should never be the answer

    Liked by 1 person

    • This has proven to be a fairly contentious post. One thing I wasn’t clear on is that relationships with exes can still be “friendly” or at least congenial. But I think it is VERY difficult to be close friends after. In fact, maintaining a close intimate friendship is (in my opinion) dangerous.

      Let’s face it, relationships often develop out of friendship. It is the sharing of personal, intimate details that gives rise to the emotional connection that allows a friendship to become more than that. And if the person is an ex, then there has already been some sort of physical attraction in the past.

      If you are currently in a relationship, and you want to keep it that way, I think that close friendships with exes is just asking for trouble. Plus there’s a pretty good chance your partner doesn’t care much for it – and their feelings *should* matter.

      As evidenced by the small sample size of the radio question I cited though, there seems to be a bit of a gender difference on this one.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Can Guys and Girls “Just be Friends”? | The Fickle Heartbeat

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