Back when we were five, everyone was pretty much the same, at least where boys and girls were concerned. Girls liked pirates, dump trucks, role playing, and playing rough, just like we did. Our friends in kindergarten were whoever sat near us in class, or who climbed the monkey bars to the top with us, whatever gender they happened to be. Then things changed. We noticed and incorporated differences into our analysis. By the time we were teenagers we began to think of the opposite sex in starkly different terms from the five year olds we used to be. Sexual tension settled in, and it never left. So the question is, can men and women be “just friends” without that sexual tension?
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You have several friends who are not of your gender, and there’s no sexual tension there. If you’re a woman I can definitely see where you would have this idea. Guys are pretty good when they want to be at hiding their feelings. Maybe you met when he had just gotten out of a serious relationship and he really needed someone to talk to. You didn’t know he was rebounding with you because he played the “just friends” role very well. This happens often. Or you just got out of a serious relationship and he was there for you. A shoulder to lean on. And in his mind he is hoping you’ll be over this guy and he can make his move.
If you’re a guy and you think there’s no sexual tension between you and your girl friends, you’re kidding yourself.
If you’re a guy and you think there’s no sexual tension between you and your girl friends, you’re kidding yourself. Most guys recognize it, but they’ve trained themselves to repress it so things aren’t awkward. And maybe she’s unaware of it (as I mentioned up there), so it really doesn’t become a problem.
I was watching New Girl last night, and I find the dynamic one that is very interesting, a girl living with guys, all of whom are straight, and yet no sexual tension was even worried about by any of them until it was too late. This is a recurring theme in TV and in the movies. How many times have you heard about friendships breaking apart and you have no idea why? Usually, that is the tipping point. Somebody made a move, exposed the sexual tension, and ruined the friendship.
Guys can’t be “just friends” with girls to whom they are physically attracted. It’s a fact of life. It may start out as friends, but if a girl is attuned enough, she can tell when he wants more. So, ladies, if you are paying attention (and most people don’t with their friends — mark my words), and you still don’t see interest in his eyes, you know you’ve got a friend for life, and you also know he’s not physically attracted to you.
Women, on the other hand, can be “just friends” with anyone and everyone, attraction be damned. This is because women can compartmentalize so much better than men (generalization alert) so they can usually separate any attraction from friendly pursuits. In fact, women are particularly good at setting up their male friends with their other female friends/ acquaintances. Match makers, watch out!
If they spend enough time together, just the two of them, an attraction may grow, even if one never previously existed.
So, now you want to know about all of those couples who tell you that they were friends first, and that’s the only way to go. And I’ll tell you how that happened. Remember earlier, when I told you about the woman analyzing the vibe she gets from her guy friends? And recall when I told you how she can compartmentalize? Well, she can also act on her attraction if it exists, or in essence break open the compartment. Women are by and large so complex that they can do this in a heartbeat if she sees the potential for a long term relationship. She may also choose to leave it alone, though, preferring the solid friendship she knows she has to the possible romance that might end poorly, and kill that friendship.
Lastly, there are the select few heterosexual mixed-gender friendships where there is no sexual tension. If there is no physical attraction on either side, that can indeed exist. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t saying it was impossible. However, for that to be the case, both of the participants in the friendship need other friends besides each other. Because if they spend enough time together, just the two of them, an attraction may grow (usually on his end), even if one never previously existed. It is the law of proximity. Mark it down.
That being said, I have several female friends, and honesty is always the best policy. If everyone is on the same page, there is no reason to make any sexual tension an issue, and you can finally solve that “just friends” conundrum.
The Friendship Archive