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Can Guys & Girls Be Friends? Introduction
Can Guys & Girls Be Friends? Question # 1
My friend has feelings for me, but I don’t feel the same. Now what?
Let me preface my response by acknowledging that I responded to the first Friends Post with questions, and am doing it again here. You’re sick of thought-provoking lists, I KNOW. I promise this is the last time. The other posts are going to be full of free lottery tickets, Caribbean cruise giveaways, and discounted bottles of Ron Popiel’s GLH.
Caveat Corner: The reason I love posting questions has to do with the coaching courses I took at Western Seminary here in Portland. One of the aspects of coaching is assuming people can figure out answers for themselves. Ultimately, people will be more apt to do the right thing if they get there themselves. Asking the tough questions with a willingness to answer honestly, leads us to a realistic and wise conclusion.
Kind of how Jesus taught at times, huh?
So sit still and read my list. And then sit still some more to THINK about the list. Then find someone to TALK through the list with you.
If you are genuinely friends with someone who you think has feelings for you, how SHOULD you proceed? Ignoring the person seems rough, and continuing to hang out seems unfair. Even if you don’t have romantic feelings, the loss of a friendship is still a loss.
Loss like that equals pain.
That’s why this can be tricky, and uncomfortable and easy to ignore. But you are mature, and I believe you can ask yourself these questions.
a) By maintaining a friendship, am I leading this person to a place of false hope?
b) Is there a reason I don’t want to be more than friends?
c) Do I let this person meet a need for me that I am unwilling to meet for him or her?
d) Am I being respectful of this person by continuing to maintain the friendship?
e) How can I be honest with this person?
f) If this person knows I don’t have feelings but still wants to hang out, should I let him or her do what he or she wants?
g) What repercussions will come from continuing this friendship?
h) How would I want to be treated if the tables were turned?
i) Is this friendship keeping one or both of us from meeting other people?
Chew on that for a while…
OK, stop gnawing on your computer.
From my heart,
What questions would you add to my list? What have you done or not done when you’ve found yourself in this scenario?
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Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.
I am actually in this situation as I type.
a) I don’t think I’m causing false hope, but I could be wrong. We’ve been friends for over ten years, but I think he’s liked me for less than a year.
b) I’ve never been romantically attracted to him in any aspect. Plus our personalities are not compatible long-term. I don’t think I could handle all his OCD-like quirks on top of my own perfectionism for long periods of time.
e) He’s already heard me say that I’m not interested in dating anyone at present because God told me to focus on other things for now. He also knows I plan to move to another continent in 1-2 years (he has no interest in going). I haven’t taken another friend’s suggestion to flat-out say, “Hey, I know you like me but I don’t feel the same way and there’s no future for us except as friends.”
f) Yes, in groups. We have so many mutual friends that it would be impossible to stop hanging out completely without one of us being left out of Bible study, game night, [going to] musicals, etc. We haven’t had hang out time alone for months, so that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.
h) If I were on the other side of this, would not want to lose such a long-standing friendship over something as [potentially] changeable as my feelings.
I’d also add:
j) Do you have other friends of the opposite gender? Do you interact with them on the same level of friendliness? I answer yes to both. I think perceived favoritism can definitely give false hope!
@Abby, I think you make some good points. I think the fact that you are hanging out with him in groups and being friendly to him without doing one on one things that would make him feel like your feelings are something more is the wisest route at this point. I like that you answered them all and added a few. And yes, favoritism will always give false hope.
e) These things you are speaking of here screamed to me, “Don’t pursue! Don’t pursue! Even if she is interested in you, it doesn’t matter. Your life plans don’t match up”
h) Feelings are volatile, and can’t always be trusted. In most circumstances, there’s just too much at stake to allow them to steer my way. The truth is I valued our friendship too much to risk losing it over emotions that come and go.
@Michaeleen, That’s really tough and more than a small response from the comment section to suffice as an answer. But I can say for now that you will feel pain. Let yourself feel that pain but with the hope that you don’t have to stay there forever. When we care about someone, anyone, there will be pain because they aren’t perfect. Get into your community, into Scripture and give your anxieties to God. He wants to hear from you and He is listening even on the days when it may not feel like it. Pain is part of life. There will be ups and downs but what is important is how you respond and choose to trust God in the midst of that pain. I have hope for you!
Really great questions to be asking of ourselves. I really like #2: “What is keeping me from wanting to be more than friends?” Answering this question will either give us freedom to take a chance and be open minded to date someone that we have “friend-zoned” but in reality have a great foundation for a relationship. I think we are often too scared to try things because it feels like there is more on the line with a friend. Like we either have to marry them or ruin our friendship forever. But asking this question is not going to ruin our friendship if we are careful with being open minded. Open mindedness doesn’t mean we have to put a new title on it right away. Just answer the question…gnaw away.
The other result of answering this question is that we can tangibly point at things for ourselves and them( if they ask), of why we don’t want to date. This is much better than “I don’t know, i just don’t like you cause it’s not there, you know?” Specifics are helpful for us because then we are less tempted to make it grey. If I know why I don’t want to date someone and it is a fair reason, I will want to act accordingly.
I think along with b) is there a reason I don’t want to be more than friends – thinking through if those reasons are permanent… and also evaluating what it is you’re looking for. This happened to me a few years ago – I “passed” on a friend who was interested but I swore we were just good friends. I think I just couldn’t think of him as more. Now that I’ve grown and matured, and he’s gone on to marry and have kids – I see what an amazing husband and father he is. I’m not living with regrets- but this was also a realization for me that I might have been too closed mined on what a “friend” is and what i’m looking for in a “more than friend” scenario.
@becki, That has totally been my fear at times! Do I have unrealistic expectations or am I just really not into this person? I think by asking ourselves this and then seeing scenarios like what you mentioned, helps us to ask the question, “What do I believe marriage to be? What is the purpose? What was God’s point for all of this?”
I’m so glad you’re posing this question. It is a tough one for many people. My husband and I are actually guest posting tomorrow on Ally Spotts blog, about whether or not married couples should or can have opposite sex friendships. Should be interesting.
Anyhoo, I would ask the question of whether or not this current friendship is really just a remnant of a season now passed. Sometimes we hold onto inappropriate friendships in an attempt to cling to the past–and that person represents that time in our lives.
I would also ask if this friendship allows you to ultimately walk in freedom? Or does it somehow hinder you from feeling or being yourself? I find that opposite friendships always have an under-current of awkwardness or unease. Eliminating them can bring great relief even.
@Nicole Cottrell… yes, I think “Is this friendship inappropriate?” is a great additional question to ask. Joy gives the great advice about being HONEST with ourselves. Well…even IF neither of them HONESTLY didn’t have ANY romantic feelings whatsoever for one another, are they giving to that friendship something that they’re not giving to their marriage? It makes it worse when you know that they have feelings for you or when you still have feelings for them of course. It’s not about your spouse being insecure or jealous. It’s about RESPECT. Are you being respectful to your spouse when you’re giving or getting a certain kind of attention from the opposite sex friendship? I think that is a BIG question to ask if one is to be completely HONEST with themselves and CONSIDERATE of the other’s feelings.
BTW…I speak from BOTH sides of the fence! 😉 lol
This series is incredibly pertinent right now as I navigate my male friendships. I continue to feel as though I over-think my encounters with my male acquaintances, fearing the un-intended “leading on.” The balance of allowing things to naturally unfold while maintaining an intentional and mature approach toward relationships has felt a bit tenuous to me in the past. Looking forward to your thoughts and challenges on the various “seasons” some of us (okay, I) have a tendency to cycle through. It’s honoring to be encouraged to prayerfully THINK and ASK questions toward the right truth in our individual relationships. Thank you L&R team!
Thanks for this series, Joy! A book I’m reading right now that is really helping me think about this is “Mars & Venus on a Date” by John Gray. It’s not a Christian book, but it is really helping me understand how guys tick and approach friendships and dating… which is freeing me up to be myself as a woman in those situations. We put a lot more pressure on ourselves than we need to, most of the time!
One thing that the initial question (and a lot of the comments) brought up was a desire to not threaten the friendship.
Maybe my own question here is harsh, but why do we think all friendships have to last forever exactly the way they are? The reality is we all have some friends for a while and some friends for a very long time.
The times this has happened to me, and I have been on both sides of it, the friendship has almost always ended. If it hasn’t ended, it has changed dramatically.
Maybe that makes me a bad friend, but I feel ok about it.
BTW, those were excellent questions.
Hi Joy, my parents just came back from one of your parents’ seminars, and showed me your blog, which I LOVE! Look forward to following.
Anyway, this topic is making me re-evaluate my friendship with my longstanding best-guyfriend-with-a-crush. We’ve gone a long way guided by utter honesty. But I still wonder if I’m being fair to him.
Especially pondering the “favoritism” question. He knows I treat him differently than other guys – for years before I was ready to date I would refuse one-on-one scenarios with other guys but would hang out alone with him. In my head it wasn’t favorite status as much as with him it’s not remotely a date, it’s just him. With other guys it would be and I didn’t feel I could trust myself with the romantic aspect. We’ve discussed the answer to B more than once, and he accepts it, but what if despite our words, my actions have been giving him false hope?
Now that I am dating, we discuss relationships freely, but I see the pain he tries to keep in check. I don’t know if things can stay exactly the same with us but I don’t like the idea of changing what has been a really fun, not-too-close, working friendship for years.
I just wish a really amazing girl would fall out of the sky for him. That would solve my problem. 😛
@Lydia, when you say, “I just wish a really amazing girl would fall out of the sky for him. That would solve my problem.” — are you referring to the pesky problem of someone having feelings for you? Or are you referring to the problem of a having a great male friend? Or are you referring to the problem of this great friend always vomiting, passing out and peeing his pants every time you complain about how your boyfriend Karl likes to kiss right and you really want him to kiss left? Because though you might think a girl falling out of the sky to be a selfless wish, it’s alarmingly patronizing. And when this guy does find a girl, I can almost guarantee it’s goodbye, Lyda, hello Mary Lou Bedford who not only satisfies him relationally, but also kisses left, something he likes, but never shared with you, because he’s a gentleman. In the end, your little wish coming true is going to put a much needed end to the relationship you enjoy so much. Please don’t refer to his feelings for you as a problem. I beg you. He set aside his PESKY feelings to remain your friend. Darn you, unrequited love! Gaaaah! P.S. Karl’s cheating on you. Okay, he may not be cheating on you, but how can you trust a guy who ALWAYS kisses right? Answer: You can’t, lydia. I’m sorry. P.S. P.S. I know you didn’t “mean it” mean it like that, but I think it’s such an interesting thing that people find it problematic when they find themselves, liked, adored, smittened to pieces by someone who they don’t have feelings for. I mean, what a problem to have! I truly wonder what Jesus would say in this situation. Person: “Ummm, Jesus. I know you provided this guy, but…” Jesus: “He loves you and he’s a good, good man. You be crazy, girl. I’m out, Lydia. Don’t choo call me fo yo doofy problems.” This post probably isn’t gonna make it. Is it, joy? — Long time listener, first time caller. Love the show.
@Mary Lou Bedford, My suggestion “Mary Lou” (even though I know you are a dude) is to soften your exhorting of @Lydia. We can challenge one another, but whether you know Lydia or not, I hope my space is a place where people can respectfully challenge each other – not shame one another.
My gut says you have experienced what you are describing and are therefor projecting that on to the spirit of Lydia. As an honorable man I know you can say the same thing in a way that will be better received by Lydia and the other readers. Give it a shot next time. (-:
But know that I am really glad you finally “called in!” Until next time….
They can be acquaintances but not close friends.
If a man finds the woman attractive physically then he will inevitably want to date her. If he is not physically attracted to her he may find himself more at ease and share his feelings and this will draw her into him and could lead to her liking him.
If a woman has a male “friend” or at least thinks she does and she has at least average looks then her male friend would like to date her. So she is being affirmed by the relationship that she is attractive to a man and this is her reason for the relationship in most cases. He is doing one of two things, one he is keeping this girl as a friend in his mind she is a backup or second he is hold out hope in dating her.
If a man is married then he should not stay close with another woman as this under minds his relationship with his wife and can lead to at best uncomfortable situations.
I also recommend to guys that if they want to date a woman pursue her. If she rejects you, then cut her out of your life and move on as you deserve better. You know you can’t be friends with a woman you want date. Be willing to get hurt, put it all on the line. Have enough self respect to tell her ” I can’t be friends with you. I respect you and myself to much.
Anyway not even sure why I posted.
I am 34 years old and have been married for 13 years.
@Brian, You have some strong and interesting points in here and I really appreciate you sharing.
I’m glad you posted.
Many of my readers (as well as me) are in their late 20’s and and 30’s and are unmarried. So being married at 21, you didn’t experience this in between time of needing a community of friends while still being respectful of boundaries and the fine nuances of guys and girls being friends.
Sometimes in friendship circles, church small groups, etc. it’s impossible to remain just “acquaintances” with someone of the opposite sex since we share so much of our life experiences as a family of sorts. I believe it can be very healthy to get closer than acquaintance level in some of those friendships. If we don’t, how would we ever find a spouse? And since we can’t marry more than one (hopefully) some of those close friendships won’t blossom into something more.
My challenge through this series is for us to be honest with ourselves about each individual friendship and in the last post I will share the question that I think is most important to ask ourselves.
I appreciate where you are coming from and I hope you can get the shoes of many of the single friends you may have that are in my shoes. We all need to be in this discussion together! It’s great to hear a married person’s perspective. Thank you.
@Brian, I honestly don’t think you can make sweeping statements like that and apply them to everyone. Well, maybe about married men maintaining close friendships with women. That’s just…ill-advised.
I came out of a church culture who firmly believes that men and women should not be friends. There is hardly any healthy, normal interaction between brothers and sisters in the church, outside of relatives and awkward secretive courtships which often don’t start until people are in their mid-twenties. Even among older, married people there one can still this awkwardness between men and women. It’s always like “I really shouldn’t be talking to you so I will make this quick and then run away.” Many young people end up with a double standard – they can have non-Christian friends of the opposite gender, but they can’t be friends with their own brothers and sisters in the church because they are afraid of being judged, or just tired of people pairing them up. I think that’s a messed up situation. After witnessing the effects of that kind of teaching, I really value a Christian culture that embraces non-sexualized, genuine relationships between men and women.
Yes, there are many “nuances” that have to be taken into account and boundaries need to be set, but like Joy I feel that male-female friendships are necessary to a healthy community.
Lastly, how is it respect to reject friendship with a person with whom you are interested in spending the rest of your life? Honestly, when a guy wants to date me, and I say no, but let’s be friends, in the back of my mind, if he remains in my life and doesn’t disappear, he earns major points as eventual husband material.
To me, it is respect to show a woman that you are interested in what she values, interested in her opinion, interested in her as a human being rather than just as a..what? cuddle buddy? homemaker? sex partner? What is a marriage without friendship? And if you don’t have enough common ground on which to base a friendship, why would you want to date her anyway?