Ask Wayne: Man Wants to Be Friends with Her After the Breakup

by Brett on May 13, 2009 · 75 comments

in Dating, Relationships & Family

askwayne.jpg

Q. I have been dating a great girl for two years. For the past year she has been pressuring me to take the relationship to the next level. I really like being with her and we have a lot of fun together. But she is not marriage material, not for me. But I really like talking with her. She gets me. She has become my best friend and I do not want to lose that. How do you suggest I go about ending the romantic relationship but remaining friends?

A. You’re asking the wrong question. Try one of these: If she gets me and she’s so great, why am I afraid to commit to her? If she’s not marriage material, why would I even remain friends? When will I get some men in my life so I stop relying exclusively on women for my emotional support?

I don’t know how old you are or if you’re even remotely ready for a long-term, committed relationship. If you’re young, say, in your 20′s, you have plenty of time to feel the pain of loss, learn your lessons, and eventually find true love. If you’re older than that, and have gone through this a time or two before, it’s time to figure out what’s really going on.

If you’ve done your dual column, plus/minus analysis and she’s come out looking pretty good, then what’s keeping you from taking it to the next level? Is she pushing too hard? Have you spoken to her about it? Have you asked some mature buddies for input? Has anything else happened for you, or between the two of you, that you haven’t mentioned here or to her?

Perhaps there’s some behavior of hers that really gets under your skin and you’ve been afraid to talk with her because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Maybe sex has become predictable, you’ve lost interest and you have no idea how to spice things up. Or could it be you want something else, aren’t sure what it is exactly, but are scared to let her go completely?

My experience working with hundreds of men has shown me that there’s usually something quite obvious lurking in the shadows. Take the time and ask for the help you need to get honest with yourself. That sort of introspection will most likely reveal the truth and point you in the right direction.

If she’s simply not the right one for you, why would you remain friends? Now, I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this from some women-and a lot of feminized men. But I have found that once men develop trusting relationships with other men, they realize they have no need for those friendships with women or old girlfriends.

Whether you’d admit to it without water boarding, there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women. It may be innocent flirting, repressed mommy issues, or you’re playing with fire. But whatever it is, it affects how you are as a man and it affects the quality and content of the relationship.

When you’re with the men-and I’m assuming you’re straight-you are not thinking about getting into another man’s pants. You’re not trying to act charming (although it happens in group and the men learn some valuable lessons about treating men like men, and not treating them like the women they’re trying to seduce). You’re simply trying to help, get help, build trust, or have fun. It’s simpler, cleaner, and just what men need.

If you decide to end this relationship, end it. Be straight up. Be honest. Be a gentleman and then move on. And then take this opportunity to rely on men for your emotional support. That way, the next time you’re conflicted about a relationship with a woman, you’ll have the men around to help guide you to the truth. Because when you find the right one, you won’t want to let her go.

Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @: askwayne@bettermen.org

Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man at www.BetterMen.org.

©2009 BetterMen®

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert May 13, 2009 at 6:45 pm

If she’s not marriage material, why would I even remain friends?

Really? I thought the idea that a man and woman couldn’t be just friends disappeared in the US around the 1930′s and is now limited to a handful of countries like Afghanistan where women can’t even show their face to men outside their family.

If your unable to have a normal friend relationship with a member of the opposite sex without it becoming sexual or a mommy surrogate you’ve got some pretty serious interpersonal issues and possibly even some sexuality issues. It’s definitely not normal as most of the western world has no problem in this area.

Not to mention, if your unable to form a non-sexual relationship with a woman your likely to have some serious problems in the workplace by either avoiding women in favor of men which will create some obvious interpersonal issues or by making passes at your coworker. There’s no question it creates a major barrier in your career if you have any interaction with people, especially if you plan to move into management at some point. You need to be able to be social with both sexes equally, and yes that will mean treating your work friends of both sexes the same way.

That said: make a decision already. Either move on, or move up.

2 Drew May 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Wayne, man, I hate to disagree, but I think you are way off base here. Now I know I don’t have a master’s degree or anything, but I can clearly see this guy’s problem. He obviously cares about this girl, and yet, he knows that she isn’t “the one”. He knows that he is betraying his heart, and in turn betraying her, by staying in a romantic relationship he is unsure about. You advise this young man to be honest, and be a gentleman, and then move on. Well Wayne, it appears to me that this fellow is trying his best to be a gentleman, a gentleman who knows that it is entirely possible to have great friendships with women free from the “issues” you alluded to above.

There is no reason why, given an appropriate amount of time to adjust to a new situation, these two young people can’t be friends, even best friends.

Signed- One of the “feminized” men

3 Jan May 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

@ Drew: What you say is true, but what I think Wayne also is pointing out that, once you’ve sort of gone down that path with a woman, to the point that marriage comes up as a possible outcome, you sort of owe it (both to yourself and to the woman in the relationship) to figure out why you’re unsure about taking it to the next level in the first place. It’s fine to have hesitation and refuse to commit, due to fear of betraying your heart…but at the same time, there comes a point when you have to go past your fears and identify the real reasons why you’re afraid – then decide to go all the way or not. Nothing’s worse for a man than to exist in between two places of commitment at once (commit to your relationship to her, or commit to your own interests).

Also, even if this guy tries to stay as friends with her, do you really think it’s fair to her? And do you really think she’ll be okay with staying with a guy who thinks she’s great, but not good enough to consider marriage? I’m not exactly a woman, but logic would lead me to an emphatic “NO”.

Remember: “Fear is temporary – but regret is forever.”

4 Sue May 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Drew, you say this guy wants to be a gentleman, but a gentleman doesn’t have a two year relationship with a woman he knows isn’t marriage material. I knew within a few months of all my relationship whether we had a future or not. I knew my husband was “the one” within a few months too.

I do think men and women can be friends though-yes there is some sexual tension almost always but what’s wrong with that?

5 verysexymen May 13, 2009 at 8:27 pm

I wish he had defined “marriage material”. I know a couple.the guy loves the girl married her and regretted it because she wasn’t “marriage material”,met another and lived with her for 10 years and claimed she was “marriage material” but he loved his ex and wouldn’t marry the live in lover. Sometimes guys need to take the time to figure out what they really want.

6 Jeff May 13, 2009 at 8:41 pm

“Really? I thought the idea that a man and woman couldn’t be just friends disappeared in the US around the 1930’s and is now limited to a handful of countries like Afghanistan where women can’t even show their face to men outside their family.”

It seems to me the question of whether or not men and women can really be friends was debated as recently as “When Harry Met Sally.” Of course that was some years ago now, but I think it’s still up for debate. Or at least it’s a question that shouldn’t be dismissed with hyperbole.

7 Aaron May 13, 2009 at 8:43 pm

[quote]Really? I thought the idea that a man and woman couldn’t be just friends disappeared in the US around the 1930’s and is now limited to a handful of countries like Afghanistan where women can’t even show their face to men outside their family.[/quote]
Not necessarily, some comment on this subject can be found here:
http://www.laddertheory.com

8 Joe M May 13, 2009 at 8:48 pm

Wayne, I think your spot on, maybe because I’m a bit older 43, father of 4 and been married for 18 yrs, he needs to let her go. If you have strong, mature male friendships you wont be turning to her as you’re best friend. I have women that I think are great friends that I have known since high school but will never be my “best friends”. Just cant happen, especially if your married or are trying to find a woman to marry.

9 Anthony May 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm

There’s a saying – “Love is not self-seeking”. And I guess, the real issue lies in selfishness. The asker does not want to commit because it does not suit him, yet he doesn’t want to lose the “companionship” of the girl. Where does the girl come into the picture then? Which goes back to a more important question – why did the relationship end up being a romantic one in the first place? If the guy wanted just the friendship of a girl, they would have been just friends to begin with.

But I guess, people fall in love because it’s convenient. But when “love” is no longer convenient (marriage and commitment), “I-just-want-to-be-friends” becomes the easiest excuse.

I guess, many people just don’t know how to love genuinely.

10 Skitch May 13, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I have a lot of “girlfriends” or girls that are my friends as well as my “Girlfriend” or romantically involved best friend/love of my life. I find there are things I can talk to a woman about that no man could ever understand coming from another man and visa-versa. It is possible and it is healthy to have good friends of both sexes. As for remaining “friends” with someone you were romantically involved with? For me personally, once you’ve headed down that path there will ALWAYS be SOMETHING still in the back of your mind that says “Maybe it could still work” or “What if I stayed with her” or “I might still love her. What if she still loves me?” That’s just asking for nothing but trouble in your new relationships. It may be best, out of respect for not only your new love (if there is one) but for your old one to actually move on when you’ve decided to move on. Just my two cents.

11 Lexi May 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Wayne,

I loved this article! I definitely agree with you on the “why be friends?” piece. On one hand, it is totally fine to be friendly, on the other hand– have tried both ways of being, the being friends after the break up and not being friends, not being friends, doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly if you see them. Remaining friendly (if they were good people, just not good matches and our social circles overlap), and not being friends is much cleaner, and is better for my next relationship. It gives me the space to grieve the relationship and be more open to the next one.

I think the questions you encourage the man to ask himself are great.

I’ve also found that my romantic relationships are better when my closer friends are women. This doesn’t mean don’t be friends with men, but it does mean I’m not as close with them as I am my women friends. It took a lot of work for me to get to that point and realize that it did work a lot better for me that way, for many of the reasons you suggestion men seek the companionship of men.

It isn’t just men who seem to have this need to never let go of any relationship they’ve ever had by desperately clinging to the friendships with X’s women do it to. I used to.

Thank you so much for writing this Wayne. And thank you dude who regularly writes this blog for posting it, sorry I don’t know your name, but I like your stuff!

XOX,

Lexi.

12 Jinky Williams May 14, 2009 at 12:32 am

Man, that’s a tough one. There’s a lot of heartfelt comments from commenters that have evident passion for the case they present, but there’s level-headedness, too; a rare combination, indeed. It’s been good to read the post and comments.

“But I have found that once men develop trusting relationships with other men, they realize they have no need for those friendships with women or old girlfriends.” I really have to agree on that part. Lexi has some great wisdom and insight regarding that section. I don’t really have anything to add to it, really, except to say that what she says really applies just as readily to the guy-side of things.
I really like her explanation about what it means by “not being friends”.

Good stuff, here.

13 Ali H. May 14, 2009 at 1:59 am

I don’t understand the reasoning behind AoM’s opinion that men and women can’t be friends. Is it “can’t” or “shouldn’t be”? I’ve both worked and socialised with men and it was never a problem. Yes, you may come across someone who’s perpetually on the prowl, male or female. Women do that sort of thing now you know. But that’s where a polite but firm rebuff comes in.

But I do agree with Wayne’s advice regarding the young man’s girlfriend (I assume its a young man). I know from both personal experience and those of my female friends, I don’t want to be “friends” with a man who’s dumped me. Or me him. And frankly, I’ve never been involved with a man who wanted to be friends post break up. If anything, you want to get as far away from each other as possible.

14 Jacoba May 14, 2009 at 2:27 am

Poppycock! My best friend is a man. We’ve been friends since varsity, kept in touch throughout our lives, spent hours on the phone debating this and that even though I lived in Italy and he did in South Africa, shared heartbreaks and joys and and our families are friends – our kids even like his kids! We’ve been friends for 30 years and there has never been any physical attraction.

Abouth the young man’s girlfriend (even though I’m a woman, I have two sons who have been through much the same situation):

1) It could be that you’re simply terrified of the comittment issue;
2) She could be the wrong person for whatever reason;
3) But take Wayne’s advice – if my husband would be so insane as want to dump me, I would wish only ill health and agony on him – certainly not be his friend. I have only remained friends with one boyfriend and that’s because he’s gay and is the only man in my life (apart from the sons who HAVE to) that’ll take me to ballet.

15 Luís Guilherme May 14, 2009 at 3:47 am

«If she gets me and she’s so great, why am I afraid to commit to her? If she’s not marriage material, why would I even remain friends? When will I get some men in my life so I stop relying exclusively on women for my emotional support?»

That’s why I adore AoM. This is the manly way to sort things out!!

16 Luís Guilherme May 14, 2009 at 4:01 am

If you want to know whether you are a hypocrite or not, ask yourself this question: “If she ever showed me the green light, would I try something?” If you answer yes (and I answer yes to many of my female friends), then you have to say to Wayne: “you’ve got a point”.

I’m not even a native English speaker, but: “Men, learn to read!” Wayne never said there is no possibility for a man-woman relationship. But if you are becoming too open to a girl, man, you’ve doing it wrong! Man up! You are trying to replenish your feelings without commitment, and this is not a manly thing to do. Men will not put their hands in your head and say: “Oh! poor you!”, they will help (and this might inflict some kind of pain) and that’s what he’s fleeing from.

Finally: if you esteem her company, she turns you on, lifts you up, why the hell she is not “marriage material”? And I understand the point: if she’s not marriage material, why would you be friends to her? If you don’t trust her to be your wife, why would you trust to be your friend? If she has wrong ideas about family and a long term relationship, why not try to convince her of the opposite?

17 Luís Guilherme May 14, 2009 at 4:06 am

I would give 10 “thumbs up” to Anthony if I had them. That was the best comment so far. Please forgive me for commenting three in a row.

18 TTTimo May 14, 2009 at 4:50 am

From what I’ve learnt, marriage is only the beginning of more things to come. I am not married, but I know there are many things that can be worked out through the course of a marriage. That could be certain attitudes, habits, or skills. I don’t see how any woman cannot be ‘marriage material’, unless they are always looking to run off with another guy, or for any other reason in particular.

But like Anthony said, do you truly love her? I would also like to add – “Love always perseveres”

19 Jack May 14, 2009 at 5:21 am

How would all you guys feel if the woman you marry as a dude for a “best friend.” I mean, come on, if your best friend is a member of the opposite sex, then once you get engaged or married your relationship with that friend will have to change considerably. Why would you bring something like that into a new marriage?

20 Edward Stedman May 14, 2009 at 6:10 am

I am going to side with those who support Wayne’s response to the man who posted the question. You just should not have a majority of friends, or even best friend of the opposite sex (unless that person is your significant other…my wife is undoubtedly my best friend).

However, there are two different dynamics at work here. One is, staying friends after a break-up. The other is just have friends of the opposite sex, when there was not an initial romantic relationship. I feel the first is out of the question. There is just too much baggage and people not truly being honest with themselves and/or the other person. However the second issue is more complicated, because there is a lot of gray area. I went to school with many of the same people from the time I was 4 until I graduated high school, plus I knew many of these people before we ever started school. Obviously I was friends with girls, and I do still have some girl friends (read below). But my closest circle of friends was other men…and it is still that way today.

I am not (and I don’t think Wayne is) saying that men and women cannot be friends. I have friends that are women (other than my wife), but let me tell you the dynamic of my relationship with them. Most of these women came into my life through my relationship with other men or my wife, except maybe one or two exceptions of friendships from childhood that have survived the test of time. I interact with these women on a very respectful and non-intimate manner, and always in the presence of other people we know. I have talked to many of them about advice and to get a better understand of my wife and women in general. After my wife, my best girl friend is my wife’s best friend, and her husband is one of my best friends. I get all the female time, advice, exposure, feedback, wisdom I need from these relationships.

I know there are times having great friends of the opposite sex seems so great. You can try to gain perspective into the opposite sex, and hope it gives you a leg up on, or understanding them better. Also, everyone has nuances about their own gender that they don’t care too much for. Most girls I have known say they love hanging out with other guys because there isn’t the “cattiness” they experience with other girls. And there are many more reasons people will lay out to try and justify and validate opposite sex friendships. I just don’t agree with or believe those reasons. I see them as excuses. To truly grow and understand yourself as a man or woman better, you have to spend your time with other men and women. There are definitely men and women better and higher quality, strength, and overall character, so it is important to choose your friends wisely.

I will end on this note, for the original question asked. NONE OF MY EX-GIRLFRIENDS ARE MY FRIENDS. And I have dated some amazingly wonderful women, and, for a time, their absence was painful. Not to say I am not friendly if I run into any of them, sure I am, but I am not following them on Facebook, having them over to my house for dinner, meeting up with them after work, writing letters or emails, calling them, or keeping up with their life in any other way shape or form. But honestly, who has really continued to miss someone they used to date, even if they were amazing friends with great chemistry, after they have met someone else? If you know you don’t want to marry her then let her go. If she is asking for a commitment you cannot offer her then you owe it to her to let her go immediately. It is going to hurt you both no matter what, but man up and don’t drag it out any longer.

21 Charlie May 14, 2009 at 6:18 am

Damn, Wayne, this was TIGHT, man!

22 Sam R May 14, 2009 at 6:20 am

I’m just gonna go out there and say it, I believe women and men can have completely platonic relationships.. One doesn’t have to ‘bro it out’ all the time like in paragraph 8.

Just putting in my 2 cents, I feel like the article was great but was missing the option and availability of platonic relationships.

23 lady brett May 14, 2009 at 6:28 am

“If she’s not marriage material, why would I even remain friends?”

because romantic relationships are inherently different that platonic relationships. sometimes things that work in one situation do not work in the other. one of my very best friends is my ex. we get along much better as friends, in fact. the only part of the whole thing that i wold possibly admit being a bad idea was dating for so long before we figured that out!

and, honestly, if being friends with an ex is ruining your current/future relationships, then someone involved is being extremely immature. either you (and the ex) by not drawing very solid lines between friend and lover, or who you’re currently dating for not being able to comprehend such a thing as friendship, and only friendship.

i loved it when the guy i was dating (back in college) was friends with his exes, i think it shows maturity and geniality.

i know that, as a woman, my opinion has already been dismissed in the article, but it kind of hit home, so i though i’d share. and i don’t disagree about men also having men-friends, or that in some cases (like, depending on how the girl involved feels) being friends after is a very bad idea or simply won’t work.

24 Luke May 14, 2009 at 7:16 am

I think the article is right on. I also think Edward Stedman’s comment is very good.

So you want to remain “best friends” with a girl but not be in a romantic relationship? Then consider this: When you marry some one else and your “best friend” girl marries some other guy, is this level of “best friends” relationship appropriate? When you are looking for a girl who “gets you”, shouldn’t you be turning to your wife and not to this “best friend” girl? When your “best friend” girl needs to turn to a guy for some companionship and understanding, shouldn’t she be turning to her husband? If you and your “best friend” girl turn to each other for companionship, won’t your respective spouses feel left out or jealous?

If the “best friends” relationship with this girl is inappropriate in a situation where each of you are married, then the “best friends” relationship (without any intention of marrying her) is inappropriate before you get married. Move on in your lives away from each other, and give each other space to start meaningful relationships with other people who are potential spouses!

[This is not to say that a married girl/guy can't be friends with the opposite sex. I'm married, and I'm still friends with girls who I've met both before and after my marriage. But the nature of my friendship with these girls is not one of "best friends". It is a friendship that keeps its distance from these girls, as I don't talk to them all the time and share all of my thoughts/feelings/etc. with them -- I do that with my wife instead. Also, my friendships with these other girls has a different flavor than when I was single, because my wife has a role in the friendship: for example, my wife is a friend of the girl too, or the girl has a significant other too and we hang out together as a couple.]

So I repeat: If the “best friends” relationship with this girl is inappropriate in a situation where each of you are married, then the “best friends” relationship is inappropriate BEFORE each of you get married.

25 Frank May 14, 2009 at 7:36 am

I haven’t read through all of the comments, but I’ve read a lot of them, and I think some of you guys are missing a salient point: there is [casual, platonic] friendship between men & women, and there is ‘friendship’ between men & women who were once romantically involved…

I think maybe Wayne is cautioning against this inclination for men to want to “have their cake and eat it too” (whatever that expression means!).

It’s one thing if two people who are/were romantically involved mutually decide the relationship isn’t going anywhere and then decide to be friends. It’s quite another when one half (in this case, the woman) wants to take the relationship to the next level, the man doesn’t, but he still wants to be her “friend.”

Go through some serious, honest introspection about why you don’t want to be with this girl for the long haul, and if you’re still incapable of committing and you’re still convinced she’s not “the one” (for the ‘right’ reasons, not the ‘wrong’ reasons), then stop being selfish, let her go (kindly), and move on. And let her move on too — with dignity and without confusion. (I think women often interpret a man’s desire to remain “friends” after they’ve said they can’t commit to her as a sign of hope that things might one day work out between them.)

If you somehow find each other several years down the road and platonic, casual friendship actually seems possible –for both parties– then fine. But be prepared to let her go completely and to never enjoy the pleasure of her company or her friendship again. Because you probably don’t really deserve it even if you think you might.

26 Prazas May 14, 2009 at 7:58 am

I would like to add my $0.02 since I have been on the receiving end of that relationship. I dated my ex for two years, and we were each other’s best friends for another two. We decided to stay friends after the initial romantic relationship ended because we had so much in common, and we thought we both had good understanding of where we stood. We thought we knew we were not a good match for “happily ever after” but that we could really help each other out because we complemented each other in other ways.

What we were not prepared for was the deep down emotions we still had for each other. Eventually, he started to date others and I found myself overtaken by jealousy. The same thing happened to him when I dated others…and our friendship found itself on the edge of the cliff on numerous occasions. The right thing to do was to end it, which we did. I only wish we had ended it long before to save myself the headache and heartache of going through the turmoil over and over again.

My conclusion with this experience is this: men and women can be friends. Some of my closest friends are men. But men and women cannot be friends immediately after a relationship has ended because the friendship/relationship is just too chaotic at that point. That is not to say they cannot rekindle the friendship some time down the road, but it’s just too much too soon (and emotionally too raw) to do that right after the end of the romantic relationship.

27 Hayden Tompkins May 14, 2009 at 8:03 am

“there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women”

There are many men who do not find me attractive. (I know! Crazy, right?) I am short. I am assertive. Red beans and rice didn’t miss me.

And, amazingly, there are tons of guys that I don’t happen to find attractive AT ALL. For example, I prefer geeks. Are you good looking but not mathematically or scientifically inclined? No worries, I probably wasn’t your style anyway.

Not only that, but personality is a huge (for me anyway) part of attraction. I fell in love with my first boyfriend before I even saw him because of a conversation he was having behind me. You had me at “negate”.

So while I agree that men should immerse themselves in masculinity, and that men should have men friends, I do not agree with the whole ‘sexual tension’ idea.

28 Hayden Tompkins May 14, 2009 at 8:09 am

P.S. In this particular instance, however, remaining friends is just asking for trouble. Not recommended.

29 stac May 14, 2009 at 9:23 am

I agree that these two people cannot remain friends and that the desire to break her heart once then sticking around as ‘friends’ to mildly hurt her daily is selfish.

What I don’t understand is she’s ‘not marriage material.’ What the hell does that mean?

30 Hannah May 14, 2009 at 9:49 am

I am a chick, and I 100% agree with everything you said. I tell my friends all the time there is no point at all in being friends with an ex. They are an ex for a reason, and the reason is, you have tested them for a life partner and they weren’t it, so what else could you possibly need to know from them? I will probably take a lot of slack for saying that, but on a personal note to all of you… not speaking to any of my ex’s has made everything 10x better, easier and less dramatic.

And to everyone who says men and women can be just friends, you’re right… as long as you’ve never slept together.

31 Tom from Vancouver, BC May 14, 2009 at 11:26 am

To all you women who think men and women can be best friends, I want you to try a little experiment. I want you to hit on your friend. Do what ever it is you do when you meet a guy you want to be intimate with. I guarantee you he won’t say no.

32 Hallock May 14, 2009 at 12:33 pm

This is the first article I’ve seen here I very strongly disagree with.

I do not believe you can be as good of friends with someone you’ve had an intimate relationship with, but I do not think that seeking and amicable existence with said significant other is such an affront.

I firmly believe that men and women can have lasting platonic relationships that do not involve sexual ambiguity. Suggesting that all men are susceptible to the whims of their loins is a step backward from a less-archaic definition of masculinity.

There are times when relationships sour, when the most prudent course of action is to purge that other person for a period of time and allow indemnities to process. Yet, there are relationships which lasting feeling may simply wain without transgression.

To step back from the animosity that commonly comes in these situations and value a person, recognizing the profound impact they’ve had on your life—even if only to retain them as the occasional phone call for coffee—is a very noble thing by me.

33 indy May 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

i believe there is a sexual component in relationships between men and women.

there is a reason that it’s often problematic to have a very close friendship with someone of the opposite sex while having a significant other – the sexual component grows with closeness.

in a normal, not-too-close friendship, the sexual component is most often lesser, even negligible at times, and even more so in workplace relationships. that doesn’t mean it isn’t there – maybe there’s no such thing as platonic friendships between men and women, just a sexual component that’s negligible…

sex have also moved more and more out of the private sphere and into the public, along with the subjectification of morals and ethics, often according to what feels good. (and sex and flirting feels good…) and so young men and women today might well have even a big sexual component in friendships without recognizing it as anything special, since it’s so normal.

the divorce rate might also be an indication of this. there’s other causes for the increase in the divorce rate than increased social and economic freedom for women. there’s much more of sexual signals in public, revealing our bodies much more in public, flirting much more – without recognizing the effect it has on a supposedly exclusive, serious relationship. what we see as normal, and don’t even notice, before marriage (or equivalent) can proove hard to handle afterwards.

34 Mike May 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm

“Maybe sex has become predictable…”

Okay, this issue really gets under my skin. Why in the world are people who are dating / romantically involved obsessed with sex??? Furthermore, whatever happened to being, in my opinion, a true gentleman, and NEVER considering getting inside the lady’s nickers until after marriage?

Yes, I know I sound like I’m a hundred years old and completely out of touch with reality, but my idea of a true gentleman would never have asked their girlfriends / fiances to compromise their morals by “giving in” before marriage.

Trust me, guys, I’ve been married for over 18 years, and the spice does and will wear off, and things do get predictable. Big deal!! What do you think your sex life is going to be like when your celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary? Guys (and ladies reading this), we’re ALL going to get old, and our libido WILL die down. What’s going to keep us married to the beautiful ladies we married will NOT be how good she is in the sack at 70 years old, but the deeper meaning of love – the “in sickness and in health, for better or worse” part that no one wants to be responsible for. It’s the hard, difficult times that build up a relationship, and not bailing out at the first sign of difficulty or when “sex has become predictable.”

In short, man up and preserve, protect and defend our the honor of our ladies, and not ask / expect / demand them to put out before the wedding. You’ll have the rest of your life to explore and cultivate that aspect of your relationship.

35 NIck May 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm

I agree with Wayne. You can have lots of friends but close friends should be men. And for all you girls disagreeing, ask yourself if your husband was very close with a girl, but they are “just friends”, would it bother you? I bet it would. Close relationships with the opposite sex are best kept between you and your partner.

As for still being friends after a break-up. Doesn’t work. After awhile you may meet up again and be friendly but it cannot be planned. You need to break clean from ex-relationships or they will drag on and mess up your chances of forming a new one.

36 James May 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Staying friends with an ex with whom you still have even slight feelings for is selfish. Straight up. It makes you feel better and keeps you from having to do the hard task of going your separate ways. But it’s unfair to your future partners who have to deal with you hanging with your ex. Yeah they can try not to be jealous when that happens, but they will.

I know a guy who has stayed friends with his high school sweetheart. Even though they’re both now married to different people, they still have feelings for each other. The guy actually made his ex his “best man” at their wedding. If that isn’t unmanly and totally selfish (how do you think his bride felt??) I don’t know what is.

37 Brian May 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Overall, as a professional counselor also with a Master’s Degree I am somewhat ambivalent about this article. I think Wayne makes some very good points.

Like Wayne, I think the biggest question for the writer is what would he have to give up if he committed to this women. All behavior has a pay off be it material or psychological and his desire to not commit is the same. He needs to figure out what the pay off is, if he can still get it if he commits, and if not is this pay off worth giving up the relationship.

Second I think Wayne makes a good point about making a clean break. Dragging things out is often hurtful in the long run to both parties and creates a lot of confusion about what everyone’s role should be. Maybe he can be casual friends with her after sufficient time has past (several months or longer) but I don’t think it is realistic to remain “best friends.”

Third I think Wayne’s point about seeking support from other men is very important. Men have a different perspective from women and can meet other mens needs for camaraderie in a way that is different from women. I would certainly recommend that the writer seek out advice from male friends that now him well, but be wary that they may be invested in the relationship either continuing or ending, so be aware.

These positives being said I must respectfully disagree with some elements of Wayne’s post. While, I agree that there is and will always be some sexual elements to friendships with members of the opposite sex simply because of the way our brain is wired I do not think that it is as dire as Wayne makes it seem. I believe that these sexual feelings can be largely unconscious and that a well adjusted man who has a firm set of boundaries can have friendships with women without being feminized or constantly trying to get in to their pants. I think that a well balanced man should be able to have friends of both genders and should monitor all of his friendships to ensure that they don’t become overly dependant on one another.

Overall I think we were all hampered by lack of information. We don’t know this man or his girlfriend, we don’t know what he means by “marriage material” or “best friend” and we don’t know what other issues may be lurking in the shadows. I hope that the writer will find someone who does now the answer to these questions (either a friend or a professional counselor/therapist) to help air this out so that he can do what is best for both himself and his girlfriend.

38 Brian May 14, 2009 at 4:28 pm

oooops

typo
“Maybe he can be casual friends with her after sufficient time has past (several months or longer) but I don’t think it is realistic to remain “best friends.””

Should say unrealistic not realistic.

my bad.

39 MJ May 14, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Maybe he could try telling her he’s enjoyed having her has a girlfriend for the last two years but as he doesn’t consider her ‘marriage material’, he thinks it’s best they break up so he can find a girlfriend who does meet his standards.

Then let’s see if she offers to stay friends.

40 Lesley May 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm

OK, I found this website while looking for information on guys/girls staying friends post romantic involvement. I’m actually going through this right now. He’s back with his ex, but we are trying to stay friends and have been emailing. I thought it would be possible, but am having a very hard time with it. We have a lot of common friends which makes a clean break difficult. Still, I am beginning to realize that despite still caring about each other…friendship isn’t possible right now and breaking off contact completely is the healthiest thing to do.

Great article and reader feedback. It’s helped me make the right decision even though I wish it weren’t so.

41 mythago May 21, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Tom from Vancouver – sorry to disappoint you, but (in my younger single days) I did hit on male friends who said “no” to me. One of them is still a very close friend today. It’s simply not true that men will jump anything girl-shaped if it’s offered.

Sometimes there just isn’t any sexual chemistry. Sometimes there’s only a little spark, and it’s nothing that will ever happen. Sometimes you are attracted to the other person, but you’re a grownup and you set it aside.

I agree with Wayne’s advice to *this* man, but I cringe at his comments about ‘feminized’ men and how men and women really can’t ever be friends. That runs dangerously close to the idea that women pretty much only have one purpose.

42 Peaches May 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm

We should always be friendly with our ex’s if that’s possible…it’s not always. But being friends, people who share intimate thoughts and feelings, who pursue experiences with each other as a basis for continuing relationship is neither practical or wise.
Life has choices, grow a set and make them.

43 Phililp June 12, 2009 at 2:49 pm

So Wayne is basically saying that women have only one value to men and that is a sexual/romantic relationship? I agree this guy needs to piss or get off the pot about this girl but to say that women are only good for sex/relationships and that they should otherwise be avoided is silly.

44 matt July 8, 2009 at 3:45 am

“Whether you’d admit to it without water boarding, there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women.”

Not true. I do act differently around women differently than men, obviously I don’t go letting ‘em rip when a lady is around, but there are women, believe it or not, who I have no interest in fucking. This is either because they are not physically attractive to me, or they have boyfriends who are friends of mine. This is such an older generation thing to say, reminds my dad is absolutely convinced i want to hook up with my female housemates. Get over it, its 2009.

otoh, i’ve found you can be friendly with your ex, but not friends in any real sense of the word. But that has more to do with your shared past than sexual politics.

45 apple July 9, 2009 at 3:13 am

if some man he has a girlfriend ,but also he has a girl friend too. they talk to each other at msn everyday. see each other twice a week. (ski, bar,spa.gym,coffee shop ect.) but there is no physical relationship. how do you think of the friendship? is it in the freinds zone or a little bit too much?

46 The young fogey August 24, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Great site and post! I’m on the moderately anti-platonic side favouring the original post. I also like the points about being friendly but not friends and non-ex-girlfriends as friends with both you and the wife.

47 Edward November 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm

This guy says that she’s trying to push this to the next level. LISTEN TO WHAT SHES SAYING! Dude, she don’t want you for a friend. In fact, she wants MORE than what you have together. Guys. This is our problem. We don’t know how and what to listen for. I’m willing to guarentee that if this guy says to her he wants to be friends that she will flat out say “NO” why? Because she already told him he wants even more! The best thing to do in this situation is to be honest, let go and move on. Yes, it’s gonna hurt a little, but only for a little while.

48 Lee November 25, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Everyone’s input has helped me immensely. I just ended a relationship with a guy who wanted to get married after only 2 months of dating. The problem was he wouldn’t let go of a girl friend whom he had been romantically involved with 3yrs earlier. Then ended thier relationship and have been good “friends” since. When I asked him about his true feelings towards her, he admitted to still caring deeply for her but felt no romantic attraction to her. Since I couldn’t accept that relationship, he said I was “insecure”, didn’t trust him and broke up with me. Slammed the door and that was it! I can’t tell you just how rejected I feel, but in the long run know I’ll get over it and move on.

49 June January 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Great article! The fact that the questioner has been dating someone for 2 years (!) yet he believes she is not ‘marriage material’ is the tip-off that the guy veers toward weasel-y in his relations with women. Basically, he can’t tell her what he needs to make her ‘marriageable’ (fear of confrontation?) and he doesn’t want to give up the sex and/or return to the awfulness of dating (selfish, lazy?). Someone like him just isn’t honest enough or clear enough in his dealings with others to be able to manage a friendship relation with an ex. Some people can but not this guy – and men who are married or engaged should be working to make their wife their best friend.
I’m in total agreement with Wayne – learning to trust other men will give you the emotional support that the questioner is basically siphoning from his girlfriend (maybe with her hopeful, self-deceiving consent).

Generally, if personal relations are looking messy it’s because someone (or both!) is being dishonest or cowardly. Hey, that’s only human but you can’t let it fester; it will steal your life away and lingering in a mess will erode your character faster than you can imagine.

50 RJ January 20, 2010 at 2:23 am

I disagree with all of you completely. One has a complete right in life to do whats best for him and to pursue self interest. Please don’t ride on your high horse with your idiotic concepts of right and wrong while America and much of the western world sinks further into the cesspit of its own making.
The only sin is not being true to ones own self. And don’t think all women are noble or pure. They are neither. There is nothing wrong in using someone, wife, fiance, girlfriend, ex or otherwise. believe you me they would do the exact same but in a more subtle way. The only difference between them and this man is that at least he is honest and open about his feelings
Not every relationship is about finding a life partner and going on in life finding one partner after another. Think about it. Maybe if God wanted you to be with someone for life you might have been a Siamese twin.
Nothing is at last sacred but integrity of your mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

51 ThatGuy January 20, 2010 at 4:09 am

I didn’t see anywhere in there that AoM said men and women couldn’t be “just friends.” They said, “if she isn’t wife material, she probably isn’t friend material.” The exact same things that make a person a good friend make them a good spouse, as well…with the obvious exception of physical affection. Perhaps more of you should have actually read the answer before replying.

52 ThatGuy January 20, 2010 at 4:17 am

He said it’s difficult, and in his opinion, unnecessary. That much, I can agree with. self-deception aside, I don’t care whose wife or girlfriend it is, if you find her attractive, there is at least a part of you that wants to “fuck,” her. Does that mean you should only have “ugly,” female friends? In that case, there is still an obvious sexual component to the friendship. I’m not saying you can’t resist temptation…but the temptation is still there.

Either way…my response to the original questioner is this:

If she isn’t wife material, you need to sit down with her, in the next five minutes or so, and tell her that your relationship is going nowhere. Stop lying to the girl. Odds are, you’re never going to maintain a real and meaningful friendship after the breakup. (Notice, I said “odds are,” which means it usually won’t happen. I’m not speaking in absolutes, so don’t jump down my throat with every single “my ex is still my friend!” story.

53 Rowan March 10, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Whether pursuing your own self-interest or out of consideration for her feelings, if she isn’t the “one”, you need to be honest with her and make a clean break.
As said before, you may have the possibility of friendship later after you have both had sufficient time to heal from the break. However, your actions convey a clear absence of respect for this woman (although you claim you are best friends) otherwise you would have been honest with her when she first stated that she wanted something more. That you cannon change.
You can begin acting like a true gentleman by being radically honest with her and allowing her to move on and find the commitment she is looking for with someone for whom she is more suitable marriage material.
You don’t deserve this woman (re: your lack of “manliness” as defined on this site) and you know it. That is the root of the problem.

54 Big Jay May 23, 2010 at 12:04 am

There’s a HUGE difference between saying “Men and women cannot be friends” and “Men and women who have dated shouldn’t be friends.” Personally, I drew the latter conclusion from the original article.

Don’t BS yourself. Once you cross that threshold of being in a serious, committed relationship, “friendship” has gone. You will not be “just friends.” (Note that I am not saying that you can never become friends, just that at this point it’s a bad idea.)

Think about it like this: Would you feel comfortable telling her that you met someone new? How are you going to feel when she tells you that? Are you going to tell her when you start dating again? Do you expect her to share that with you? What if she decides that she just wants to hook up with a guy?

Speaking from experience here. If you don’t want to take it to the next step, be a man and make a clean break. In the long run it will be better for both of you.

55 CS June 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm

I was with a man for three months…it was never stated we were in a relationship but we spent every evening together…not just sexually…but hanging out also. I moved away, but before that i expressed to him how strongly i felt…he told me he couldn’t be in a relationship but we remained in contact…in contact i mean emails back and forth at 3-4 times a week up to every day…some days multiple emails…hours on skype…a few phone calls at it was long distance…i was holding out for him to finally want something with me…but it never came…so i would get down and say “look, i can’t be friends with you”…and he would beg me not to fall out with him…that he was sorry that he hurt me but he didn’t want to lose me as a friend…i would go on to explain how much i cared and he would never commit but he would tell me something that would placate me enough to stay friends…well…it’s been a year since i spent my first night with him…9 long months of kidding myself into friends…in the end…he has been a great friend…we talk about everything…we share our lives from afar…we know each other inside and out…but he doesn’t love me…and i finally took a stand and said i can’t do it anymore…i “broke up” with my friend…and he couldn’t understand why i couldn’t be friends with him when we were such good friends…and this was why…i loved him…and it killed me to just not be good enough

56 Shawn June 10, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I’d like to thank Mr. Walt Disney for giving people unrealistic expectations of relationships. I think the ‘feminized men’ would be the ones who aren’t mature enough to stay friends with an ex, because it’s not ‘fair’ to the woman. What a bunch of sexist psycho-babble. I agree with some of the other posters in their assessment that it’s out-dated to think that two mature people can’t stay friends after a break-up, as if all women were so emotionally frail and immature that they can’t handle it. When two people ‘break up’, it’s simply a change in the status of the relationship.

Think about it in the opposite direction. You don’t just jump into being super-involved with the opposite sex. You may talk first, build trust, go on a few dates, then move forward into seeing each other more and your relationship status would go from ‘talking’, to ‘seeing someone’, to ‘dating’, to dating ‘exclusively’, and so on. These are all mutually agreed upon changes in the status of the relationship. If it were not mutual, it wouldn’t move forward. It’s the same in this case. He wants the relationship status to reverse. If she doesn’t want that, then it’s not mutually agreed upon, and it won’t happen. He has to accept the end of the relationship. If his future ex is able to, and wants to, remain friends, then they can.

If you spend a long time with someone, you build a bond of friendship, as well as those romantic feelings. You may not have the romantic feelings anymore, but you may not want to just cut off a friendship of two years. It would be sad to lose both. It may have to happen, and I’m sure this guy knows that, but there’s nothing wrong with asking. She may have seen the end coming, anyway.

Marriage is not the end-all, be-all of what a relationship is all about. It’s about two people with commonalities and attraction coming together for as long as it lasts and enjoying each others company, enjoying each others bodies, and enjoying being alive and human. It is sharing in a closer bond than any friend of the same sex could ever replace. There’s no shame in it. If it wanes, so be it, but the bond of friendship, which is simply enjoying the company of another particularly compatible human being, male or female, doesn’t have to wane. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. Besides, If it’s mutual, who says you can’t enjoy all those things together if you’re not married?

Just because it’s not common or you, personally, have never been in that situation, doesn’t mean people don’t do it.

***To the questioner*** : I’ve been through this same situation. Part of being a man is knowing what you want and what you don’t want, and making a decision based on these things. Don’t drag it out. THAT wouldn’t be fair to her. Get it over with. Be a man, but a gentleman. Explain it in an caring, yet honest way, that this relationship isn’t what you’re looking for right now, but that you are too good of friends to just never talk again and would like to continue that down the road if she’s willing. Hold her. Let her cry. Cry with her. It will be hard for both of you. Agree upon a time length to not call or see each other, say, a month. Check in after that time period to see how she is, because you are still friends and you do care about her, after all. She’ll let you know if she’s ready to be friends or if she never will be. Accept your own decision to break off the romance and accept her decision if she wants to break off the friendship. I’m on good terms with all my exes and am very good friends with one of them. It can be done. Follow what you know is best for you. Being a gentleman has nothing to do with being gentle, but everything to do with being a strong, decisive man.

57 Steve Feder July 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

Hmmm. Not being friends with an ex is one thing; history, baggage, and so on.

But not being able to be friends with a woman because it’s necesaruily sexual on some level of a mommy thing…Wayne, I thing you missed the boat on this one. One of my best friends is a female attorney for whom I have great respect, and we talk often, both on a professional (same profession as me) and personal level.. Her husband is a great guy, but my friendship is with her, not him. Nothing sexual or mommy-related about it.

And lest you think that only a very young man free of society’s prior customs might writing this…I’m 53. She’s 43.

58 Rachel July 21, 2010 at 7:31 am

Guys,
I don’t see anywhere in this article where Wayne stated that ALL friendships between men and women are sexual and/or mommy-related. What he states is: “Whether you’d admit to it without water boarding, there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women.”
Read: MOST and SEXUAL COMPONENT
The way I interpret it, this doesn’t mean you must either lust after every female friend you have, or feel some emotional dependance. It means that if you two bond well enough, there would be a possibility for such a relationship as a sexual one or a deeply emotionally-supportive one in a world where such circumstances were different (i.e. different relationship statuses/obligations/ages/cultures/relations/occupations).
Personally, I agree that the dynamics in a friendship between different genders is unique. I do treat my guy friends differently than my girl friends, and I fully expect my guy friends to treat me as a lady friend, which means differently than their guy friends or their girlfriends. This can involve a mild level of innocent flirting (that’s not intended to become anything more) and/or expression of physical beauty after adequate trust is built, (such as compliments or appropriate sexual comments and conversations) although I never flirt with any of my girl friends like this. This is how a sexual component is involved in most of these friendships once they become close friendships. I don’t think Wayne meant anything along the lines of having fantasies or putting yourself in compromizing situations, nothing so extreeme as that.
I also believe that Wayne also means to indicate that this sexual component is not the case 100% of the time.

59 Hess August 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Late to the party, but…

I agree with the commenters who argue that female friends are just as good for a man as male friends – and regarding your sexual tension argument, what about us bisexuals?

That said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to be friends right after a break-up. Take some time apart, process it, then when both people are emotionally done working through it, see if being friends is still something both want.

60 Marie September 26, 2012 at 2:36 am

THIS is the issue I had with my ex (with his ex-girlfriend). He could not move forward with me, in part, because he did not want to hurt or lose her. He was firm that he did not want to marry or date her, but it made me feel “less than” when he could not break out of the emotional attachment he created with her. (Where was the room for new love?) He said it was easier to talk to women than men about feelings. IMHO, your advice to bond with other men is right on.

61 Kimberly December 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

I have had a four relationship with a man who has decided that we should “move on” and he still wants to be friends. I don’t want to be “friends” I want to be left alone. I don’t want to hear about his new relationships while I am all torn up over a love that I thought was going to be permanent. I think it is completely sick and selfish that my ex still wants to call me as though every thing is okay and I should be so happy for his newfound love. Whatever!

62 Fera Paige December 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I think it’s interesting that most of these comments seem to come from a place where marriage is the most important thing in life, and where “love” can only exist between blood family or marriage material.

There is a new era of relationships happening in the western world and it is expanding out of the typical Nuclear Family definitions. People are deciding not to have children in favor of fulfilling careers, which brings into question the need for a life-long partner. People are putting more value on rich life experiences. People are having homosexual relationships, both as a nuclear family and within the drive to have fulfilling careers. This doesn’t mean they don’t desire to still have the energy of opposite genders in their lives. Friendships are more appropriately based from a place of love and companionship than sexual “in-love” attraction.

Marriage seems to be more like a partnership, where people decide to throw in together and build something, a family unit, a business, a solid foundation. There are other ways to have those things, too, like domestic partnerships.
Sometimes people are compatible in many things in life, such as differing value systems placed on love of cooking, traveling, making music, making art, having new experiences, having spiritual journeys or life-enriching adventures and work. They can develop a deep bond that may not include sexual compatibility, sharing a living situation, ultimate life-path direction, encouragement to live daily the way of our desires. This does not make that deep bond any less important, just different. Every person in our lives fulfills different aspects of our social needs, and no one person can possibly fill all of them.

For those of you who are cutting out the enrichment of friendships and bonds with those in past relationships or opposite genders, you’re missing out on a lot of beauty and love and lessons in this world. I understand that sometimes intimate relationships end badly, with emotions and insecurities spiraling and triggered by such ends. That may be difficult to befriend, and sometimes it’s good to let those remain lessons and catalysts.

But who here even stopped putting their own faces on the situation and asked this young man what his Ladyfriend might like as they transition from one kind of relationships to another, hopefully one better suited to their needs, desires and expectations of each other? It’s all about redefining boundaries as we change and our life-desires change. If there is love there, they can work through the insecurities and personal challenges to still celebrate that love in the ways that feels right for both of them. If there is only pain, hindrance and clouded messages, celebrating what once was might be better done quietly, with respect, by giving it the space it needs to breathe.

Having a good relationship is about being true to both self and the other’s boundaries and remembering to come into it from a place of love, care and compassion for all involved.

63 Alexander February 1, 2013 at 1:38 am

What you want is no longer her problem if you break up with her , if she still wants to be friends great.

64 Tonya February 2, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I’m going to go with Wayne on this one.

By all accounts, one would describe me as a feminist who adores men. I have worked in male dominated fields and have had relationships and friendships with a number of amazing men. So I “get” that men and women should be able to be friends without all of that other romantic stuff getting in the way, but here’s my experience:

Almost every single one of my “he’s my best buddy, no sex involved relationships” have been great, but the tone and tenor of every one of those relationships has shifted dramatically whenever my “best guy buddy” got seriously romantically involved with another woman. No more “Hey, I’m just calling to check in and see how you’re doing” phone calls, or “I’m stranded, can you come and get me,” or I’m not doing anything on Friday, want to go to the game?”

So, after years of being friends and hanging out, what I’ve been left with is “Sarah and I are going to the game, maybe we’ll see you there?”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I think it’s entirely appropriate that a man in a committed relationship set boundaries regarding his interactions with other women, but this is not a shift he need make with his male buddies. I think there are very few women, myself included, who would have the intestinal fortitude to sit home while their boyfriend or husband went out with his “girl buddy” to the game. To add in the complication of being in a friend relationship with someone you previously dated would make the scenario even more fraught with difficulty, I would think.

In considering Wayne’s comments, I think it’s natural to want to stay in touch with someone with whom you’ve developed a history and with whom you get along well, but I think it’s important that any relationship that is created should be one that can be sustained over the long-term.

I’ve remained on friendly terms with several former boyfriends. We publicly post to one another’s FB pages and we’ve double-dated with our “new” partners, and on occasion, I’ve called on one or the other for advice on professional matters, but our friendships have never strayed much beyond that. And when he – best buddy with whom I may or may not have once had a sexual relationship – needs a shoulder to lean on because things aren’t going well with the new girlfriend, I am not available because I don’t want to be “that woman”: who knows too much and is resented and eyed with suspicion by his girlfriend when they inevitably make up.

Too often, male-female friendships tend to serve an intermediary role for both parties “until” they meet that special person. Taking Wayne’s comments into account, from my perspective, rather than putting time and energy into an intermediary relationship, it makes more sense to develop relationships that will persevere and that will complement your life, regardless of the stage that you are passing through – single, dating, married, divorced, widowed.

For my part, I still have male friends, but they don’t hold the same place in my life as my female friends, and whenever I’ve been in the position of downshifting from a relationship with someone to a friendship, I try to establish a sustainable framework from the outset that will allow that friendship to exist and flourish, no matter who else may come into my life, so that “new relationship shift” never need take place.

Just my two cents.

65 Denise March 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Tonya makes a good point about investing in relationships that will be sustainable throughout all of life’s seasons, not merely the current one.

I thought Wayne’s questions were to the point. The issue isn’t whether men and women can be friends, the issue for the letter writer is why he values this woman enough to call her his “best friend,” (and is also apparently attracted to her given their romantic relationship), and yet considers her not to be “marriage material.” “Best friend,” someone who truly “gets me” is pretty high praise when it comes to describing people. Some would say you can’t get much higher than that intimacy-wise, as lots of people are married to people they don’t consider their best friend. So, as Wayne said, there’s something that this man is not identifying about the relationship or is unwilling to address with the woman; he could also have some type of ideal in mind that he’s measuring her against.

I think the basic orientation of the letter is rather self-focused. The woman in question only comes into play in terms of what the letter writer wants from her or in terms of how he feels about her. There didn’t seem to be much consideration given to what’s in her best interest or what she might think about friendship post-breakup. He wants to know how he can go about breaking things off while retaining her as his best friend, but he doesn’t seem inclined to simply talk to her about his thoughts or to learn from her whether friendship is something *she* would even be interested in. He should think less on how to keep her as his best friend and think about what it would look like for him to be a friend to her. That would undoubtedly include straightforward honesty as well as respecting her boundaries and possible desire for distance.

66 Adam March 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I know this is a super old thread, but I thought I’d leave a comment. To everybody who says friendships between men and women have issues in general. That’s bull. Growing up, most of my friends have been female. I’m in a serious relationship right now with a great girl. She is pretty, fully accepting of my personality, intelligent. In a phrase she is my best friend, or at least one of my best friends. I talked to her from the moment we started dating and told her that many of my friends were girls (one of which I had a huge crush on several years ago…and the gf knows this), and I don’t intend on changing my relationship with any of my current friends based on the jealousy of a girlfriend. She has been cool with that. I have my female friends over when she’s not there (or when she is there), or do a random recreational activity with them every now and then. I always tell her what I do. No problems, no distrust, no jealousy.

If there is trust, sincerity, and maturity in a relationship, having opposite-sex friends should NOT be an issue. I completely disagree with anybody who says anything bad about men and women being friends.

Anyways, given all that, I am in a similar situation as the guy who sent in the question. I have been with my gf for a bit over two years, and for a while I was hoping this would bloom into a potential marriage situation, but about half a year ago I realized that I am not satisfied enough in this relationship to want to commit to it for life. The problem is, my feelings for her haven’t changed. I still care for her immensely, but I just do not want to spend my life with her.

Problem 2: I’m fairly certain she does want to marry me. This is why I know I need to end things with her. Because it is not fair for her to think this will end in marriage when i’m fairly certain it won’t.

Problem 3: She has been unemployed the entirety of our relationship. When I initially realized I didn’t want to marry her, she had just finished her schooling and was in her job search, constantly insecure about her own abilities and interviews. I really do feel like she would go downhill fast if I broke up with her. And that is based on my knowing her, not because she is a woman. She finally got a job in December, but it was with a 3 month probation period. Since she was struggling through her new job, coming home frustrated or crying from work situations, I found it yet again very difficult to break it off with her. This march, the probation period was over. I planned to break it off once I knew she was going to be OK professionally and financially…however this march (after probation period ended) she was fired from her job. So now she is unemployed again. Insecure, and desparately trying to find a job again.

I think she is a little bit recovered from the shock of being fired, so I will likely be ending things with her soon. But it is very sad. We have a very beautiful relationship. It’s the type of relationship most people probably dream of. But to me, I just don’t know if this is what I want. We don’t have really any hobbies or interests in common (so we are often bored together). She only really has one friend. And honestly I don’t have much faith in her abilities to become part of the professional world and provide for herself in the long run.

Her personality is great, and she is very loving and caring. I would love to have her as a friend, and continue to interact with each other. I think she would like it too, but I know it will likely take her alot of time to be able to cope with a break up. In the end it will be up to her. I am 100% sure I can maintain a friendship without poblems from my end.

For reference we are in our mid 20s. I have never supported her financially, and she will likely need to move back in with her parents soon.

67 DB April 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

“Maybe he could try telling her he’s enjoyed having her has a girlfriend for the last two years but as he doesn’t consider her ‘marriage material…then let’s see if she offers to stay friends.”

Bingo, M.J.

Married for 29 years to my best friend. And the sex is still great.

68 Mark July 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

I don’t understand the “why be friends?” part. Sounds just stupid. Of course I can be friends with a woman, without willing to marry her. I can be friends with many people, many women, but there’s only one person that can become my wife. Just that single line of yours implies very discriminating idea that the only reason I have to start the friendly relationship with the opposite sex is to elevate it at some point to marriage or sexual relationship. That sort of thinking is very close to Nice Guy Syndrome.
It’s not always about being afraid of resposibilities that come with the changes within the relationship. I and my female friends- well, male too- went through different times during college and early years after finishing it. Our relationships involved a lot of things that a marriage can go through, as we had to handle our finances, renting flat together to minimise the costs, job finding etc. together, as times were hard, so we had to rely on each other, until we could go our ways and make families. Even though our group simulated some sort of family, most of us just didn’t end up in marriages, and it was totally ok. We just didn’t see us that way, and it’s not really about the sexual tension or whatever. I meet my wife during working in a hospital, about 6 years after finishing college. She also was a great friend, we find out, that we could hadle our tasks well, but there was this something, that made me marry her, propably because it wasn’t awkard being romantic and intimate around her (and propably my primitive instincts appaulded the idea of her being a mother of my children)…did I stop being friends with other girls, from our little “guild”, just because I didn’t feel like mixing my genes with theirs? Nope. We have similar hobbies, we have fun, and we can rely on each other when someone will be in trouble. Even though our contacts decreased greatly after everyone just moved out, they can call everytime, even after 10 years and say “hey Mark, I have no place to live/wanna go fishing/what’s up buddy?”. It would be so fucking selfish of me to forget them and move on like you say, just because we didn’t ended in marriage to appauld some idea of manlines. Sigh…actually, if I did like you say in this article, I would feel unmanly as hell. The friendship in my opinion should have that healthly amount of selflessness, that you can help or be responsible for a friend or feel great around them and not expecting sacrifices from the other side, no matter if opposite sex or the same.

Cheers.

69 Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Okay Everyone,

It’s clear there are a lot of differing opinions out there. This topic really hits home for me, and I would like to share my story:

I was in a relationship for 7 years, half of them married. I could not describe the range of challenges and tests we faced as a couple- most of them were facing ourselves and our past. To anyone who has something to say about commitment- please understand it’s possible to be committed to a relationship and still fail, it does happen.

I can honestly say through all of this I am a better man for having known my now ex-wife. Bear in mind this was a relatively recent transition. I can honestly say I do love this person still, and my feelings for her are very deep. I don’t expect those feelings will ever go away. We know a lot about each other and we’ve been through a lot together. The fact is with all of this love, we couldn’t make it work. It would be nearly impossible to explain the reasons why in this format, nor do I care to get into those details- it would take too long anyway.

We did separate for a time and we had a much-needed time apart for awhile, seeing each other only when it became necessary (for the record those times were generally intensely emotional), but for all intents and purposes we were apart. This was a good thing.

After we had some time to figure things out we started talking again as old friends- and this was a good thing. Some of the closeness we had lost had come back and the reasons we married in the first place became apparent again. It was like seeing an old friend again after years, and picking right up where we left off (by this I mean, as friends who had lost touch for sometime).

And then we had sex again. I am neither proud of this nor do I regret the decision. People are people, they feel how they feel.

What I do regret is that it severely compromised our relationship and a lot of work we had been doing on ourselves. The reason for this is that rather than continuing down that road I made it clear that I thought we should not continue to have sex. I made it clear that wanted to still be close and share our lives as friends, but sex was out. I would not compromise with timelines or reasoning to the contrary. I don’t write this to sound stoic, it’s just a matter of fact. In reality there was a lot of hurt involved. This was not a good thing.

My decision was made because I felt we had already come to the conclusion that we weren’t good life partners. To continue on in an intimate way would have been unfair to both of us and the aforementioned decision would have probably been harder to make, and the fallout worse as time went on. The decision was made despite the delusion I would like to have told myself that to go on intimately for a short time would somehow bring closure or resolve. It was and is still my belief that it would have been much harder to move on with our lives.

Was I right to do this? I don’t know. I probably sound really selfish to a lot of people reading this for various reasons, and I’m still bearing the fallout of my decision. It certainly was not my intention to hurt anyone, both in that act of intimacy and in the resulting decision, but this happens with humans sometimes. We make mistakes and we sometimes have to bear the consequences of our actions and decisions.

I still hope the two of us can work it out, but if we were good at doing that, we would probably still be married.

I’ve tried to be as honest as possible in telling this story in the hopes that it will be helpful to others.

I do think men and women can be friends. I do think that it’s possible to have perfectly healthy adult relationships with people who have shared an intimate part of a person’s life. I would like to think that I could accept the people who have shared in past of a future partner’s life with openness and trust, and I would like to hope any partner of mine could do the same for me. I think to deny the existence of the people in our past is to deny a part of ourselves, we should always try to maintain relationships in a healthy way- even if that means it’s better to move on.

Bottom Line: We make decisions, and those decisions affect others. Love is not a black-and-white thing; none of us are perfect, but if we love, we should always do our best to look out for the hearts of others.

70 Sterling July 8, 2013 at 11:48 am

Men and women can be friends, but not men and women who were in two year long relationships where the guy was obviously using the girl with no intention of committing.

Why is it a bad idea? The girl has feelings for him, if he says he wants to stay “friends” it will just keep her dragging along, propping the door open just enough she’ll stick around, reserving herself to be his fallback if he finds he cant get the relationship he thinks he wants. If you know you wont commit to a relationship, end it.

Famous advice is to “build up the person, destroy the dream.” Try and be tactful and dont drag out the end of the relationship, but make it clear the relationship is over for good.

71 Tim July 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hey look, another comment!

I’m siding with the author of the article/advice in this.

My problem has been, and will continue to be this: Why do we put up with temptation if there is something else to lose? I’m just shy of 30 and I’ve been through and seen enough hurt involving opposite sex friendships that I now just don’t bother with them anymore. It is not a lie when someone says that a guy HAS thought about, IS thinking about, of WILL think about having sex with the woman he is just friends with at some point. And so my mind goes to “well if there is potential for something to happen concerning sex with a friend, why bother entertaining it in the first place if I wish to marry and share myself with my wife?” If you think there is zero temptation or sexual thoughts at any point between two friends of the opposite sex you are only fooling yourself.

This is not to say that there aren’t acquaintances. It is easy and proper to be cordial, polite, friendly, and nice to the opposite sex without feeling the need to confide in and share intimate details of life with them – which only creates emotional connection. Even when someone tells you to your face what they are thinking about you, you still don’t know as you can’t get in their head.

I personally want my future wife to be the only one I go to for things I need from the female population. It will leave no doubt about my affections for and attention to her. I personally do not like the thought of dividing up me, between other women I may have allowed myself to get close to, and my wife – which, no matter how you slice it – is what you end up doing having close friendships of the opposite sex. All I can think of is how it would make my wife feel to have to share a part of me with other women.

Honestly I am surprised it even needs to be touched on that trying to remain friends with someone after a long relationship is a very unwise idea. “Hey, there’s a fire! Let’s dance around it and try not to get burned!”

72 Julie November 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’m a strong opponent of “friends with benefits”. The phrase itself is an oxymoron. What typically happens is the man uses the woman for emotional support and sex while the woman secretly hopes that it will evolve into a relationship. If this man does not see this women as “marriage material”, then why has he been sleeping with her for 2 years?! Why doesn’t he invest his time in finding a girlfriend that he really wants to commit to? Men need to be honest about their intentions. Men and women can definitely be friends, but by “friends”, I mean no sex!

73 Light December 15, 2013 at 11:14 am

I believe that men and women can be platonic friends.

I do NOT believe that a woman who has been dating someone for two years and trying to advance their relationship for one will be willing to be a platonic friend. I hope he was honest with her and ended the relationship, rather than leading her on to think that it might become something more.

74 Meg March 19, 2014 at 1:39 am

As a female going through (pretty much) this exact same situation, honesty and understanding are key. I think it’s possible that they can be friends, but it’s going to depend on her. Right now, I know I can’t be friends with him. I would like to think that we could be friends in the future, but right now, anything related to him opens a wound that needs time to heal. I know it’s 3 years later, but giving her the time and candor she deserves is key.

75 Sarah March 28, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Totally agree! I was reading this over my husbands shoulder and I love it. I see on here though a lot if these guys apparently have been duped into believing this guy is trying to be “true to his heart” that’s a load of it. It may look that way on the surface but after you peel away layers its not that deep. The truth is that love is self sacrifice not fuzzy feelings. Choose to love her and marry her or choose to move on. It shouldn’t take 2 years to figure it out. If she wasn’t marriage material then why was he staying? One other person got it when they said he wants to move on to something else but doesn’t want to lose her companionship. Can’t have both. There needs to be an art of womanliness site to teach women how to protect themselves better…things like the whole “why buy the cow when u get the milk for free” and all that… Wayne tell the lady in your life to start one! :)

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