Can’t We Just Be Friends?
This weekend I had the opportunity to talk with a few disgruntled women. As usual, these women were dissatisfied with their interactions with men. One thing that each of them agreed on was men’s apparent inability to be friends with a girl that was not interested in dating them. One of these women told me that a guy was hanging out with her a ton and as soon as she told him that she did not want to date him, he bailed. I tried to offer perspective on this to her, but it didn’t exactly come out right because I have done this too. So the question is: why can’t we be friends?
I am not simply talking about friendship in a sense of a lot of friends going out together on weekends. I don’t think anyone consciously avoids that. The friendship that most people shy away from is the “best friend” relationship between a guy and a girl. Guys are terrified of being thought of as just a friend, much less the best friend, because that means that we are good enough for you to share your intimate feelings with and help you work through your problems, but not good enough to be with you. Essentially, it makes us feel like your fake boyfriend. Despite this feeling, that kind of friendship is always worth the risk.
We all remember high school and the early years of college where we made friends with anyone who we had a good time with. If you had fun hanging out with a guy or girl, you just hung out with them without the pressure to be more than friends. The time you spent together could be in a large group or even one-on-one conversations about whatever the moment dictated, without fear of making the other person uncomfortable. Relationships did happen during those years, but they seemed incidental. There wasn’t any posturing, pick- up lines or overcompensation: relationships just happened. Once you “grow up”, that seems to disappear.
The problem with growing up is the transition from a world that is mostly motivated by fun to a world filled with expectations. There is not a specific time period in life when you enter into this realm, but at some point everyone hits it. It is around the time where they also decide that being “just friends” with members of the opposite sex is just not worth their time. A lot has been made of the dead end that is the “friend zone.” Most people think that focusing their time and attention only on those people they would date would help them not waste time when they are looking for someone to date. Although theoretically this is true, it is in fact counterintuitive and counterproductive.
The problem with avoiding women (or men) that you are not romantically interested in is that you limit yourself to a very small dating pool. You are limited to people you meet at work, at clubs, bars or other social settings. This effectively cuts your chance of meeting someone that you are interested in dating at least in half. By not spending time with someone just because they only want to be friends(so they tell you) causes two things to happen:
First, you forfeit any opportunity that you may have to date that person in the future. This is a huge issue because many times both people aren’t ready to date at the same time.
Second, you lose an opportunity to be part of a circle of friends which would have enhanced your dating pool. Many successful relationships come from meeting friends of your friends and having things click. If you keep an open mind about being friends with men/women, you may end up reaping some surprising benefits.
Friendship also helps you to develop significant relationships with members of the opposite sex in a non-pressure situation. You learn how to interact with someone on a real level, and that kind of interaction prepares you for deep, meaningful relationships.
The times where I have had success in relationships has been when I moved from a friendship, even a superficial one, to a relationship. The times where I have asked women out without knowing them first have not been as successful. I had plenty of dates while I was using the cold call method, where I had a lot of fun and had a chance to meet a lot of really cool people. When I used that method, however, nothing lasted much longer than a month or so. The most successful relationships that I have been in have just happened as I was going about my business and being friends with people that I liked spending time with. Intimate friendships are very powerful things. They can lead to relationships in and of themselves or they can open doors for other relationships to form through associations. Dating is hard and none of us can afford to limit ourselves because we are afraid of being just “the friend”. Friendship has within it the seeds of a successful relationship, and sooner or later you will see awesome benefits.