Can men and women be just friends?
This is obviously a complicated question.
And in my mind, the best way to answer it is with some personal insight.
In this post, I’m going to share my perspective on the true answer to this question. I’m also going to discuss the topic from a human evolutionary behavior standpoint.
You might be surprised by the answer.
Let’s jump in.
Can A Guy And A Girl Be Best Friends Without Falling In Love?
As a heterosexual man, I’m highly sexually interested in attractive women.
And to a point, this is true regardless of whether we are friends or not.
But that doesn’t mean that as a man, I’m doomed to a life of zero female friendships.
The base answer to the question of can men and women be just friends is ‘yes, but it’s complicated.’
Personally, I’ve come to learn that there are many benefits to having high-value female friends in my life.
However, it is important to keep these two principles in mind. Both of these things are true, and they are the two mechanisms responsible for why I have been successful in maintaining productive friendships with women.
- It’s easier to ‘just be friends’ with women I’m not attracted to
- Being ‘just friends’ with an attractive woman, by contrast, requires me to intentionally set aside my attraction to her, and focus on only being a friend
In other words, as a man, I can basically classify women into two distinctly different categories.
- Women I AM sexually attracted to
- Women I am NOT sexually attracted to
Simply put, it is far easier to maintain a simple friendship with women I am NOT sexually attracted to.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be friends with attractive women, either.
It just means that in order to have successful friendships with these women, I need to be intentional about prioritizing the friendship over my instinct to pursue a sexual relationship.
“But Josh, why can’t you just forget about sex for a minute and just be friends?”
That is a super good question.
Let’s answer it.
Do Guys Fall For Their Female Friends? Why Can’t They Just ‘Stay Friends?’
It is important to understand that men are highly sexual creatures. For the most part, men were only able to be evolutionarily successful by very actively pursuing sexual access to a large number of women.
The man’s sexual modus operandi is pretty simple.
Gain as much sexual access to as many different women as possible, so as to increase your odds of successfully reproducing.
And since women are the selectors of the sexual marketplace, and men are the competitors, men have adapted to pursue sexual access with as many women as possible.
If they didn’t ‘try’ hard enough, they would fail to reproduce. And their bloodline would fail to survive.
Hence, why men are so driven to pursue sex with attractive women.
This translates to our behavior as men in a very simple and basic way. It also has a powerful impact on the specific nature of the question: can men and women be just friends?
When I see a sexually attractive woman who appeals to my senses, I experience a strong biological urge to pursue her.
In part, this is what ‘attraction’ is all about.
Now, don’t get it twisted. For the most part, I only actually end up approaching the women I find attractive in a small minority of circumstances. I definitely pursue fewer than 1% of the attractive women I come across/meet every day.
Because I’m a busy man, and I have goals and aspirations in life. If I approached every attractive woman I ever met or saw, I would never have time for anything else.
And so, I use rationality and logic to guide my actions.
Some People Can’t Control Themselves, Which Can Lead To A Lot Of Problems
Some men and women do not understand how to draw boundaries and resist their sexual urges, which can lead to ‘creepy’ behavior. It can also lead to behaviors like stalking, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
Both women and men can partake in these activities. Though by and large, the vast majority of people who perpetrate such acts are men.
These types of activities are obviously problematic, and I see it as a shame that they happen. There is never an excuse for it.
It’s important for humans to control their sexual urges, so that they don’t overstep boundaries and victimize/hurt anyone.
… Thinking that a co-worker is attractive? Thinking about asking them out on a date?…
… Thinking that a co-worker is attractive… touching them inappropriately… forcing yourself onto them… stalking them or making crude sexual comments toward them…
Definitely NOT fine.
When Men Become Friends With An Attractive Woman, They’re Probably More Likely To Want To Pursue Her
Interestingly enough, attraction usually only grows when you are also friends with an attractive woman.
Because you already know her and spend time around her. Finding a proper moment to approach her and ask her out on a date becomes a lot easier once you develop some kind of friendship.
Men are also much more likely to bond with women who they have already become friends with. I have experienced this on a number of occasions. It’s actually quite easy to develop a ‘crush’ on a woman once you get to know her and grow closer to her as a friend.
And so, for this reason, men are actually more likely to want to date a woman if they are already friends and find her attractive.
Obviously, this has pretty big implications for the can men and women be just friends question.
Can A Woman And Man Be Friends?
I think that a lot of people operate with a huge misconception about how men’s attraction to women actually works.
It’s important to understand that it is inherently natural for men to desire women, and to want to talk to/flirt with attractive women when they meet in social settings.
But women, unlike men, have an easier time of putting men into natural ‘friend’ or ‘sexual interest’ categories.
Though I am not a woman, this is evident to me by the way other women around me talk about the men they interact with on a daily basis.
It also makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.
It seems evident to me that men and women operate with a different sexual radar system.
Men have a radar system that scans all possible sexual partners within eyesight.
Women, by contrast, operate with a radar that hones-in on their very favorite potential sexual partner(s).
Men seem more likely to track a large quantity of potential sexual interests, while women seem more likely to hone in on only the one, two, or three highest quality and most attractive potential mates within their social hierarchies.
Is It Easier For Women To Stay Friends With Members Of The Opposite Sex Than Men?
To a degree, this is a misleading question.
The knee-jerk response would be to declare women as more skilled at maintaining basic friendships with attractive men than the other way around.
But to accept this as truth is to ignore that you are not looking at the situation from the proper perspective.
The actual truth of the matter is that men and women simply track a different number of sexual interests.
It isn’t in a woman’s evolutionary adaptive nature to be legitimately sexually interested in a hundred different men who work in the same building as her. She is going to be much more likely to be attracted to one or two of the highest-value men around her, and to simply regard the others as ‘friends.’
It is much easier, by contrast, and also not so outlandish, to realize that according to men’s evolutionary adaptive nature, they may indeed be legitimately sexually interested in a hundred different women who work in the same building… if all of those women meet the criteria and personal preferences by which he filters women for attractiveness.
Most Humans Are Slaves To Their Emotional And Chemical Processes
This leads us to an important and concluding realization.
That by and large, humans are slaves to their emotional and chemical processes, instincts, habits, and base behaviors.
A man may indeed think to himself that it would be better to stay friends with an attractive woman, especially if she is married to another man, and/or is otherwise complicatedly unavailable.
This is a logical and reasonable conclusion, given the details of her life and the fact that pursuing her may complicate things.
But at the same time, the odds that rationality will fly out the window when she smiles at him, when she walks past him and he smells her perfume, or when she places a ‘friendly’ hand on his shoulder while asking him about that report… are exceptionally high.
During such moments, where close contact can absolutely elicit a sexual response in the man, it is important to understand that fighting the urge to pursue her becomes a literal fight against the man’s own sexual nature.
In other words… it’s hard work.
And the same is true of the woman.
Once a human is sexually attracted to another human, such a thing is not easily undone.
And if you add into the mix a mutual attraction that both of them sense and develop an awareness of… and you have a very difficult task ahead of you.
Not acting on such a thing is indeed incredibly difficult... though not impossible.
It is much more likely, in such a situation, that someone is going to act upon that attraction rather than it is that they will successfully repress it.
Can A Man Be Friends With A Woman He Finds Attractive?
With all of that being said, it’s also important to understand that it is completely possible to maintain positive and productive friendships with other attractive humans… regardless of your gender or sexual orientation.
For me, it is a simple matter.
I just remember to remind myself that I have plenty of sexual options. And that if I want to pursue them, I am entirely free to do so.
I find the idea of pursuing someone new, who is not a friend, as being much more productive than caving-in to my potential emotions or attraction for a woman who holds a special place of friendship in my life.
I Have Many Valued Female Friends – And I Do Not Want To Complicate Those Relationships
For example… I have several very attractive female friends whom I will probably never pursue sexual relationships with.
Some of them are married, and some of them have boyfriends who are friends of mine. I would not want to go behind their backs to have an illicit affair… even if I was given the opportunity to do so.
Does this mean that I’m never attracted to these women?
But when I’m interacting with them, I remind myself that our friendships are very productive and important, and that it isn’t worth it to complicate things just to satiate my ever-present male sexual desires.
I also remind myself that I could potentially ruin these friendships if I were to act on my feelings of attraction.
So instead of making a move on one of these friends, I opt instead to focus my sexual energy on other attractive women who are not my friends.
I go out, I meet people, I flirt, I go on dates, etc.
Is it difficult?
It is a bit more difficult when we are deeply intertwined in an invigorating conversation, or when circumstances bring us very physically close together. In such moments, my attraction toward that person can become quite powerful.
But I also know from experience how sometimes, making an advance leads to crossing bridges that cannot be uncrossed. And I hate to imagine losing these valuable friendships.
So in that sense, it is simply a matter of choosing not to endulge… much like choosing NOT to take a sip of wine, NOT to eat another piece of chocolate, or NOT eating another piece of pizza that I know I’ll regret later.
For men and women, it is important to cultivate productive, positive outlets for our sexual energy. This gives us the power to have balanced lives, and helps to diminish the pressure we might feel to act on our attraction when acting on it may be a more complicated and troublesome affair than it is worth.
In Conclusion – Can Men And Women Just Be Friends?
As it turns out, the answer is yes. But as with all things having to do with sex and attraction, it’s complicated.
Go with grace, my friends, and never give up your power.
Until next time…
Joshua K. Sigafus