Monday, March 18, 2013

Friendship and Dating

The comment: 
I'm a guy, and I have good female friends (contrary to societal stereotypes). We have fun, and we grow together, whether in a group or one-on-one. And sometimes that growth is intentional. One or the other will ask questions, notice habits, pray for the other, and so on. 
But it's not dating. It's not pursuit, and it's not courtship. It's friendship. It's a relationship or relationships that are deepening, and while one or another may eventually lead to romance and dating (not marriage-lite), it's not there. 
That is explicit. There is no wondering about status or intent. And while we may get to know each other as friends at a slower rate than dating, it does protect us from heartbreak, from emotional and physical mistakes that may happen once the "dating" label has been applied, and so on. 
So are we talking about the same thing - intentionality, fun, and growth possibly leading to more, whether or not we apply the term dating immediately or down the road, or are we on separate paths? 
I love that you brought this up. A lot.
I think, if I'm understanding you correctly, that we're on two separate pages.  As I read this, I laughed, recalling a woman who I met recently who adamantly declared that males and females can never just be friends. She insisted that one person always ends up liking the other, if there's not already a mutual attraction between the two. I'm pretty sure she believed that there was never any exception to the rule, either. She might be right.

Honestly, you're potentially the type of guy that many a woman love to rant about. Why, you ask? Because you're the type of guy that we're never really sure of your intentions, because we're just friends (we think). But yet, we hang out a lot and we have fun and we grow together and we challenge each other and inspire each other... we connect with each other. I'm willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, any girl will be interested in the guy she spends this much time with and invests this much of herself emotionally/spiritually in. Most of us are suckers for that kind of connection and intimacy, regardless of the label that's placed on it.

You mentioned that there is 'no wondering about status or intent', though. I'm assuming that you then have made your intentions clear from the beginning of the friendship, or else you have assumed that you don't need to clarify because it's clearly just a friendship?

If it's the latter, here's a bit of a heads up on how lots of us women think: if you haven't told us that you're not interested (and even sometimes when you do), we either think you are or that you could be...especially if you're pursuing us in any capacity (including mere friendship). You're someone that wants to know us, truly cares about what's going on with our hearts, wants to spend time with us...and that affects us greatly (whether we want to admit it or not).

Dating, to me, is much different than this male/female deep friendship. It's intentional from the beginning. It's a, 'Hey, I want to get to know you better to see where this could go because I think you're awesome' type of mentality that allows there to be no room for confusion or games or over-analyzing what the relationship is or isn't. When you're in the middle of a good male/female friendship, I'm pretty sure that at least one party is thinking (or has thought at one point) about the possibility of more and is wishing they knew if the other person could have any romantic interest in them. But, most people will probably lie if they're ever confronted by the other about it, especially if they know or suspect that the feelings aren't reciprocated.

The truth? I've had more heartbreaks not being in relationships than I have had in them... because I've been such good friends with guys that I came to care deeply about. The friendship didn't protect me from heartache. The pace at which our relationship grew didn't protect me from the heartache. The friendship may have protected them from having to be a part of it, though. They didn't see the tears shed or have to hear the emotional dialogue about whether or not I could/should remain in the friendship or not.

When it comes to males and females, I'm afraid there's very rarely safe territory. I'm currently struggling myself with how to navigate through the muddy waters of becoming friends with men as I'm in the process of meeting new people. I was actually talking to my brother and sister-in-law about this last night. My question? 'How the heck do I be friends with guys without them thinking I want more and without me wanting more and without me thinking they want more?' I'm not sure it's possible for none of those things to enter into the equation at any point. I'd be a fool to think (especially at this point in my life) that male/female friendships are ever simple. They rarely are, especially the more you hang out one-on-one and really invest in each other.

So, sure. Maybe you aren't making out or crossing any other physical boundaries... but be careful about the emotional boundaries. Be careful about how much of your heart you share with each other, how much time you spend with each other. And, just be aware. Even if you think things are fine and that she totally knows that you only see her as a friend, she may be a lot better at pretending than you realize. Or, in some instances you may be the one pretending that you're all fine and dandy being friends when you really are interested in more.

On some level I just think everyone should be clear about their intentions from the beginning and remain honest throughout the friendship/relationship. Then there's no room for misunderstandings and being in the constant state of wondering. There will probably still be heartbreak, as that's inevitable anytime you get to know someone well and vice versa. But, it's part of the risk that we enter into. Be willing to have some hard, awkward conversations...especially if you really care about the person. Honesty is always best. If you aren't interested in ever dating a girl, even if she's a good friend, do her a favor and make sure she knows where you stand.

Recognize that girls are typically more relationally wired and, if we're attracted to you at all and you're wanting to know us better, the chances of us liking you are going to be pretty high (and, even if we aren't attracted to you initially, the more we get to know you and the more you want to know us... we suddenly might start finding you to be super attractive). Consider that while it may not be affecting you emotionally, it may be all-consuming to her.

Mostly... just don't be naive as you enter into friendships with females, even if you aren't intentionally trying to date them. We have the tendency to over-analyze, fall easily, and we love feeling connected to people (especially men). Be honest about where you're at. I think most of the women in your life will appreciate it.

Your entries will remain anonymous


  1. I would say the only friendships I had where I knew the intention was only friendship and actually had deep friendships... I can count on one hand and all of them either had girlfriends and/or I've known since I was 15. Oh. And can think of one that doesn't fit this. Still all these I can count on one hand.

  2. Thank you for telling guys to be honest and straightforward with their intentions! Too often there are guys who befriend girls and eventually want to start "dating" (using the term loosely here) but they never give any indication to the girl. So the girl ends up thinking they're great friends (although she may be interested in him, the girl usually doesn't initiate anything) but the guy ends up disappointed and wanting to be more. Guys need to take that leap of faith and TELL the girls! Be bold. That way, you'll know exactly where you stand with her. I know it's awkward sometimes, but you gotta step out at take a chance if you want things to change.

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