Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?
Below is a clip from When Harry Met Sally, and a good introduction to the problem with male-female friends: the sex thing. What Billy Crystal is talking about is something you're always going to deal with when looking for female friends - the inevitable question of sex and attraction.
Men and women treat friendships themselves a little differently:
- Men's friendships are generally "alliances" where the men have teamed up to shoot the breeze, watch each other's backs, or accomplish some shared objective, like traveling the world or getting girls or building businesses
- Women's friendships are generally either "security blankets" or "social elevators," where the friend serves the role of either making the girl feel more secure about herself and/or her options in life, or gives the girl some chance to elevate her position socially
There's also the "close friend" type friendship, which is common to both men and women - this is different from any of the pure "alliance," "security blanket," or "social elevator" friendships you'll see. This one's a genuine close connection between two people who simply get along very well and are emotionally connected and have similar interests, aspirations, and directions in life that complement each other rather well. These friendships are the most enduring, but they strengthen or weaken as the parties' goals, interests, and directions move closer together or farther apart, respectively.
In addition to these are the "friend who wants to be more" type friendships, where the parties are just friends but one of the two would like there to be a sexual / romantic element as well.Unless dealing with two very sexually and romantically inexperienced individuals, these friendships are always one-sided; that is to say, one friend sees the other as a potential partner, while the other sees the first friend as an ally or a security blanket or a social elevator.
I won't go into male friendships - we talked about those quite in detail in the article on guy talk. But what I would like to delve into a good deal here are the four kinds of dynamics you can have with women from the standpoint of forming friendships:
- Security Blanket
- Social Elevator
- Close Friend
- Potential Mate
... and the ties and connections and interplay between those four.
The Security Blanket
If you have any trouble getting your head around this one, check out "The Sad Tale of "Shopping Guy"" for a pristine example of this; my guess is most men have run into this at one point or another, or at least watched their friends loll about in this unenviable role.
The security blanket friendship is one where the girl spends time with someone only because it makes her feel better about herself and more secure. It's the nice guy friend, or the fat girl friend. The friend she's able to be around with and think to herself, "See what a great person I am? I allot some of my time to her!" or, "He's an okay guy, and it makes me feel safer to know that he thinks I'm amazing and is there in case I ever need anything."
A lot of men get upset when they realize that women see them this way, but they shouldn't. I've heard it said that the men control the resources, and the women control the men; and this is generally how things play out. A woman is always looking for men to have around her who can provide resources to her and make her feel safe and secure. This is a basic survival instinct, and there are many men willing to compete for those provider roles. Sometimes the nice guy provider friend role becomes a romantic and sexual partner eventually; frequently this is not the case. However, for men with no better options with women, this at least provides them "a chance," even if that chance is not all that considerable.
The Social Elevator
This is the person a girl becomes friends with because she perceives him as being higher in social status than she is, or because she sees he has access to high social status she'd like to use him to connect with and get into the good graces with.
The fat girl who's friends with a beautiful girl is in a security blanket - social elevator friendship, usually; the fat girl provides a security blanket to the beautiful girl (because the fat girl either makes the beautiful girl feel more secure by contrast, or the fat girl provides some sort of protective / leadership role for the beautiful girl in social situations that the beautiful girl isn't well equipped to handle on her own), while the beautiful girl functions as a social elevator for the fat girl (she gets a social status boost from having a pretty friend, and potentially some of the pretty girl's cast offs and left overs - more attractive, higher status males than she'd be able to get naturally on her own).
Likewise, women are interested in men as friends who provide some manner of social elevation for them too - the guy who's connected with all the big bosses in the firm the girl and he both work for; the guy working as the head bouncer who can usher her into that popular club she likes free of charge without waiting in line and get her into exclusive after parties; the guy who everyone considers the most popular kid in school, or the most dynamic go-getter at work with "rising star" written all over him. All these men can help a woman elevate her position by association, and gain access to higher caliber people.
Let's stop here and consider the differences in goals and objectives men and women have in friendships for a moment.
Men's goals are:
- Increasing their fitness and survivability
- Increasing their resources and holdings
Women's goals, meanwhile, are:
- Increasing their security and survivability
- Increasing their ability to land a higher caliber mate
(you could arguably include "having fun" as a goal, but we're very picky about whom we have fun with - you probably wouldn't have much fun sitting back and shooting the breeze with a delirious homeless person, because he doesn't help you get closer toward any of your primary goals for a friendship)
Gaining access to mates isn't actually a primary consideration in men's usual friendship building (with the exception of the friend who wants to be more than a friend, of course), but for women, the underlying reason for seeking to elevate one's position is ultimately to gain access to the highest caliber mating options available.
The instant a woman lands a man she's thoroughly satisfied with all the way around, her efforts to social ladder climb abruptly stop, and her interest in friendships with social elevators dries up and shrivels away.
The Close Friend
The close friend is an extension of one of the three main friendship archetypes the alliance (male), and the security blanket (female) and the social elevator (female). Close friends evolve out of one of these friendships that proves valuable to both members and where both members of the friendship become close, open up to one another, and come to emotionally associate with, care about, and bond with one another.
In men and women, close friendships frequently become sexual.
They're also relatively uncommon.
The most common close male-female friendships you'll see are between homosexual men and heterosexual women, but even these often become sexual - many mostly homosexual men have bisexual tendencies, and as the relationship becomes close, the woman gets desires for the man she believes she can't have, and eventually one night with too much drinking something happens.
What I'm going to advocate you focus on building in terms of female friends is close friendships that you ideally never get sexual or romantic with. These can evolve from either security blanket or social elevator friendships (on the woman's side; they'll always be alliances on your side); but the end goal is, you reach a point where you and a girl are intimately close with one another while refraining from physical intimacy.
The Potential Mate
This one blurs the lines on all the others, because there is always a question of "What if?," if at varying levels of certainty or uncertainty. e.g., a woman with a really nerdy, goofy male friend is 99.4% certain she'll never sleep with him, but there's still that 0.6% chance; meanwhile, a woman with a really sexy, Adonis-like male friend is 96.3% certain she will sleep with him, but there's always that 3.7% chance that when push comes to shove she'll back out and say "not interested after all."
Like Billy Crystal says, there's always the "sex thing" there to some extent.
Where you want your friendships to end up is such that your female friend is a lot more interested in sex with you than you are with her. That doesn't mean you're disinterested; it just means you could take it or leave it, but you're pretty sure if she had a chance she'd take it.
If the positions are reversed - if you're a lot more desirous of her than she is of you - then you aren't the one calling the shots in the friendship, and you're going to have a hard time maintaining this friendship as something that generates value to your life - a friendship where you can't stop thinking about your friend as a partner candidate is a giant distraction. It impedes your ability to meet new women and saps your will.
Not so for women - women keep getting approached by new, charming, attractive men, no matter how hard up for you they might be. And women are far more practical than men are - and far more likely to take a look at a guy they're crushing on and say, "Well, if he isn't going to give it to me, I'm going to let this other guy do it instead."
In fact, some of the women I've made girlfriends of mine were crushing in a big way on some guy friend of theirs before we got together, but it didn't stop us from getting together (oftentimes, these men decide they actually do like the girl after all, but only once it's too late and she's off the market with a man she sees now as more attractive than she sees them. Such is life...).
One of you is always going to want the other more than the other wants him (or her). My advice to you as a man is to make sure that the one with greater desires is her, not you.
And if you end up in a friendship where you're falling head over heels for a girl who sees you as just a friend, it's time to close up shop on that friendship and get out now before it becomes a poison for you (and for her... there's nothing quite like some overly obsessed guy who can't get over her to freak a girl out, or annoy her at least).
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