I was reflecting on an article I wrote a few months ago about the benefits of having an opposite-sex friendship. The article received some unsavoury comments — I deleted anything that was inappropriate or misogynistic. However, looking past the crudeness, I began to wonder why it’s so difficult for men to fathom being friends with a woman.
And I’m not talking about a crush disguised as a friendship.
A lot of guys label women as their ‘friend’ but secretly want to sleep with them — this is the long game. The guy is supportive, friendly, and seemingly harmless. But in a moment of vulnerability, after a few drinks, or post-breakup, he makes his move, revealing his true intentions.
I’m not talking about these fake friendships.
I’m talking about real friendships, treating a female friend the same way you would a male friend. I would never be friends with a guy for any secret sexual intentions — I’ll point out that I’m speaking from the straight male perspective. So why would I treat a female friend any differently?
In my previous article, I outlined the different benefits of having a female friend versus a male friend. But besides things like giving girl advice and helping me shop for clothes, they’re ultimately my friends first. And they fulfill all of the main tenets of friendship.
We hang out, we go to the gym together, we get food, we drink too much, and we help each other as we stumble out of the bar in search of a cab. We have deep conversations about our dreams and ambitions, we share our fears and vulnerabilities — we’re a partner to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on.
I didn’t understand why some men could not accept that I was friends with a woman, or assumed that I had some secret motive.
That’s when I realized a fundamental deficiency amongst most men.
I’m super lucky to have a best friend. I met him when we were 11 years old in Mr. Pieters’ French immersion class. We became friends immediately — partly because both our names start with the same letter and Mr. Pieters seated us alphabetically, partly because the rest of the class knew each other and we were the odd ones out.
Fast forward 14 years, we’re still friends — he’s my non-blood-related brother.
We’ve been through everything together. We’ve won soccer tournaments together, we left our homes and moved to a different country together, he’s been yelled at by my parents and I’ve been yelled at by his dad.
He basically lived at my parents’ house when he was working in the city. He’d stay with us the majority of the week. But not as a guest — as a family member. So we would play Super Smash Bros Brawl to decide who did the chores.
We’ve been through everything together. From big arguments to celebrating our greatest achievements, from the death of his mother to watching the sunrise in countries all over the world.
If anything happens in my life, he’s the first to know. And even though we’re living on opposite sides of the globe right now, we still make time to catch up with life updates. If I’m feeling sad, he’s the first to know. If I’m anxious about something, he’s the first to know. If I get a new job, he’s the first to know. If I start dating someone new, he’s the first to know.
I can count on him to be there for me. And he can count on me.
He’s my best friend — my brother. And like I said, I’m super lucky to have him in my life because I don’t think a lot of men have this type of close man-to-man relationship in their life.
Sure, we have our bros. We hit the gym, we joke around, we talk about business ideas, we eat overpriced steaks, we chase girls.
But could you ever be completely vulnerable in front of your bro? Could you ever cry together over the death of a parent? Could you ever share your deepest insecurities from a seemingly benign childhood event? Could you call your bro after a particularly shitty day just to have a chat and take your mind off of things?
For most guys, no. No, they don’t have a close male friend, and no, they don’t allow themselves to be vulnerable around their friends.
And herein lies the root of the problem, the reason why men find it difficult to just be friends with women.
From what I’ve observed, friendships between women are completely different than friendships between men. Women support each other emotionally. They talk to each other when they’re sad or angry, instead of keeping it to themselves. They would rather know how you’re feeling over what you’re doing. Ultimately, there’s a deeper intimacy in friendships between women.
Here’s a real-life personal example. If I don’t message my girl-friends for more than a few days, they’ll FaceTime me to make sure that I’m doing alright. Or, they’ll just call to talk.
The other day, a girl-friend called because she was upset. She read an article about an indigenous woman who died in hospital after being verbally berated by the nurses, misdiagnosed, and then administered too much morphine. As a nursing student, she was obviously extremely upset. So she called just to vent, cry, and question her future profession. That’s it. She had an emotional reaction to a horrifying event and wanted someone to talk to.
Now, if it was a guy, what are the odds that he would call a friend to cry, vent, and then hang up. Next to none.
Another example. One of my girl-friends was out with her boyfriend’s friends. Within a few minutes of meeting the friends, she was in deep conversation with one guy. She found out that this guy had been dating a girl for over four months. Her boyfriend had no idea. Years of friendship versus a ten-minute conversation.
Obviously, there’s more to friendship than talking about relationships and discussing problems, but I think the way women communicate is fundamental to men’s inability to perceive a non-sexual friendship between men and women.
Women are comfortable having genuine conversations about deep topics. They’re comfortable going beyond reporting symptomatic observations, like talking about things that have happened in life. They push toward talking about how life events made us feel — and truly feel. So, instead of treading on the surface, women are comfortable with deep dives into the root causes.
Most men have never experienced this type of interpersonal communication on a deep and intimate level. So when a woman shows interest in a man’s well-being or cares to ask about their family, mental health, job, relationships, or any number of topics other than sports, men tend to misinterpret their genuine personal interest as sexual interest.
I believe this is the reason why men don’t believe in a strictly platonic friendship between men and women.
We need to stop thinking of opposite-sex friendships as some type of fictitious unicorn-esque relationship. Men and women can be real friends. It’s possible to be deeply intimate without a sexual component. And it’s rewarding. I can’t count the number of times my girl-friends have bailed me out of terrible dating blunders. Nor can I count the number of times my girl-friends have helped me get through a rough patch in my life.
So here’s my PSA for men.
First, find some girl-friends. And not the type of friendship where you’re friends until the fourth cocktail. You wouldn’t try to get in any of your male friends’ pants so don’t try it with your girl-friends.
Second, try to develop deeper connections with your guy friends. It’s hard — trust me, I know. But once you get past the awkwardness, I’ve found that a lot of guys are willing to open up. I think most guys are capable of developing deep personal connections with other men, but we’re all too scared to make the first move. So, we’re forever in a state of limbo.
Here is the link to the story that is the motivation for this article.