Genuine friendship between single, heterosexual opposite-sex adults is rare. Why? The answer’s not just “sexual tension”. Platonic friendships are common in teenagers, who are just as horny as adults. Nor are same-sex platonic friendships uncommon among gays. I address the causes opposing opposite-sex platonic pairings, and discuss solutions.
I took a psychology course in high school where the teacher described patterns in friendships according to age. He said that most of us, at 17, had as many opposite-sex friends as same-sex friends. (In my case, this was true.) He also told us that, starting in our mid-20s, we’d have many more same-sex friends, and very few opposite-sex friends. This I didn’t believe, but he was right. As a 25-year-old man, I probably have ten times as many male friends as female, and most of the latter I’ve known since college, if not before. Making a new female friend is an extremely rare event, friends’ girlfriends aside. It seems to be harder, for most people in their mid-20s, to become genuine friends with a single person of the opposite sex, than it is to get into a relationship.
After college, opposite-sex friends are harder to come by. Usually, when it happens, it’s through couplings considered sacrosanct. For example, most of my female friends are girlfriends and wives of close male friends; sleeping with them is out of the question, and would be so even if their relationships ended. For a single man and woman to become friends, on the other hand, is very rare. The often-blamed culprit is “sexual tension”. This assumes that all men want to fuck all reasonably attractive women at all times, or that women suspect this of men. This is not entirely true. The problem is more subtle.
The “sexual tension” explanation is, nonetheless, half-right. For a man in his 20s, celibacy is painful. Men are expected to be in control of “the situation” at all times– at least traditionally, they make the first call, choose the venue of the first date, and move in for the first kiss. So a long dry spell, even when it can be attributed to a busy work schedule, high standards, and a run of bad luck, feels like a manifestation of inability. Failure to procure. A man who has not had sex in 6 months is, invariably, constantly thinking about it. Like money and health, sex is one of those matters that settles into its right place when abundant, but that people obsess over when it’s lacking. All of this said, to assume such a man will eagerly hop into bed with the first willing woman is patently ridiculous. As with many women, a large proportion of men, and possibly a majority, are “nice guys” do not have sex outside of a committed relationship.
The average single “nice guy”, when he meets a woman he finds attractive, doesn’t begin with the idea of her as a sexual object. Instead, he evaluates her as a potential girlfriend. Often, the potential for a relationship is simply not there. Sometimes he’s the first to recognize this; more often, it’s the woman who is more perceptive, the result being rejection. The not-nice guys– assholes, if you will– will try to sleep with a romantically incompatible woman anyway, in order to gratify their own egos. We can be thankful that they’re uncommon. By contrast, the nice guy will often want to remain friends with her. If nothing else, there’s a long-term romantic benefit in having a strong social network, since friends of friends are the most common source of romantic introductions. The woman might also desire his friendship. Alas, it’s very unlikely that genuine friendship will happen.
There are at least two prerequisites for genuine friendship to exist between single heterosexuals of the opposite sex.
1. Disinterest in a romantic relationship is mutual, and known by both to be so. If the man is sexually and romantically attracted to the woman, and the woman has no sexual feelings for the man, this is a problem. The same holds if the reverse is true. If the friendship becomes painful for either party, or if suspicion and discomfort enter it, it will invariably end.
When a woman rejects a man, his romantic and sexual interest in her will usually dissipate over the next few days. Rejection implies a discrepancy between how the man perceives the woman and his relationship to her, and what actually is. So a rejected man, if he’s introspective, will step back and re-assess the situation. Sometimes, she’s just a bitch. Much more likely, she’s a fine person, but she believes there’s no romantic potential between the two of them (and she’s probably right). If this “re-assessment” results in the extinction of the man’s romantic desire for her, friendship is possible. (If he finds himself deeper in unrequited “love”, friendship is not possible, and he should break off all contact with her for his own sake. He should also grow a pair.)
2. The woman considers the man to be an attractive person. The woman may have absolutely no sexual feelings for the man. She may have rejected his advances months ago. This is not a problem. In both sexes, but especially in women, there’s a difference between (a) considering someone attractive and (b) being personally attracted to that person, the former being a necessary but not sufficient condition for the latter. If the woman considers the man to be “a catch” and would eagerly set him up on a date with her beautiful, single best friend, they can get along, even if she has no sexual interest in him. If she would never set him up with a beautiful and potentially compatible female friend, then she considers him to be inferior and genuine friendship is not possible.
What men need to do: If a man realizes that a woman is never going to be his girlfriend (she rejects him, or they’re just not compatible) and wants to remain friends with her, he needs to have been, and to remain, utterly respectful of her. Pick-up artistry is a great way to project oneself as the type of psychosocially dominant (to use Roissy‘s terminology) man that weak, vulnerable women want to have sex with. It doesn’t make a girl want to spend time with a man.
Above-board, “nice guy” approaches to attracting women do not inspire raw sexual attraction in as large a number of women as pick-up artistry, and they take much more time to develop. If being friends (“LJBF”) with a woman is held to be of zero value, and therefore equivalent to being outright rejected, PUA is the way to go; but if the man’s goal is to expand his social circle and improve his odds with women in the very-long run, a respectful approach is a much better idea. I’ve been both a “nice guy” and an unbelievable asshole in my time; I know this much from experience.
What women need to do: Men are rarely subtle about their romantic and sexual intentions. Once these become evident, the woman should ask herself if she has similar intentions. If not, the next decision is whether she wants to be friends with this man. If she does, she has to make a bold and very rare move. First, she must diplomatically but firmly reject him. Not returning calls is an unacceptable method of doing this. What does she say, in rejecting him? “You’re not my type” and “I don’t want to ruin our friendship” are a massive pile of buttfail; the first is extremely insulting, and the second is transparent. I’m just not interested in dating anyone right now. That’s all she needs to say. It’s not insulting, it’s plausible, and no one can argue against it. (If she pairs up with anyone in the next three months, she’ll certainly lose the friendship. This may or may not be a bad trade.)
Her next move is a bit dicier, but equally necessary. For a single and celibate man to be around desirable women can be painful, and if she’s not “on his team”, he doesn’t want to be friends with her. She doesn’t need to sleep with him or be his girlfriend to be supportive of him, of course. (Obviously, if she doesn’t want to sleep with him, she outright shouldn’t.) She must, however, offer copious assistance to him in his search for a mate. I’m not talking about advice; he can get that on the internet. She needs to make introductions. She needs to offer time as his “wingman”. After formally rejecting him, she probably shouldn’t contact him for 3-4 weeks. When she does, on first in-person contact, she should offer to set him up with a desirable and potentially compatible female friend. He won’t ask for this; she must volunteer. (The reason for the 3-4 week waiting period is to avoid casting her friend as the “replacement”. By this point, the man should have recognized his incompatibility with the woman who rejected him and be out of love infatuation.) Men generally assume that women enjoy playing “match-maker”, and that if a female friend doesn’t offer to set a man up with her desirable single friends, she actually thinks he’s a loser. So introducing a man to her desirable female friends is the only way a woman can signal that, despite her lack of romantic interest in this man, she seeks genuine friendship– not the sort of post-rejection pity-friendship that makes both parties miserable– and considers him a desirable person.
This is difficult, of course, and can be awkward. It’s not unusual or awkward for a single man and woman in their 20s to be friends, but it’s very unlikely for them to become friends. Combat dating inspires men to approach women, and women to react, in a manner that is rude and inspires either immediate sexual attraction or bitter contempt– but never friendship. Most women, also, lack the social skill necessary to turn a guy down without making him dislike her.
Obviously, the goal of finding a romantic partner is rightly placed, by people in their 20s, higher than that of making an opposite-sex friend. It’s much more valuable to have a great girlfriend than a girl friend. On the other hand, when romantic potential is not present between two people, there’s value in forming a genuine friendship, since a strong social network makes the search for a mate substantially easier. I hope that I’ve illustrated how this is possible.