This is a hard one for me to answer. I know what I think, but I’m sure there is someone out there who can prove me wrong. From my experience as a counselor and working with people for a over a decade, I have come to the conclusion that men and women can be “just friends” IF they have really good boundaries.
Otherwise, I believe all bets are off. This post will be about my definition of boundaries. The first boundary is being able to talk about dating other people. If you can’t do that, then you will be jealous when they start dating or get into a serious relationship. If you are truly “just friends” you should be able to become friends with their significant other with no problem. Their significant other shouldn’t feel threatened by you either. They shouldn’t have to compete with you for your friend’s attention. If you are truly a friend you will want to hang out with both of them at times and won’t mind if he/she doesn’t have as much time for you.
The second boundary is not becoming too emotionally attached. This friend shouldn’t be your best and only friend. If you become too emotionally close, it can cause problems. For example, if you talk to your friend at all hours of the night you are going to feel really hurt when they can no longer text you back because they are too busy texting their new boyfriend or girlfriend. They will now be going to this other person for emotional support. Their girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t going to be okay with you texting them 24/7. Your friendship will come in second to the relationship, and this is how it should be. Not that it is okay for them to ignore you like you don’t exist, but be aware that they won’t have the time or energy to meet all of your emotional needs anymore. If you can keep this boundary, it will make the adjustment easier when they do end up in a relationship.
The third boundary is not having sex with each other. “Friends With Benefits” may work when you are both single, but how is it going to work when one of you gets into a relationship? Most people in a relationship have a hard time when their partner hangs out with someone they’ve had sex with in the past. If your friend is being honest in their relationship, then their partner will know they’ve had sex with you in the past. It could make it uncomfortable for them to hang out with you, which means your friend now has to choose between their partner and you. Guess who they are probably going to pick? Think long and hard about having sex with a friend because it could screw up your friendship in the future.
It is good to have friends of the opposite sex, but be aware of the potential complications. You need to be aware of what your underlying intentions are. If you really want to date this person and feel a stronger connection to them, be honest with yourself. They are no longer “just a friend”. Also, be aware of their intentions or underlying feelings for you. Do you get the vibe that they are only hanging out with you because they are wanting more? Do they come to you with all of their problems? How do they react when you start talking about dating other people? Sometimes your intentions can be innocent, but it isn’t fair to take advantage of someone’s friendship when you know they really want more from you. It is good to have a solid boundary with this person because they could make it hard for you when you start to pull away.
If you keep these simple boundaries in mind, it will help keep your friendship solid and intact even when you or them start dating more seriously. Try not to let just one person become your main confidant. Don’t spend all your time with this person. Go out with your other friends and have other people you can count on. This will help you keep those boundaries and prevent future heartache or drama. If you can do that, you should be able to be friends with the opposite sex with no problem!