by Henry Velez
Not to sound immodest but I cannot think of one guy I know who has had as many years of experience with female friends as myself. Over the last 24 years I have had a variety of female friendships under varying conditions . I have had female friends while being married, single and engaged . Some of these female friendships have spanned over fifteen years . What I have learned over these years has come with both
heartache and experience. If you find yourself embarking into these waters anew, I believe you would be doing yourself a favor to first take some time now to learn the ground rules and dynamics at work in order to enjoy these friendships to their fullest .
Female friends.. while you are Single
As a single guy, having female friends are an absolute necessity for several good reasons . First of all, it is good in life to have a circle of friends, both male and female of about twenty people with whom you can say you engage in actual conversation with on some regular frequency and share some commonality with. Among those twenty or so people, two or three will be close-friends you have built trust with whom you can confide in for honest feedback . In regards to female friends , getting that honest feedback from a woman’s perspective can save you much time and difficulty when dealing with the trying times of a relationship with someone else .
Secondly, having at least six or seven female friends means you can maintain female company without the complexities of actual ‘dating’ and/or sex that are part of an exclusive–love-relationship . It is the guy who has not spent much time with a woman for the last nine months who is almost guaranteed to think he is in love when some woman shows even the slightest amount of interest in him . Third, having a decent sized circle of friends , again male and female, increases the network of firsthand introductions to other women you may not have otherwise met.
Getting to know each other..
There is no big mystery as to why some people become friends and others do not . Friendship is based on three things; Commonality, followed by Respect and then sealed with Trust. They must grow in this order. If any of these three aspects is missing the relationship tends to remain as an acquaintance. During the initial commonality phase, two people realize that they share a common interest , a common personality trait or one common desire. It may have been that they work at the same company, enjoy the same hobby, are at the same stage in their life, have the same past experiences or any variety of things . Especially when between a man and a woman, as each desire to find out more about each other it can be difficult to distinguish this initial phase from that of a man and a woman beginning to fall in love . It is during this period of getting to know each other that most men mistake a woman’s interest as the beginning of a love relationship. Don’t beat yourself over the head if you’ve done this.. happens all the time.
This is why it is important, if you wish to have the possibility for love to grow with this particular woman at some time in the future, you must be patient and not read into or presume anything too hastily. Doing so well likely cause a woman to go out of her way to make it clear that you are only friends and will never, ever, ever be anything more than that . On the outside chance that she too is beginning to fall in love with you, being patient with her is part of the lost talent of building romance and courtship.
There are two sides to the issue of respect . That of giving respect to your friend and that of receiving it. While there is more than I can speak about on this topic then I will devote to here, perhaps the most relevant point has to do with being true to yourself. Because friendships are based on commonality and now communication has opened up freely it becomes a temptation to try to maintain commonality on all subjects discussed despite contradictory views held . Do not do this. Part of gaining someone’s respect is being true to your own convictions even if they’re not the same as those held them.
Likewise , part of respecting someone else is to acknowledge their right to hold a contradictory position . ‘Agreeing to disagree’ is a better route to take rather than either becoming untrue to your own convictions or attempting to bulldoze over those of someone else. It is not necessary to agree on everything in every topic with every friend you have in order to remain friends. It’s okay to have a healthy debate on those issues so long as no one is having a hard time with it. But people who are not true to their own convictions become known as ‘yes men’, who in the end find themselves respected by no one .
Someone once told me that mutual trust is much like a barrel without a lid. If that barrel gets tipped over, much gets lost and it will take time, if ever, to refill that barrel. Trust builds quickly between certain people and it builds very slowly between other people. The key thing to remember is to allow trust to build at its own natural rate. Do not rush it, do not presume it, but simply let it fill that barrel in a natural manner.
At the risk of sounding sexist , I will simply declare that men and women simply are not the same. That is a wonderful thing in life and a necessary thing to keep in mind. This lays the foundation for certain ground rules . When a woman brings together several of her male friends , most often these male friends will find a way to get along well with each other. They may even become friends apart from their common friendship with the woman. Because of how men are wired, most men in this situation do not want to be the jerk who is tossed out of the group by the woman for behaving in a jealous manner. Each one will inwardly console himself with the belief that he is a much closer friend to her than any of the other men, whether or not that is the case.
But this does not apply to you as a man . A man, who brings together several of his female friends, even though he is only friends and not in a relationship with any of them, is flirting with danger. When men do not get along with each other they become either vocally or physically confrontational about it . Apart from an open confrontation, most men would rather ‘keep the peace’ rather than escalate a situation because they know that if it escalates into a physical conflict.. it’s gonna get real ugly, real fast.
Not so with a group of women. They take on a more subtle and political approach to letting the other woman know that they do not care for her. They will seek allies amongst your other female friends until she feels outcast without one shot fired. Even though these women are your friends and not in an exclusive relationship with you , jealousy is a strong emotion that must be reckoned with. A jealous man is inclined to taking on the competition openly . A jealous woman simply seeks to eliminate the competition altogether . Do what you will, bring them all together and hope for the best. Just don’t say you weren’t forewarned when one of your female friends ends the evening with a very bad vibe that was broadcast under your radar, but not hers. As for me, I recommend visiting your female friends separately or at most two at a time for a brief lunch, movie, etc. Under these brief circumstances they could actually become good friends with each other.
When she is dating..
So far, we have talked about female friends within the conditions of you and them being single. But the dynamics change when either you or they begin to date someone as a love interest. First thing, if your female friend begins with a new boyfriend, expect to hear very little from her. This is for two reasons . First, her free time is now going to be spent with getting to know the new boyfriend. So, forget about last minute weekend plans and the day trips that you normally would take with her.
Secondly, she has undoubtedly told her new boyfriend about her male friends and he will most likely be distrustful of those friendships . But this is OK. For it is inevitable, that to the degree her relationship becomes more intimate with the boyfriend, to that degree you and she now have less in common as single adults. They will begin as a couple to have more commonality with friends they know who are also couples. The same applies if they get married, they will find a commonality with other married couples and so it goes as children enter the picture, etc.. Attempting to divert this natural course of events will likely land you the position as an unwelcome, former friend. At that point you can forget about meeting her other single friends at their wedding.
So, give her the space that she needs to investigate her new relationship . And don’t be surprised if she asks you to meet him and then later ask for your honest feedback on your impression of him. This is where your testing of true friendship will come. Even if he is a good match for her, you may find yourself tempted to give him a bad review only out of selfish desire to have her back in your life again.
Do not do this. If the guy has obvious, serious flaws, be honest with her and warn her about your concerns. But apart from that, find it in yourself to truly be happy for her future.
When you are dating..
Now let’s look at the reverse situation. Your female friend is still single but you have met a different woman with whom you are falling in love with. Rule number one.. To the degree you spend time with your female friend, your new female love interest is going to give you grief over it. Love is mutually exclusive, it has no use for a third wheel. You will be torn to maintain the same level of interaction with your female friends versus giving your primary attention to the woman you’re in love with. What you need to know from the very beginning is that you cannot accomplish both . Rule number two.. A female friend who, prior to you becoming involved was too busy to catch a movie with you will suddenly began contacting you with more frequency once she finds out you are starting a new relationship. I have been through this enough times to know you can take this to the bank. And the irony is that the same day you break up with a girlfriend is the same day your female friend returns to having only two or three days a month available to hang out. It is a common flaw in human nature, with both men and women, to want what is in scarce supply. (ie; your time) Once your time is in abundant supply again, the desire for it returns to a baseline of interest.
As I mentioned earlier, in the case with women who marry, the day you get married you will be hard pressed to maintain the same level of friendship with your female friends as when you were single. Attempting to do so will only put you on the defense with your wife even though your past and present intentions with your female friends have always proven to be purely platonic. It does not matter that for the last eight years you have never had sex with your female friend as a single man, your wife does not trust her and your wife has little to zero confidence in a man’s ability to turn down temptation. You can try, you can tell yourself that your situation is different , you can say that you have a great relationship with your wife and that she is very understanding, but just know that even if things go well for a short period you’re playing with a Pandora’s box that will eventually blow up in your face. If at any time you were intimate with your female friend in the past, and your new spouse knows about it.. you are toast. The only solution is to become friends with the wives of people you know as a couple so long as you are not spending time alone with those women. But open friendships when you are with your wife and other couples is perfectly OK. (bbq’s, family get-togethers, holiday parties, etc.)
Having female friends has been both a wonderful and tumultuous experience for me for more than the last two decades of my life . I have seen female friends get married and move on . I have had a desire to move forward into a love relationship with several female friends that was not mutual, and still managed to remain friends afterward. I have been the shoulder they cried on as my female friends broke up with one bad boyfriend after another. And I have been caught between a wife and a lifelong friend while bad blood brewed between them.
As a man, having male friends is a very straightforward, simple matter. Women do not become distrustful of their husband’s male friends unless of course she feels they are stealing too much of her time or are a bad influence. They would much rather her husband is out fishing or catching a football game at a male friend’s house for half the day rather than that he spend fifteen minutes talking to a female friend. And pity him if he actually is enjoying the conversation.. when he gets off the phone, it is ‘on’.
The key here is to simply know, going in, that your friendships with women do not hold to the same dynamics as you have known with your male friends . Yes, I’m sure there are exceptions to every rule, but that’s what they are.. the exceptions that exist in the minority. As humans, we have our strong points and we also have our fallible weaknesses and moments. Friendships between men and women will eventually test each of these. But if we are mindful of what we are engaging in, having female friends, at least in my experience has been quite an adventure.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.