Harry: Would you like to have dinner?... Just friends.
Sally: I thought you didn't believe men and women could be friends.
Harry: When did I say that?
Sally: On the ride to New York.
Harry: No, no, no, no, I never said that... Yes, that's right, they can't be friends...unless both of them are involved with other people. Then they can. This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted. That doesn't work either. Because what happens then is the person you're involved with can't understand why you need to be friends with the person you're just friends with, like it means something is missing from the relationship and wanted to go outside to get it. Then when you say, 'No, no, no, no, it's not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,' the person you're involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you're just friends with, which you probably are - I mean, come on, who are we kidding, let's face it — which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can't be friends. So where does it leave us?
Sally: Goodbye Harry.
One of my top five favorite movies is "When Harry Met Sally," the most definitive “can men and women be just friends” film of all time. As you probably know, it starts with the premise that men and women CAN’T be just friends…then years later, Harry and Sally actually BECOME friends…then years after that, they fall in love. Which brings us back to the original point: Were they ever really JUST friends if they had the capacity to fall in love?
Well, I’m not sure about Harry and Sally, but I can say unequivocally, without the slightest hesitation, that YES…men and women can be just friends. How do I know this? Because I have several male friendships. I am proud to say that I have these friendships, because that was a goal I added to my vision board this year: To have healthy male friendships. The thing that I think is key here is this — the health of ALL of your friendships, including the ones with guys, depends on the health of YOU. It all begins and ends with you. And for perhaps the first time in my life, I feel like I am at a TRULY healthy place on all levels: Physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. You can’t have healthy relationships with other people until you master a healthy relationship with yourself. That’s why, throughout my life, I’ve struggled to achieve friendship with men because I didn’t have strong, healthy boundaries in place. And healthy has to happen on the inside before it shows up on the outside.
Now, that said…there are also some caveats in place when it comes to men and women being just friends:
1) All of my close male friends are single. This is not by coincidence. This isn’t saying that married men and women can’t have friends of the opposite sex, but in my experience, it’s challenging to respectfully maintain a close friendship with a married person without making their spouse uncomfortable. And no friendship is worth putting strain on your friend’s marriage. One of my best male friends does happen to be married, but he lives across the country now, meaning we only occasional talk and text. If we were still living in the same city, I doubt if we would hang out all the time. It just wouldn’t make sense for either of us. I can love him and be there for him from a distance but to try to insert myself into his day to day life when he’s busy with his wife and daughter simply isn’t feasible.
2) UNLESS…you are married or in a relationship, too. Then the Harry and Sally rule from above comes into play. If you are both involved with other people, it lifts any awkwardness and potential for the two of you to be involved with each other. Plus, it’s also just fun to have another couple to double date with!
3) A few of my male friends are lifelong friends, which helps dilute any concern of ever becoming attracted to one another. Chances are, if you’ve been friends since kindergarten and you’ve never developed a crush on each other, it’s not gonna happen now. Once you’ve seen someone eat paste, wet their pants, and wallow in the dirt on the playground, you’re probably not going to fall head over heels for them, LOL! There’s just not a lot of mystery or sexual chemistry with someone who feels like your brother.
4) Can you be friends with an ex? I used to think the answer to this was a resounding NO. But I’ve recently struck up a friendship with one of my exes, and it’s been great. I think you just have to have really solid boundaries in place and stick to them. When you know in your heart that any ship for a potential relationship with that person has sailed, it makes it much easier to test the waters of friendship. Me and my ex have a great time together, make each other laugh, and have no weird hidden angst or motives when it comes to the other person. Obviously, not all exes are meant to be friends, as there are still intense feelings involved and its not healthy to try to navigate a friendship with someone who you’re still very much emotionally entangled with.
5) Which brings me to #5. Never try to use the whole “let’s just be friends” thing with someone you still carry a torch for just to keep them in your life. If you wouldn’t be okay with them coming to you for relationship advice…you have no business trying to be their friend. Any “friendship” built on desperation to hold on to someone or manipulation to keep them in your life is doomed to fail. Only go down the path of friendship with someone you are legitimately prepared to be JUST FRIENDS with, and nothing more.
Ultimately, men and women CAN be just friends…but the health of the friendship is always going to depend upon the health of the two parties involved. So, as with anything else in life, focus on taking care of YOU first, and everything else will fall into place. Another popular film from the Harry and Sally era said famously: “If you build it, they will come.” If you build a healthy YOU, healthy friendships will come. Of both the male AND female persuasion.
Can Men And Women Be Just Friends?
Yes, but there are some caveats.
Harry: Would you like to have dinner?... Just friends.