So, you meet someone at a party: You share a laugh, you’re both into the same tunes, you both binge watch the same stuff…
The ‘problem’ is they happen to be a gender that you’re into (in the sexy romantic kinda way). And so the age old question arises: can you ever be just friends?
Wait… is this actually a real problem??
Despite the way almost every Hollywood film tells it, we can be – and are – just friends all the time. Hanging out with each other doesn’t always end up in sexual tension, broken hearts or a slow-motion make out session in the rain.
Nope, believe it or not, being friends with someone without being attracted to them romantically or sexually is totally normal and really common.
We end up being friends with people because we get along with them, and genuinely like them. We can laugh and hang out with our mates, and trust them with the more serious stuff, too. If this is what we look for in a friend, why do we care so much what gender they are?
Seems there are a few reasons we say ‘you can never be just mates’ (and they’re all pretty $hitty):
Jealousy from a partner
Some people seem to think you should only have one person of the ‘opposite sex’ in your life. Aside from the fact that this ignores the many people who are attracted to more than one gender, as well as the people who may be gender-fluid or gender non-conforming, this is also totally boring and limits your ability to have more friends!
Obviously this is kinda ridiculous, and is probably more about people getting jealous, which is something we all really need to address.
Everybody is capable of caring about or being friends with multiple people at once and in different ways. If your partner doesn’t trust you to maintain friendship boundaries, then there might be some bigger conversations you should have about trust, independence and boundaries.
'Inevitable' sexual or romantic feelings
You’ve probably heard people say ‘oh it’s just inevitable, if you get on you’ll naturally wanna bang, date or fall in love’. Except that we can get on without being attracted to each other… right?!
We’re not attracted to every single person who matches our sexuality that we ever meet, right? We’re not doing it in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, right? We can all control our urges, and also sexual and romantic attraction is much more complex than sex and gender alone.
Romantic/sexual relationships matter more than friends
Friendships often get shoved to the bottom of the priority list, but why? Our mates are super important in our life – and often last longer than partners, tbh.
Why do we say ‘just’ friends? ‘Just’ suggests something is missing or that we’ve settled for less. This idea underpin the whole friend-zone saga too, as if friendship = settling for less.
Friends are awesome. We’ve got to stop putting them down! If we think about friendships and relationships as equally important (but playing different roles in our life, obviously) then it feels much more obvious that of course we can be ‘just’ friends.
So, the next time you meet this great new mate at a party and freak out, think about why you actually care what their gender is??
PS: This isn’t to say that every friendship has to or will remain a friendship. You may end up developing feelings for the other person and this is completely cool, too!
If you do catch the feels, be open and honest with the other person. Someone thinking you’re ‘just’ friends needs to know when/if that changes for you. If they’re not feeling it back, have a read of our friend-zone piece.