The benefit of having guy friends is that they can add diversity to your experiences and provide you with a different perspective on a variety of issues. However, it can get complicated when the lines are blurred in your friendship, especially when there are kids involved. In past eras, it was believed that men and women couldn’t be “just friends." Nowadays, women and men share common interests and work spaces, increasing opportunities to develop authentic friendships.
Just Friends: No Benefits
Contemporary culture has embraced the idea of “friends with benefits,” a sexual arrangement between friends without forming any emotional attachments or relationship commitments. While, in a perfect world, men and women who simply need to release sexual tension would benefit from calling on one of their best, trusted confidants for help with this matter, psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, writing for “Psych Central,” says, “The truth is that while some women can manage a [friends with benefits] arrangement, others simply can’t.” If you want to maintain good boundaries with your guy friends, it’s probably a good idea to keep sex out of the equation. This eliminates the threat of complicating the friendship, balancing difficult emotions and potentially ruining the friendship altogether.
It’s healthy to insist that you and your friend maintain honest communication about any difficult emotions either one of you has regarding the nature of your friendship. When the lines do get a little blurred -- and either you or your guy friend starts to wonder, “Should we just be friends, or should I try for something more?” -- have a heart-to-heart conversation with your friend and honestly share your thoughts and feelings. Consider how a lack of boundaries with your guy friends could affect your kids. Speaking honestly with your friend about any emotional complexities within your friendship will take some of the pressure off, clears the air and gives your friend the chance to speak candidly about the issue.
Setting clear physical boundaries is important when interacting with your guy friends. While hugging and other mild forms of affection are relatively tame, sleeping in the same bed may send mixed messages and provide an opportunity for a physical boundary to be crossed. Also, consider how a lack of physical boundaries with your guy friends could affect your kids. It may be confusing to your children if they see a guy friend emerge from your bedroom in the morning after he’s spent the night. Sit down with your friend and establish clear boundaries that the two of you will follow in order to maintain a healthy, drama-free friendship.
Be Respectful of Their Partners
When your guy friend brings his partner around, be respectful by being inclusive and acknowledging her presence. Your guy friend’s partner may already be reticent about the nature of your friendship, so try to reassure her by including her in conversations and getting to know her better. If you and your guy friend are generally very “touchy feely,” you may want to consider how this will make his -- or your -- partner feel if observed. While your guy friend’s partner should have her own level of emotional maturity that enables her to accept her guy’s chosen friends, you can help her out by not making her feel like an oddball in the group and by not giving her cause to suspect that there’s anything deeper going on between you and your guy friend.
K. Nola Mokeyane has written professionally since 2006, and has contributed to various online publications, including "Global Post" and Modern Mom. Nola enjoys writing about health, wellness and spirituality. She is a member of the Atlanta Writer's Club.