“Dude, we’re just friends,” said the defensive 20-something sitting across from me.
“It sure doesn’t look like a friendship to me or anyone else,” I said.
“So I enjoy female companionship,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we have to date each other.”
“Come on, man,” I said. “You are dating her — minus any sign of commitment from you. She’s your friendgirl, whether you want to admit it or not.”
He barely suppressed a smile, because he knew. He knew she really liked him; he knew he wasn’t really interested in her; he knew she was just a placeholder — and unfortunately, their dysfunctional relationship wasn’t rare.
He’s like so many young men who are “just friends” with single, young women who believe the relationship might actually be going somewhere. At best, these guys are unwittingly part of a relationship that deceptively looks like a good deal for both parties. At worst, they’re willfully blind to the ways they feed a relationship that largely just benefits them.
If you’re one of these guys, it’s time for a wake-up call. It’s time to recognize that there’s something more important at stake here than your convenient relationship with your friendgirl. What’s at stake is her heart.
And her heart is vulnerable. Part of the reason it’s vulnerable is that she’s uniquely, beautifully female; and another reason is that culturally, she’s expected to wait for a man to initiate. As her patience grows thin, she’s more susceptible to believing a man is pursuing her when all he really wants is a friendgirl to stroke his affirmation-starved ego.
Men, this is not cool. And if you’re one of those guys who is passively encouraging a single woman to waste her time on you when you’re not romantically interested, then it’s time for one of the most important breakups of your life.
Got a Friendgirl?
Perhaps you’re uncertain whether your long-term, super-close female friend is a friendgirl. Read through the list below and see if any of it sounds familiar.
You might have a friendgirl if you’re friends with a woman you never intend to marry and . . .
- You know she’s interested, but you figure that as long as you don’t kiss her, she will understand that the relationship is platonic.
- People ask if you’re dating her, and you act surprised every time.
- You’ve had to sheepishly explain that she’s “like a sister” to you.
- You think that defining the relationship means passively aggressively hinting that you’re not into her.
- When she calls you, you hang out with her if it’s convenient.
- When you call her, she drops everything to be with you.
- You justify continuing to hang out with her — despite being uninterested — because, well, you never know, maybe an attraction will eventually develop.
Does any of this sound uncomfortably familiar, men? Well, imagine how she feels reading it (that matters to you, right?).
What You’re Doing to Her
“Hold on,” you say, “I admit I don’t like her like that, but she knows it.” Right. You really think a woman in her right mind would make this kind of investment so that one day — if she’s lucky — she will get to serve punch at your wedding? Give me a break.
Guys, heads up: Your friendgirl thinks (or hopes) something might be going on between the two of you. She actually believes a great guy like you wouldn’t hang out with her, share his deepest feelings and kinda-sorta flirt with her unless there was some chance of a relationship. At the same time, she’s confused. Though you’re perfectly comfortable being emotionally intimate with her, you physically interact with her like she’s your kid sister.
Essentially, you’re doing just enough to string her along, which provides you with a benefit that any man can appreciate: being liked by a woman. Although you never truly reciprocate, she takes what you give; because in a desert with too few bachelors showing interest in her, drinking saltwater feels like a treat — most of the time.
There are other times when it hurts, like when you send signals that — to any reasonable woman — indicate interest, but then you go on about the (other) woman you hope to marry one day. And ultimately, what will hurt more than anything is when your so-called friendship dissolves shortly after you meet the woman you really want.
It’s easy to disclaim responsibility for your friendgirl’s decision to keep pining after you when you never explicitly said you were interested. Well, at least take responsibility for the fact that you enjoy the benefit of being in a culture where women are still expected to wait for you to initiate. And then consider that maybe — just maybe — she might think that’s exactly what you’re doing when you regularly offer the kind of emotional intimacy normally reserved for a love interest.
Brother, if you’re really interested in your friendgirl, then pursue her. Stop halfway dating her, start opening her door and clearly define the relationship for what it is. If things work out between the two of you, great. You’ll be one of those rare couples who truly began as friends, got married and thereafter convinced hopeless romantics everywhere that it really is possible for friendship to come first.
But if you’re not ready to pursue your friendgirl — after all this time — then kindly tell her you don’t see the relationship going beyond friendship and apologize if you’ve done anything to give that impression. To the degree you’ve been more emotionally intimate with her, she will rightfully feel more betrayed and misled by you. And at that point, the relationship will probably fall apart, and both of you will move on instead of spending years in an ambiguous, non-starter relationship.
When the quasi-friendship ends, as these kinds of relationships usually do, it will be painful, heartbreaking stuff — you know, kind of like a breakup. At that point, if there was any doubt in your mind whether the relationship was something more than a friendship, the drama of its demise will clear that up. And hopefully, you’ll start treating women as sisters — physically andemotionally — until you meet a woman you like enough to treat as a prospective wife.
There’s a third option: You could ignore this advice and continue unofficially dating your friendgirl. But before you do that, let me make one more plea. Song of Solomon contains an oft-quoted verse that says, “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases” (Song of Solomon 8:4). This verse is often used to admonish single women not to prematurely commit themselves romantically. I want to use it to admonish you.
Please understand that there is nothing that will “stir up or awaken love” in a woman’s heart like emotional intimacy and spending time together. And it’s the little things that open her heart — the two-hour phone conversation, the Sunday afternoon movie, burgers at your favorite dive, riding to church together — whatever it is, moment by moment, you’re drawing her in.
And although I know it’s delightful to receive this kind of attention, please recognize this: It’s more than her attention you’re getting — it’s her love. And, brother, if all you’re ready to give her is the privilege of being your favorite gal pal, I’m sorry, but you don’t deserve it, and believe me, she deserves better.