In college, I was part of conversation centered on the question, “Is it possible for a guy and a girl to have a non-romantic friendship?” I remember being so annoyed about this question at the time, arguing “Of course!” I had plenty of good guy friends, not to mention I had a boyfriend!
Now, although I think it is possible to have a friendship with a guy, I have since had experiences that led me to believe it does require work. In my junior year of college, I became fast friends with Bryan. We initially bonded because I had a long distance boyfriend, and he had a long distance girlfriend. When we would go out to bars with our friends, we could hang out with each other while our friends went out in search of romance. We got along really well and at the time I was transitioning between groups of girl friends, so we hung out more and more. We would meet at the library to study a lot or grab a quick meal at the dining hall if our other friends were busy.
But one weekend, while I was visiting my boyfriend, I got a call from Bryan. He was bawling on the other end of the phone, devastated after having found out that his girlfriend had been cheating on him for the majority of the semester.
A few weeks passed, and I kept hanging out with Bryan as I was before, assuming we were on the same page. For the record, he never professed any feelings for me or anything like that, so it is certainly possible that we were on the same page.
But people started to talk and make comments suggesting a romantic relationship to our faces and behind our backs. I had more than one person ask if we were “hooking up.”
All of the sudden, I started to question my friendship with Bryan. I felt like I had to be doing something wrong to be giving people the idea that Bryan and I were a possibility when I had a boyfriend! I was overwhelmed with guilt, fearing that I was leading Bryan on when I didn’t even know if he had romantic feelings for me. I started to question his motives every time he would ask to hang out or send me a text. It brought along anxiety, and on top of it, I felt like a horrible friend and girlfriend.
I spoke with my boyfriend and a close girlfriend of mine about my dilemma. At first, I tried to handle it by simply hanging out with Bryan less. After a few weeks of this, I felt like I was being unfair to Bryan. I knew I had to talk to him.
I remember feeling so nervous walking into the library to talk to Bryan. At the start of the conversation, my voice was so shaky. I knew I had to be completely honest with him. I told him how our friendship was making me feel guilty. I told him that I feared I had possibly led him on by hanging out with him so much and that I was questioning all of his kind actions toward me. I made it clear that I could not tolerate people talking about us being a possible item any longer. And I felt an immediate sense of relief after talking to him.
Although this conversation was awkward and nerve-wracking, it enabled me to set clear boundaries with Bryan. Although Bryan remains a good friend of mine even to this day, I stopped hanging out with him as much, and I stopped feeling guilty when I did.
As I mentioned, it is highly possible that our friendship was platonic all along, and it was simply all in my head. Regardless, I realized the importance of being mindful of how I am coming across to boys that I consider friends and setting clear boundaries.
So, yes, I would still argue that it is certainly possible for a boy and a girl to have a platonic friendship. However, the parameters of such a relationship need to be made explicit and need tender care to be upheld. The moment something feels out of place, it is better to simply have the conversation than to carry on worrying—such conversations can be the test of true friendship!