“I try not to let it bother me that I’m not really dating,” a friend told me while swapping stories about the men in our lives. I’m a few years older than her, so, while I’ve since graduated college and joined the world of young professionals, she’s still in the midst of the college-dating scene.
I nodded, remembering my time as a student when I often felt the way she is now. “Dating” in college is virtually nonexistent. Rarely do college-age men and women head out to dinner and a movie for the sake of getting to know one another. It’s more likely they’ll make plans via text to meet up later that evening for a few beers with friends, etc.
Of course I understand my friend’s frustration. But I also told her, “be grateful for your guy friends.”
You see, I’ve always had a lot of guy friends. Don’t get me wrong I have a lot of female friends too, but it’s nice to have some boys to call when there’s a little too much estrogen pumping through the room. The truth is, my friendships with guys have taught me more about men than any movie or magazine ever could. These friendships have given me living, breathing examples of qualities I’d like to see in my future husband – and qualities I’d rather not.
Here are five valuable things I have learned from my guy friends.
1. Men want what I want. Through these friendships, I’ve seen that men are sensitive. Yes, they’re rugged and macho and strong, but underneath it all they want what women want. They want to be accepted, understood, and valued. Men, like women, simply want to be loved.
2. Men want me to respect myself. I have learned that men will treat a woman the way she demands to be treated. A woman that requires the respect of others will be granted nothing less than that (because if she isn’t respected, she respects herself enough to walk away). This is an important lesson I’ve learned from my guy friends. There have been times I’ve had to fight for respect and there have been times my guy friends have had to remind me to demand it. In both cases, I’ve seen the importance in being a woman that requires this respect and I’ve learned to be that woman.
3. I can’t force a man to love me. It’s true that friendships between men and women can sometimes be tricky. (Crazy, I know, to think that a relationship between a man and woman could ever be difficult – Ha!) I’ve been friend-zoned a time or two and I suspect there could be a guy out there who’d accuse me of the dreaded friend-zone as well. It happens.
But even in those moments—when I’ve felt something for a man in my life and those feelings have not been returned—I’ve learned so much. I’ve seen that I can’t force a man to love me and, more importantly, I’d rather not have to. I’ve been forced to wait patiently for the right man and although it’s often difficult to do so, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
4. Insight into what I want in a man, without having to date a lot of them. My friendships with men have given me the kind of wisdom that you might acquire from dating, but without the emotional ups and downs of actually dating a man. I’ve recognized qualities and personality traits I appreciate in a man and I’ve recognized ones I could do without. I’ve seen, to some extent, how men operate. I’ve come to understand that men are different than women – yet when push comes to shove, we all just want to be loved.
5. Friendship is the most important thing in love. Above all else, the friendships I’ve developed with men over the years have shown me the value in creating a friendship prior to entering into a more serious or committed relationship with someone. I’ve found that friendships develop at a healthier pace because they grow deeper more gradually. Often, when we begin dating someone, the physical aspect quickly escalates the intensity of the relationship. But in friendships, without the physical piece, we’re left with only one option: to really get to know each other.
I’ve been blessed in my life to be friends with many good men. Although I’m not dating any of them, I’m grateful for these relationships. They’ve given me perspective and wisdom that I’d otherwise be without. I was single for most of college, but I look back on those years without regret, because I was learning so much about my future marriage—and I learned it all from my guy friends.
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