Why Can’t We Be Friends?

By Sydney Lorentz

It’s the classic story. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl become friends. Both enjoy the time they are spending together. However, an age-old question is often raised: Is there something more here? Or can we just be friends?

I’ve seen this scenario play out quite frequently in my own life and the lives of my friends. Especially in our modern-day world where socializing and communication have virtually (pardon the pun) gone digital, emotions and intentions can often be lost in the mix. All of this can lead one to wonder: Are platonic friendships between people of the opposite gender actually possible?

The quick answer: Yes, but read on for more.

From as early as middle school, I resented the drama that often occurred in many friend groups of girls. Now, I don’t mean to stereotype. This can happen in friend groups with any gender; this was just my experience. Growing up, I’ve also played a lot of co-ed sports, like track, cross country, and swimming, where I’ve had many male teammates. In my own experience, friendships with guys many times seemed chill, laid-back, and easy.

But like in any friendship, deep things always get shared. You share your heart, your struggles, your happiness, and your dreams with your friends.

This is where it can get complicated.

Sharing your feelings with someone puts you in a vulnerable position. It can establish bonds between you and the other person, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Bonds such as these can often allow feelings to arise. Oftentimes, with friends of the same sex, this factor is nonexistent. With friends of the opposite gender, however, one has to be prudent with one’s intentions in this regard.

Now don’t get me wrong—friendship turning into something more is far from being a bad thing. But, before we share our hearts with someone, there’s a few questions we should ask ourselves:

1. What are my intentions in sharing my heart with this person?

2. Do I see this person as a friend, or potentially something more?

3. If I have feelings for this person, do I know their feelings toward me? Will this lead to hurt if these feelings aren’t reciprocated on either side?

4. If I don’t have feelings for this person, would I still feel comfortable sharing this if this person, or myself, were in a relationship with someone else?

These are some basic rules of thumb that I think are useful for guarding one’s heart in friendships with people of the opposite gender. Like I said, these friendships are great. Having solid, authentic friendships with guys (or if you’re a guy, with girls) are so good at giving a different perspective and outlook on life, because let’s face it—guys and girls are different!

No matter what gender two friends are, however, friendship should always be about pursuing each other’s highest good. Aristotle defined friendship as a relation between two individuals that involves “a turning toward” the other person—in other words, a focus on or concern for that person. Friendship involves the pursuit of some good as an essential characteristic. To Aristotle, the highest and most noble form of friendship is that which pursues the other’s highest good and in which two friends mutually seek the good. Is this type of friendship possible for people of the opposite gender? In my experience, yes.

The summer after my junior year of high school, I served as a missionary at a Catholic summer camp. We were asked to not enter into or pursue a relationship during that summer on staff. I truly think this was a huge blessing that summer. Here, I was surrounded by some of the most holy and authentic men I had ever met. And let’s be honest—virtue is very attractive. However, that summer, I also formed some of the most rock-solid friendships that I’ve ever had. I still talk to many of those people that I served with. Being free from any expectation of a relationship left me free to develop strong foundations of friendship that, to this day, call me on to sanctity.

So yes, friendships with the opposite gender are possible. Let’s do our best to help each other become the saints we are called to be and get to Heaven.