“I’d like to have close friends who are guys, but in the past, I’ve had guys cut contact with me once they realized I wasn’t interested romantically. How can I be a good friend to a guy without leading him on?”
Do you ever come across a guy you barely know and get a feeling that you could be great friends? It’s difficult enough to approach people and form new friendships without the extra difficulty of trying to approach a man as a woman without leading him on.
Some people will go as far as to say that men and women can’t be friends, but that’s not universally true at all. While sexual or romantic attraction can be an obstacle in some male-female friendships, it’s entirely possible to find close friends who are men or even a male best friend.
The easiest way to make new friends of either sex is through shared interests. Consider joining a weekly activity you can meet people through, like a Dungeons and Dragons group, a language class, or volunteering.
We have a list of 25 social hobby ideas that can help you meet new people. Try to pick activities that are likely to have a mix of men and women, but make sure you’re choosing something that you’re actually interested in. There’s no use in going to a board game night just to meet people if you won’t be enjoying yourself.
If you know someone you think you may want to be friends with, ask them about their hobbies or interests. Don’t pretend you share the same hobbies if you don’t. Express an interest in learning if you are open to trying new things.
The best way to make friends is to be friendly and open to everyone around you, not just the one person you want to get closer to. You can learn how to be more approachable and seem more friendly if this is something that you struggle with.
You’re more likely to be able to form a close, long-lasting friendship with guys who already have other female friends, or at least speak respectfully about other women.
If you receive compliments such as “you’re not like other women,” this may be a warning sign that they don’t think so highly of women in general and that if you end up disappointing them (by rejecting them, for example), they may feel the same about you.
At the same time, don’t gossip or put down other men or women around them. You aren’t trying to compete with other women. You don’t want them to feel like you’re comparing them to other men, either. Particularly avoid saying things like, “I wish I had a boyfriend like you.”
While women often meet “just to catch up and talk,” men tend to build their friendships through mutual activities. Through working on a shared goal, whether it’s hiking, building something together, or playing video games, men tend to have more of a “why” to meet up.
Suggest activities like going out to play pool or doing a project together. When you’re in the beginning stages of getting to know each other, make it sound casual so that your new friend will understand it’s not a date. Suggest that you can both bring other friends along. Over text, don’t use too many emoticons, as some people may read that as flirty.
You can send a message like, “I’m thinking of checking out the new food market. I invited my friends Anna and Joe, but I’m not sure if they’re coming yet. You are welcome to come along and bring anyone you want as well.”
If you want to make sure you don’t lead someone on and give them the impression that you’re interested romantically, it’s best to avoid spending too much time together in the early stages.
For example, hanging out several evenings each week can give the impression that you are keen to connect deeply as quickly as possible and can be mistaken for romantic interest. Meeting up once or twice per week would be more appropriate.
Being just friends may be easier if one of you is in a relationship or isn’t attracted to the opposite sex. Otherwise, the possibility of a romantic relationship may hang over your friendship, even if you aren’t doing anything to lead him on.
Many men are taught that they have to pursue women. Because they assume women won’t let them know when they are interested, they will be looking for signs that a woman is interested in them. It’s a good idea to make sure that your behavior is consistently platonic and to make sure that your words (e.g., “I’m just looking for friends”) match your actions.
To make it clear you are looking to stay friends when you’re a heterosexual or bisexual woman befriending a heterosexual or bisexual man:
- Avoid complaining about your partner if you’re in a relationship. Your friend may get the impression that you are looking for a new boyfriend. If you talk about your partner, keep your tone light and positive, or at least avoid criticizing them.
- If you are single and looking for a partner, do not tell your friend that you’d like to meet a man like him because he may take this as a sign that you are interested in him even if you just mean it as a compliment.
- If your friend is single and you have a single friend who could be a good match for him, offer to introduce them to one another.
- If your friend has a partner, ask to meet them. You don’t all have to be great friends, but if you show a sincere interest in their partner and make an effort to get on well with them, you will make it clear that you aren’t trying to turn your friendship into a relationship.
- Avoid “couple” activities with your friend, such as quiet dinners in romantic restaurants, and try mixing group outings with one-on-one time together.
- Do not touch them any more frequently than you’d touch any of your female friends.
- Avoid excessive texting. Try to text only if you want to suggest meeting up or if you have something specific to say. Avoid talking or texting for long periods of time late at night, as this can feel more intimate than talking during the day.
You may be used to hugging your female friends when you see them, but some men aren’t as comfortable with physical touch. Wait to get to know your male friends before initiating physical contact. It’s also wise to hold back on physical touch until you’ve established a platonic friendship because some men may interpret touch as a sign of romantic interest.
See how they greet other people. Some people, male or female, aren’t comfortable with hugging as a greeting, for example. However, after becoming close friends, there’s no reason to avoid physical contact if you’re both comfortable with it.
When you have friendships with people of the gender you’re typically attracted to, sometimes crushes happen. This can happen even if you are careful not to give any signs you are interested romantically. If a man finds a woman they can talk to, who shares their interest, and that they’re attracted to, he may develop romantic feelings.
You may develop a crush on your guy friend and be disappointed that he’s not attracted to you in that way. Or perhaps you find out that they have a crush on you, and you feel hurt if they try to hit on you or become distant as a way of coping with their feelings.
If your friend has a crush on you, but you don’t return his interest, you may need to have a frank conversation and tell him you are not interested in a romantic relationship. Our guides on how to tell if a guy likes you and being honest with friends may be helpful.
Remember that if someone is uncomfortable being close friends with you because you’re a woman and they find you attractive, it doesn’t mean anything negative about you. Some people are comfortable being friends with someone they have some attraction to. Others find it more difficult.
Remember that the tips included in this article are generalizations. Don’t assume that someone should like certain things, or act in a particular way, just because of their gender.
For example, some men aren’t comfortable talking about emotions, but some have deep conversations with their male and female friends. Likewise, some men have hobbies that are considered traditionally feminine, like cross-stitch, sewing, baking, or dancing.
While it’s important to keep in mind how men and women are brought up differently and how that can influence the way we feel, think, and act, it’s good to remember that we are all individuals, and there is so much more to our identity than being a man or a woman.
Learning how to get a guy to be your friend is not much different than learning how to approach people and make friends in general. Accepting people as they are and taking time to understand their perspective is the best way to become close with them, whatever their gender.
If you’re in your early 20s, know that it will probably become easier to be friends with men in a few years. As time passes, more men will start serious relationships, so they may be less likely to see a woman who wants to spend time with them as a potential girlfriend.
And as you get older, you’ll meet more men in various places: through work, hobbies, friends of friends, partners of friends, and so on. You’ll get better at recognizing who wants to be your friend because they genuinely want to be your friend and who wants to be your friend in the hopes that it will turn into something more.
Related: How to make new friends.
You can talk to your male friends about almost anything, such as work, hobbies, favorite movies, shows, or games. Some men may feel uncomfortable talking about their emotions, sex, or personal relationships, but some love having female friends to talk to about these issues.