Can Boys and Girls Be “Just Friends”?

Written on August 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm , by
















In two weeks my book about boys, Masterminds and Wingmen, will be published. But I’ve just realized it didn’t include a critical issue I need to share with parents. So what better place to tackle that topic than my Momster blog?

In Masterminds, I spend about one-third of the book explaining how boys interact with girls. I cover:

  • what they think about girls,
  • their experiences with girls that they don’t tell adults about, and
  • what their parents say to them about girls.

I also talk about girls as friends. Boys, especially in high school, often have friendships with girls that are incredibly meaningful to them. Here are a few of the comments that two of my high school guy editors shared with me:

“I love hanging with my boys but I’ve had the closest of relationships with my mom growing up so I naturally function better when I have close girlfriends around me.” —Ryan

“I think guys can look at girls and think of them as someone who they can talk to about sensitive subjects. You really can’t talk about sensitive subjects with your best guy friends because you know their opinion of you prior to whatever you have to say. With girls, you can tell them more without knowing them as well.” —Grant

That part I knew. What I didn’t realize can best be explained by Raffael, another guy contributor, when we talked a few days ago:

“Last spring I was really stressed out. I was playing football and filling out 22 college applications. So I decided to break up with my girlfriend. Two days later I realized that I had made a horrible mistake and I needed someone to talk to. I couldn’t talk to the guys on my team because we don’t talk about things like that. We talk about who we’ve hooked up with but not relationship stuff. So I take a really good girl friend out to dinner so I can get her advice and when I am walking out the door I tell my mom where I am going and she starts probing me with all these questions about the girl as if I want to hook up with her. This was my friend. And my mom is accusing me of trying to get with her just two days after this breakup.”

That’s the part I didn’t realize. Parents often reinforce the stereotype that boys and girls can’t be friends. We don’t mean to do it, but we do. Boys need friendships with girls for many reasons. They know having a strong friendship with a girl can give them the “girl” insight they need. But we all need boys to have strong friendships with girls so as they mature they know how to collaborate with girls, compete with girls and have healthy intimate relationships with them.

What do boys want from us? They want us to stop peppering them with questions that come across as if we think all they want from girls is to get it on. That’s true whether they’re in fourth grade and we’re teasing them about who they have a crush on, or they’re in high school and we’re assuming that their real motivation for having close female friends is sex.

This doesn’t mean it’s not possible for boys to be sexually attracted to a girl that’s a friend. But instead of comments, what boys want from us is relationship advice. I know that sounds completely different from everything we think about them, but it’s true. They want an adult who they can ask questions and get direct, straight-up answers from. They want an adult who role models how to have healthy intimate relationships and who treats their partner with dignity.

Do you think boys and girls can be “just friends? Are you guilty of making your son’s friendships seem like something more? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the forthcoming Masterminds and Wingmen and the best-selling Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to Do you have a parenting question?


10 Responses to “Can Boys and Girls Be “Just Friends”?”

  1. My daughter, a sophomore in high school, has some really close friends that are boys. Many of these she has known and gone to school with for 10 years. At least three of them chose to go to this high school because they knew she would be there. They do not date, but rather are just best friends. I do not accept that there is a gender barrier any more than there is a race barrier.

  2. [...] Boys’ talk about their intimate emotions within relationships (with parents, with girls, with each other!) as she shared in this excerpt in her latest Family Circle column,  Can boys and girls be ‘just friends?’ [...]

  3. The simple answer is No.

    No matter how long they have been friends, one of them has romantic interest in the other and will hang on in hopes that one day..

  4. Absolutely.
    I was and still am friends with the same group of guys I was in middle school and high school. I was the girl that the guys went to for advice, we had sleep overs and went to concerts. They are my brothers. I lobe them now and always will. They introduced me to my husband of 13 years.
    It’s all about building a healthy foundation, we were close but we knew that we valued our friendships over any artificial sexual desires.
    Raise your kids to value themselves as more than just a sex object. There is so much more to friendships than than.

  5. [...] Boys’ talk about their intimate emotions within relationships (with parents, with girls, with each other!) as she shared in this excerpt in her latest Family Circle column,  Can boys and girls be ‘just friends?’ [...]

  6. I came across this article as I as searching the internet for answers. My 13 year old son, in the past 6-8 months, has developed close friendships with several girls in his school. He now hangs out with girls almost exclusively. There are about 5 of them who he snowboards with and talks on the phone and even goes to their homes to hangout. When I ask him why he doesn’t see his guy friends, he tells me that all they want to do is play video games. He doesn’t date any of these girls and says he doesn’t plan to date until he is in high school (he’s in the 8th grade). I grew up with all sisters and this is my one and only boy. I’m wondering if anyone can shed light on this?

  7. This is stupid! Guys and girls can (and I repeat can) just be friends, especially, especially, if they knew each other since they were babies! In fact, studies have shown that if guys and girls knew each other since they were six or younger, they’ll probably think of each other as siblings. So, in your faces, you morons who say that guys and girls can’t just be friends. I know this guy and we knew each other since we were babies and we have no romantic feelings for each whatsoever. We think of each other as siblings. And, that’s that. End of story.

  8. it was very interesting… i kept on reading and reading… i cant stop no matter what happens…

  9. i got the inspiration, after reading your article , thank you :)

  10. i think i left my mind in here…i always searching for this kind of article..this was so good… nothing to complain… that’s all!