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Which side of the When Harry Met Sally debate are you on? In other words: do you think heterosexual boys and girls can be 'just friends'? It's a hotly-contested debate, with some arguing they have hundreds of platonic male mates, while others insist there's always been a spark on at least one person's side.
Things get pretty tricky when the feeling isn't mutual; i.e. when you like a guy and he just wants to be friends or he's mad on you and you're just not feeling it. So how do you handle these situations?
Firstly, let's take a look at the latter situation. You get on well with your male friend, but feel he's pushing for something more. It's important to be completely straight from the word go here. If you have a significant other, you absolutely need to let him know. Drop your partner into conversation every now and again and never bad mouth them in front of him; he could think you're a damsel in distress just waiting for him to 'rescue' you.
Even if you're not already paired up, you can't string him along. It's normal to enjoy the feeling of someone liking you, but if he's a friend you truly care about, getting his hopes up is plain cruel. Don't treat him like a substitute or back-up boyfriend. By this we mean, keep one-on-one 'mate-dates' to a minimum and don't go along for meals or cinema visits that could be perceived as a precursor for the real thing. Instead, suggest group activities and politely decline anything vaguely intimate.
Similarly, resist the urge to get touchy-feely. It can feel nice to have someone close and most humans naturally crave touch as it makes them feel loved and secure. But hugging, play fighting and light touches of the arm etc are all very flirtatious. Keep your hands to yourself to avoid any awkward situations.
If he makes his feelings clear or even talks to you about them, it's crucial you are honest. Be upfront and factual and don't be tempted to sugar-coat things or delay them with phrases such as 'not right now', as it will just leave things unresolved and him hopeful.
But what if it's you that wants more and him who isn't interested? It's all about protecting your heart here. Hopefully he truly cares about you and doesn't string you along for an ego boost. If he has a girlfriend but acts flirty around you, consider whether he's actually a true pal. It's disrespectful to her and you and it's best to put some distance between the two of you, pronto.
Also, it's important not to put yourself in vulnerable situations. As tempting as it is to say yes to one-on-one hangouts, you have to turn them down if you're sure there's no spark on his side. Similarly, avoid drinking too much around him and making a move or confessing how you feel. It could ruin your friendship and leave you red-faced.
That's not to say telling him you like him is out of the question. If he's never specifically said he doesn't like you in that way and you think there's a glimmer of hope, be brave and bite the bullet. You never know how he might respond and some of the best relationships can grow out of a solid friendship. But make sure you are completely sober and also totally sure how you feel about him. It can be tricky to distinguish between a mate and a date so it's essential you're positive about taking that next step.
Overall, it's certainly not impossible for boys and girls to be friends; enough people manage to do it. As long as you're both completely honest with each other, we have full faith you'll manage to navigate these tricky waters and come out with a great (platonic) relationship!
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