Male-Female (Platonic) Friendship: 12 Boundaries and Rules

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

having a conversation

The male-female platonic friendship discussion has been going on for quite some time now. Is it really possible for a platonic male-female friendship to work? The reality is that friendships can work, but a lot of the success of such a friendship comes down to how you handle yourself around your friend of the opposite sex. 

In order for a friendship with a person of the opposite sex to work out, you need to set realistic boundaries and dedicate yourself to avoid crossing them. It’s important to treat the friendship with care; otherwise, you might find yourself in quite a predicament. By letting things get a little confusing even once, you stand the risk of completely ruining your friendship and your relationship if you have a significant other.

So, you are currently friends with someone of the opposite sex and want to keep things “above board”. How do you do that? Is it hard? Should you just avoid it altogether? There’s no reason to avoid a friendship if you derive value from it, but first, make sure that you are in it for the right reasons. Then, make sure that you follow these simple rules by implementing boundaries, and your friendship will be truly platonic – and healthy. 

12 boundaries (or rules) that are needed in a male-female friendship:

1. Make the “just friends” status of your relationship clear from day 1.

When being friends with someone of the opposite sex, it is best to be clear and firm from the very start as to the basis or status of the friendship. By confirming verbally that the friendship is purely platonic and “just friends”, it means that you both start off on the same page, and there is no room for unwanted confusion. This is a great starting point and sets the right intentions.

2. Never get physical.

Have you ever got a little more physical with your friend of the opposite sex than you intended to? It can happen, and it will happen unless you prepare for it. It can be tempting to snuggle up on a cold night or end up puckering up after a night of drinks. Don’t. If you feel like getting physical with your platonic friend, it’s time to shut it down and run a mile. Never make a decision to get physical with your opposite-sex friend in the heat of the moment. This will only lead to trouble. 

Avoid those extra hugs, handholding, cuddles, kisses, and sex – all of these are off the table. If you consider a friends-with-benefits situation, your friendship, most likely, is going to end badly.

3. Openly involve your partner.

If you have a partner (or spouse), make sure that you include him/her in the majority, if not all, of the time spent with your friend of the opposite sex. Not only will this make your partner more at ease, but also ensure that both you and your friend are aware of the important relationships you have in your lives. Having this understanding will provide a good basis for a solid friendship based on mutual respect for each other as well as for those who you love.

4. Never down talk partners.

If your friend of the opposite sex gets a girlfriend/boyfriend, don’t spend time talking that person down or mocking him/her on his/her choice. Rather be supportive and be as welcoming and friendly as you can. This will show your friend that you’re happy for him/her and that you are not looking for a relationship. Much the same, if your friend confides in you about a fight with their partner and complains, don’t jump on board with complaints and stabs at his/her partner. When the air clears between them, your comments will hang thick and heavy in the air between you. 

5. Play matchmaker.

You never know, your friend of the opposite sex could be playing the long game and simply waiting for you to be readily available for a relationship. Make sure that there is no room for misunderstandings between you on a romantic front. If you truly want a platonic relationship, you need to make sure that you drive the message home to your friend. You can do this by playing matchmaker every now and then. If your friend isn’t dating someone else, recommend that they meet some of your single friends or arrange some blind dates

6. Avoid playing the “plus one” card too often.

people laughing

It might be tempting to use your friend of the opposite sex as a plus one for all those events you don’t have a partner for. Think of parties, weddings, celebrations – you name it – these are the events that often require or allow for a plus one. The reality of this type of situation is that other people will start to see you as a couple, and the more of these you spend together, the greater the chances of one or both parties developing feelings and wanting to take it further. 

If the event requires a plus one, ask other friends to be your plus one on some occasions. If the plus one is optional, consider attending the event or function solo. 

7. Don’t get involved in date-like activities and outings.

If you keep spending evenings together in date-like environments, it’s going to become confusing. Don’t go watch romantic movies together, don’t go to romantic dinner settings together, avoid going on potentially romantic getaways together… rather stick to activities that groups can get involved in and that are in public environments where other friends might be present. 

8. Know when to keep secrets.

Of course, you want to tell your friend everything, but it’s important to have boundaries, especially when you are in a male-female friendship. Don’t go blabbing about all the intimate details of your sex life, for example. Rather know when to keep a few details to yourself as a person of the opposite sex might misinterpret your oversharing. 

9. Don’t play heart games or be misleading.

When you have a friend of the opposite sex who is charming and attractive, you might be tempted to use him/her as a backup plan. This type of thinking can lead to misleading the other person or playing games with their heart by leading them on and then backing down. Heart games should be completely off the table when having a platonic friendship. It’s just friends – no negotiations. 

10. Shut down external misconceptions about your relationship immediately.

When you go out for a burger and a beer, and people around you keep mistaking you for a couple, or when friends keep saying things like “ah, you would make such a cute couple”; shut it down. Correct them immediately and be firm about it so that it doesn’t keep happening. You don’t want your friend or other people to entertain the idea, or things could get messy and confusing. Nip it in the bud.

11. Don’t spend too much time alone together.

It’s a good idea to keep things light. Avoid spending too much of your time alone together. Rather arrange to meet up around other friends or involve each other in group activities. This ensures that there’s no opportunity for a change in the dynamic in your relationship. 

people drinking coffee

12. Don’t put in “special” effort – be authentically you.

If you’re hanging out with someone of the other sex on a platonic basis, you shouldn’t be putting in the type of effort you would for someone you really like in that way. Hang out in your sweats, don’t go the extra mile to make yourself attractive when you’re hanging out, make bad jokes – just keep it real. If you are putting in extra effort, you might be sending the wrong message (or mixed signals) to your friend. 

All in all

Male-female friendships can definitely work if you are willing to set boundaries in place and respect them. If you blur the boundaries and discard them, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable situation or developing feelings you never wanted to have in the first place. Enjoy your friendship – just be careful with it.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.