I Have No Guy Friends—& It Might Be Screwing Me Up

slideIllustrated by Sydney Hass.
It’s a weekend evening, and Madonna is blasting, a half-eaten tube of cookie dough lies on the table, and I’m painting my nails as I gossip with my five best girlfriends.
Sweet memory from 15 years ago, when I was a shy seventh-grader? Not quite. Try a recent Saturday night when my buddies crashed at my apartment after an hours-long dinner. Despite the fact that the Diet Coke has been replaced with Sancerre and we no longer prank call our crushes, my social circle until recently seemed just as no-boys-allowed as it was back when my parents were making the rules.
I could blame my job (up until now, I worked for a women’s magazine where there were just three men on staff), my alma mater (Barnard College, an all-women’s institution), or my location (New York City, with a population that skews female). But, it’s also my own fault. Because, while I've always been down for meeting a man for a date, I have never been all that committed to making new gentleman friends. And, I've never really noticed something was missing from my social life as a result.
But, maybe that's wrong. Surrounding myself with an awesome circle of lady friends has been the best. And, yet, having great girlfriends and having wonderful guy friends don't have to be mutually exclusive. The absence of men has probably caused me to miss out on a few dating opportunities (because you know who knows good men? Other good men). But, it's the less obvious benefits of the male friend that I'm more interested in. Ahead, the key reasons why more coed get-togethers could change your life for the better — even if you’re in a relationship.

They Boost Your Social Life

Sure, this one is obvious if you’re single and looking to meet a man — the more guys you know, the more likely it is that one of them, or one of their friends, may be someone you want to date. But, this benefit isn't exclusive to single ladies. We’re speaking in generalities a bit here, but men tend to be more action-oriented, while women are more inclined to focus on feelings. Translate that to the real world, and it means that a lot of female-centric brunches can end up disproportionately filled with gossiping and complaining, warns Marni Battista, an L.A.-based life coach. We’re not claiming that guys don’t gripe about stuff, too, but we are saying that members of a mixed group are less likely to sit down for a three-hour feeling session than they are to, say, give it a go at the pool table in the back of the bar.

Two other benefits: In general, men tend to be more direct and blunt than women. So, they’ll let you know if they think a guy likes you and not just give you the same line your girlfriends do. Not only that, but they can also be less likely to judge in the same ways as the ladies in your life, says Battista, especially when it comes to details. “How many times have you gone out with women and heard one complain about the location or lack of scene?” asks Battista. “In general, guys are just happy to be out, so even a sticky-floored dive bar can be fun."

They Can Help Your Career
You don’t need to read recent career best sellers like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In or Debora Spar’s Wonder Woman to know that men and women approach work differently. And, even if your office is primarily female-dominated, knowing how a guy would approach a similar situation can help give you perspective, says Stacy Kaiser, a psychotherapist and author of How To Be a Grown Up. “Broadly speaking, women can get caught up in the emotions behind decisions. They’ll wonder why their boss didn’t praise a memo or if a colleague is mad at them when she didn’t say hello at the coffeepot. Generally speaking, men are more action-oriented and better at figuring out what steps you need to take to get what you want." And, again, these are broad generalizations, but there's something to be learned from informing your approach with a variety of perspectives. You don't need to behave like a man to get ahead, but given the earning gap between males and females in many industries, it's helpful to understand how a man would behave in a situation as well as how other women would conduct themselves — and then make your decisions from there.


They Make Your Relationships Better
It may seem like staying close with guys when you already have a partner is playing with fire, but that’s not the case, according to experts. “You’ve likely heard that [men and women] can’t be just friends without friction, but that’s not true,” says Kaiser. “And, having a male perspective about how men tick can help you understand what’s going on in your guy’s mind.” Plus, knowing you can trust each other around members of the opposite sex keeps jealousy at bay when it matters. Here’s why: If you and your guy don’t ever hang out with members of the opposite sex, it’s can be easy (and tempting) to categorize all men as potential romantic partners only. But, changing that perspective can be pretty powerful. If you start to view the guys who come into your life as potential friends instead of men who must be avoided in case they cause problems in your relationship, you can start to preempt and even circumvent some of those jealousy issues that would crop up otherwise.

slide1Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

How to Get Them
There’s Tinder and OkCupid and plenty of friends willing to set you up with a potential significant other, but what if you really do just want to be friends? Here’s how to meet a few good men, no recreational-kickball sign-ups required — unless, of course, that's your thing. In which case, go forth.

Sign up for a running, biking, or hiking group. A lot of local bike and run shops organize group training sessions, allowing you to work out and have conversations with the coed participants.
Hit up your friend’s work happy hour. If you mostly work with women, getting invited along on your friend’s happy hours is a fun and easy way to expand your social circle, says Kaiser.
Make a friend date. If you didn’t feel sparks but genuinely liked a guy you went out with, there’s no harm in asking if he wants to hang out as friends, says Battista. Yes, it’s a bit of a line, so only do this if you genuinely have something in common — like a favorite whiskey bar, a hiking hobby, or the same taste in movies. That’ll make it easy and not awkward to get together in a platonic way.
Go underground. If you’re already in a relationship, try heading to an underground supper club instead of a restaurant. These clubby eating spots tend to only have room for a certain number of people, and you’re likely sitting at a communal table, making it easy for conversation to flow and for you to meet like-minded foodies.
Have a local. Having a favorite bar that you head to makes it easy to meet other people in your neighborhood — not to mention getting to know the people who work there, both male and female.
Support a cause. Whether it’s volunteering regularly at an animal shelter or joining the young-patron group of a local museum, library, or theater, giving back gives you an opportunity to meet people you don’t encounter in your daily life.
Have a party. When you’re busy, it’s hard enough to plan one-on-one friend dates with your actual pals. That’s why picking a spot, then asking over everyone you know — along with their friends — to celebrate any given occasion, could net you a lot more acquaintances in one night. These people can then invite you to their stuff, and you can expand your social circle from there.

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series