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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Real Live College Guy Answers Your Love Life Questions: How to Have Platonic Guy Friends and When to Say “I Love You”

I have always had lots of friends who are boys.  I enjoy how straightforward they usually are.  But it’s complicated now that I have a boyfriend.  My guy friends know that I am in a committed relationship, but sometimes I feel like they come on to me.  How do I make it clear that our friendship is strictly platonic without jeopardizing it?  Is it inevitable that guys and girls can’t be ‘just friends’?– Platonic at Pomona
In the entire half decade since I learned that sex is not just kissing twenty times when you are naked, I have noticed an unfortunate trend.  Girls, unless you are a half-dead, half-wolverine species with chainsaw arms, all of your straight guy friends either want to have sex with you or have had sex with you.  Get used to it. 
Granted, many great movie relationships arise between a man and woman who work through this sexual tension and go on to save the world while having casual, totally platonic sex with their beautiful actors’ bodies.  This phenomenon occurs in James Bond films and, I assume, someplace very sunny and close to Jennifer Aniston’s residence. 
As for you, unless you are one of the many movie stars who read my column, there is only one solution.  Quash your friends’ desires for your goodies, immediately.  No matter how gallant your various men-in-waiting are, they will not stop thinking about you naked just because you are in a relationship.  She’s just with him to make me jealousI just have to wait ‘til they break up.  Or maybe he’ll just get run over by a train.  Who do I know who owns a train?  This is what your guy friends are thinking right now.  And they will not stop thinking this way until you tell them, flat out, “No, Joe, I do not want to have sex with you, and please stop inviting my boyfriend to your ‘Amtrak parties.’” 

In all seriousness, though, when you are in a relationship you need to be on your guard when you’re kickin’ it with your phallus-wielding buds.  Look for those telltale signs that he is coming on to you: he calls you more than usual, writes you texts with an unusual abundance of winky faces, invites you to his room to work on homework and asks you to ignore the scented candles and small Italian man playing the accordion. 
If you notice any of these signs, stop whatever you are doing and sit him down.  As you correctly stated, guys are straightforward.  A guy would much rather know where you stand, even if it hurts his feelings, than sift through mixed signals.  So do both of yourselves a favor and tell him that you are committed to your relationship and just want to be friends.  And to please get his winky faces under control.
It will be an uncomfortable moment, and both his heart and text-messaging confidence will be shattered.  But it is necessary for maintaining a healthy, platonic relationship.  And if the guy is a true friend, the fact that you won’t have sex with him won’t matter in the long run.

When is the right time to say I love you? – Wondering at Wellesley
Oh, boy.  This simple question is loaded like the shotgun of an old man who doesn’t like squirrels in his petunia bush.  But, fortunately, there is one overarching answer: give it time, the more the better.  Three questions are crucial in deciding to drop the I.L.U.-bomb, and they take a while to answer: 1) Is he The One for you at this moment? 2) Is it really love you feel? and 3) Does he feel the same way towards you? 
The One
It takes time to discover if he’s The One because you yourself don’t know exactly whom you will love at any given moment.  The things you like in a person will likely change with every new stage of your life.  One day you may feel interested in a one-toothed biker with a tattoo of a kitten; next, a nematode-like pencil pusher with many clean woolen socks; and, when you finally come to your senses, the witty writer of an astonishingly prescient advice column for college women.  But you won’t know until you feel it.  You can’t just say, “I will love a man with these specifications.”  Looking for certain qualities in a potential mate is by no means wrong.  Everyone does it.  But, as Shrek said, people are like onions: they have many hidden layers and often smell bad. You simply will not know if you love someone until you’ve spent a great deal of time together, seen them during their bad days and, most importantly, heard them use the bathroom. 
Is It Love?
So, you’ve found a pretty good candidate for a man to bicker with for the coming years.  Before you tell him you love him, you need to determine something slightly important: do you love him?  Love is always getting itself mixed up with tons of peripheral emotions.  Do you love him, or just his motorcycle?  Is he just stable and convenient?  Or is it just the sex?  Maybe your definition of love really is based on ownership of a two-wheeled vehicle.  But you need to take time to see if that single, albeit awesome, criterion is enough for a healthy romantic relationship. 

Theoretically, you can’t know if you love someone until you know exactly what love is.  But that’s the torturous, beautiful thing about love.  Love has no universal definition.  Who you love is based on where you are in your life’s journey; as you live on, your definition of love will change.  The only thing you can determine, at this moment, is if this man is the only person you want to spend time with and open yourself to for a considerable segment of the future.  That’s love, I think. 

I Want You to Want Me
Now you’re sure you love him, and you’re in his room in your sexy underwear ready to tell him.  But your feet start to get this tingly, cold sensation.  Oh no, you forgot the last piece of the puzzle.  Does he love you, too? 
You definitely do not want to feel the pain of hearing, “I don’t feel the same way,” or force him to say he does when he really doesn’t.  That will just lead to heartbreak and shoe-throwing down the road.  But if you’ve spent enough time together, your feet shouldn’t get too cold.  After months, even years together, you’ll be able to tell.  Just trust your gut – it is almost always right in matters of love and food. 
Sure, you may fall out of love in the years to come, but that’s not something to worry about now.  That’s just the risk you take in relationships.  And don’t worry that waiting a little extra time to say “I love you” will make him stop loving you.  If you two – or three – are really in love, then you are in for the long haul and your relationship won’t hang on one phrase. 
The worst thing you could do is to rush into saying it.  One or both of you may not know if you really feel it yet, and you could end up hurting one another.  So, in this case, later rather than sooner.  A little patience won’t hurt.

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