Platonic Friendships after Divorce: The Rules

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

Platonic friendships after divorce have always been really important to me. Actually, I should say platonic friendships have always been really important to me before marriage, during marriage and now, after marriage.

I truly enjoy having platonic friendships with men, just as I do with women. I am friends with a lot of men I’ve never dated, as well as old boyfriends.


Because I don’t choose my friends based on gender. When I look at a person I truly enjoy, who enriches my life, who I care about, who I have fun with and who is the kind of person that makes me want to be a good friend to them, I’m not looking at whether they are wearing a bra or not. It doesn’t matter. Guy or girl, a friend is a friend. Male or female, friends are gifts that we are lucky to have.

But, are there rules when it comes to platonic friendships? Yes and no.

 Picture this. You’re at a bar and you see an absolutely beautiful woman who you are dying to talk to. You work up the courage to walk over to her and the two of you end up having a conversation far beyond your expectations, taking your attraction to her so much further than looks.

You are really really psyched and you feel like, “Wow, I just met the woman of my dreams!” But then, about 20 minutes into the conversation, she says, “Yeah, my boyfriend was telling me the other day…” Now your heart sinks. ‘Boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend’ is all you can hear. You can no longer hear outside noise or what the girl is saying.

You say to yourself, ‘Why didn’t she tell me she had a boyfriend? Why is she wasting my time? Why did she lead me on and give me hope? What a jerk! She must not be happy in her relationship if she is out at a bar and flirting with me.’

The Rules of platonic friendships:

1.    It’s okay to talk to guys/girls of the opposite sex if you are in a relationship or even married.

 In my opinion, this girl did nothing wrong. She’s out with her friends and just wants to socialize. If you are the guy in this scenario, I don’t blame you for being disappointed. That said, don’t be angry or feel used or hurt. Embrace the friendship. Maybe the hottie has some cute, single girlfriends. Or, maybe you guys will end up becoming friends, texting each other when there’s a good party in town. Maybe she’ll set you up with someone. It’s all good! OR…maybe you become friends with the girl and she and her boyfriend break up. Life is strange and the best thing to do is accept and enjoy the platonic friendship.

2.    It’s okay to go out with guy/girls of the opposite sex if you are in a relationship

 I’m the kind of person who plans nights out with groups. Sometimes those groups are just women, and sometimes they are men and women. I have also had lunch or dinner with platonic male friends when it was just one guy and myself, same as I have done with one woman and myself. My boyfriend knows this about me and doesn’t care. Why? Because there is a trust there. If you don’t have that trust with your spouse, you have issues. Here’s the thing, though. It is VERY MUCH NOT COOL if you and your platonic guy friend have a few cocktails and end up making out (or more!) That’s called cheating.

3.    If you decide to become platonic friends with your girlfriend’s ex husband, know that the friendship with your girlfriend is over

 Look, it’s no secret that the suburban singles scene is a small fish tank with everyone swimming around dating each other. But, if you start hanging out with your friend’s ex husband, even if it’s just platonically, that’s really not cool. What IS cool is if you ask your friend if she cares before you do it. She might not. You’d be surprised. However, I do think it’s hard to be friends with both people who are a divorced couple.

4.    Be honest with your platonic friend

 Remember that movie, When Harry Met Sally? Billy Crystal said “No man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.” Meg Ryan replies, “So you CAN be friends with a woman you don’t find attractive.” Bill Crystal says, “No, you pretty much want to nail them too.”

If you are going out with someone as friends and you think the person has feelings for you, you owe it to that person to come clean and tell them it is always going to be platonic. Then it is up to that person to decide if he or she wants to stay platonic friends with you, or move on.

The bottom line…

 Platonic friendships with people of the opposite sex are healthy, in my opinion, just as are girl friendships, and if you’re a guy, guy friendships. My friends are my friends, regardless of what they have below the waist!


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

2 Responses to “Platonic Friendships after Divorce: The Rules”

  1. Doug, Chicago

    Jackie, that’s so true, our lives our enriched by relationships of every type. Often our experiences with people (parents, siblings, friends and even colleagues) profoundly inform and enhance our “primary” relationships. Still, many people are understandably nervous about these relationships … including some people who are in them. A platonic relationship is widely defined as one “without romance or sex.” That appears to be a bright-line easily followed. Unfortunately, people often get confused about what constitutes “romance” (and appallingly some even get “confused” about what constitutes “sex”). The man talking to the woman at the bar moved through his initial attraction and had it enhanced with quality conversation. He thrilled to her openness and was mesmerized by her charm (perhaps he indulged some non-Platonic hopes) … of course in your scenario she didn’t do anything wrong but if he seeks to continue “a platonic connection” he may harbor a lingering hope that she will come to feel the same spark. Billy Crystal’s character hit on a certain human truth applicable to both men and women (though Sally tried to deny it) that, even if they are responsible and well-behaved, humans often seek to continually raise the level of connection with people that they like. Even if it is strictly platonic (no fooling around!), there can still be a growing level of intimacy that can steal and distract from your partner … even with a BFF … so it’s a tough call. The true test of “cheating” is behavior that violates YOUR PARTNER’S definition of cheating (NOT yours, your friend’s, a magazine columnist’s or some “general consensus”). Your partner gets to decide what will wound them and cause a feeling of betrayal. If their definition is too narrow for your comfort or compliance then it may be evidence of incompatibility that needs to be addressed. Some relationships experience a level of trust, respect and acceptance so profound as to allow extraordinary latitude (even, in rare cases, some open encroachment with others on the platonic standard) while other relationships are so fragile and may not have the resilience to withstand a partner’s appetite for any “friends” even where there is a strict observance of “no benefits”. Like all things in life and relationships, every situation is unique. That’s what keeps it interesting!


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