Whenever I find myself in a debate with women about whether or not men and women can truly be just friends, 98.7% of the time the conversation will go left as soon as we start getting into the definitions of what encompasses a “friend” and who deserves to get that title.

See, I believe that while men tend to compartmentalize different women into different categories, many women tend to be a lot more liberal with who they give the “friend” title to. I really do think women and men can definitely be friends, but that starts with correctly labeling certain people who come into your life as actual friends, and differentiating them from the people who come into your life wanting far more than that.

Although I have hundreds of really cool women acquaintances that I’ve met through my travels, I only have a few “home girls” that are actually my friends. These women are sisters to me, just as my closest boys are like brothers from another mother. They are women I will never sleep with, I never fantasize about, and I never even entertain the idea of dating in any way, shape, or form. Whether single or in a relationship, these women are firmly entrenched as close friends and they’ll always reside in that category.

Any woman that I’ve met over the years that I’ve wanted to sleep with or possibly date is NOT a woman I call a friend; she’s simply “on the poll” (think: college football’s AP top 25 poll that ranks the top teams in the nation). This delineation is incredibly important because it’s an overt push back at obfuscating what someone wants from you, and without the delineation, you get the creation of X-men and X-women (no comic book).

As a grown adults, we’ve all had to deal with various ex-drama with a significant other, whether it be interference, or even just the residue of pain and distrust they’ve left in our current partner. For men, we mostly have our own concrete ideas on how to deal with ex-boyfriends, but what we don’t know how to deal with are the men that have the title “friend,” but really represent an unknown entity. Just like a mathematic equation, we find ourselves struggling to decipher the value of the unknown variable (x).

An X-man is essentially a dude who is called a friend, but doesn’t truly exist in an actual healthy realm of friendship. X-men typically tend to appear on a man’s radar when something just seems off. Some X-men are habitual relationship line steppers whose friendliness can feel inauthentic and divisive. Some X-men can be too touchy feely. X-men can even be “work husbands” who seem a little too cognizant of the latter part of the term and not the former.

What sucks about having a radar for these dudes as opposed to having hard facts that he may be interested in being more than friends with your woman, is the fact that it opens up a man to being criticized as “insecure.” But the problem with that simple analysis is this: many men have been an X-man before, and some who are currently in relationships are STILL X-men for other women.

When I was single, I loved playing the role of the X-man. I would meet women at clubs, bars and lounges, we’d exchange BlackBerry pins and we’d text each other. I wanted to sleep with her, she knew I wanted to sleep with her, and we’d flirt. Sometimes we’d lose touch and she might pop up with a boyfriend. And if we ran into each other, she’d introduce me as “her friend” when I was really anything but that. In fact, young me didn’t even particularly care that she had a man, because in the classic words of Positive-K, “What’cha man gotta do with me?”

Many dudes have a long list of women that they’ll flirt with, hit on, and prioritize for attention, and those men do not see those women as friends. And if that woman is being incredibly honest with herself, she’ll know that they aren’t really her friends either. They’re basically just the dudes hoping there may be an opportunity for them to get what they really want.

The way to stop a dude from becoming an X-man is to file him in the appropriate category. If he’s a past punani-straggler that is hoping to be your “D in a glass case” that you break in case of emergency, then put him in that category so we can both be on the same page. If he’s actually just a good work friend who doesn’t want anything from you but your company during your boring work hours, put him in that category and we’re cool. And if he’s truly deserving of the title “friend,” then give it to him and we can work things out from there.

The key to a drama-free relationship is ensuring that everyone around you is accurately accounted for. While it’s easy to label your significant other as insecure, it’s a two-way street and I’m sure ladies would want men to define the women they hang around too. It can be the difference between a successful cookout and having to come across the table for Cousin Faith.

Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site, ThisIsYourConscious.com. He’s author of the book, “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer.” He can be reached on Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at Lincoln Anthony Blades.