This article draws on interview material to analyse the ways in which heterosexual ‘couple practices’ interface with friendship practices (outside the couple). Focusing on the qualitative detail of participants’ experiences of friendship and of coupledom, I analyse the relationalities of gender, heterosexualities and friendship. Rather than focusing on gender as a variable in friendship variance, I examine the ways in which friendships ‘do’ gender and heterosexualities. In this dynamic, intimacy is practised by participants as a zero sum game and its distribution is strongly bounded. I argue that this distribution acts to create and reinforce boundaries of ‘friendship’ and ‘sexual couple’ bonds, and I examine the implications of these findings for analysing the relational qualities of the friendship tie.