Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?

whenHarryMetSally3It’s a question that is the subject of debate amongst scientists, psychologists and sociologists the world over. When researching this post I discovered thousands of different articles on the Internet, all with conflicting arguments and conclusions. I don’t possess any of these scientific qualifications and therefore can only rely on my own thoughts and experiences, and therefore I apologise if this is one of many similar posts.

There is one thing that all of these articles have in common – the film ‘When Harry Met Sally’. In the opening sequence Billy Crystal declares that “no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive”.  But is this statement actually true?

When examining cross-sex relationships in TV programmes we are given the impression that platonic friendships aren’t always possible. There are hundreds of examples of friendships that develop into romance – Luke and Lorelai in the ‘Gilmore Girls’, J.D. and Elliot in ‘Scrubs’, Pacey and Joey in ‘Dawson’s Creek’, Mulder and Scully in the ‘X – Files’… In ‘Friends’, four of the six end up falling in love – Rachel and Ross’s ‘will they, wont they’ relationship dominates the entire show, and Monica and Chandler get married. Even Rachel and Joey have a romantic liaison at one point, with the only platonic relationship being that of the friendship between Phoebe and Joey. Obviously the romantic element of a show is added to the plot to attract more viewers, but it left me wondering whether these sorts of friendships can actually exist in real life.

whenharrymetsallyI am the worst possible example within the discussion of platonic cross – sex relationships as almost all of my long term relationships (not that there have been many) have resulted from a strong friendship first.  My best friend is male. I’ve known him since I was nineteen and we see or speak to each other on the phone several times a week. We support each other, we’ve borrowed money from each other, we ask each other advice. We have no romantic feelings towards each other, we’ve both been in long term relationships over the years and have always liked each others partners. However, when we first met we instantly became very close, resulting in a quite intense (on my part anyway) relationship for several months. It didn’t last long, but I feel that because we got the intimate part of the relationship out of the way we have been able to simply relax and enjoy each others company without anything getting in the way. The Bloke and I have been together for a long time, but were friends for several years before we became romantically involved.

I have lots of male friends, but I have a much stronger friendships with my female friends. I don’t discuss certain things with most of my male friends and the majority of our activities are centred on exercise or drinking. It’s rare that I will meet them without somebody else present, with only two exceptions, my best friend and my fireman friend, who is happily engaged to a lovely woman.

428507874_1387622695However, in my life there are some examples where cross-sex relationships exist and work effectively. I’ve known MM and GB for years – we met as struggling students and have remained friends. MM is male, GB is female and as long as I’ve known them, I (and several others) have always had the notion that they would be absolutely perfect together – they have similar interests, they make each other laugh and they genuinely enjoy each others company. They, however, completely disagree and nothing has ever happened between them. Both are content in their own serious relationships and are happy for each other.

Two of our other university friends are similar in that they’ve always had a strong friendship and have never crossed the line. However, the male quite obviously is very attracted to the female, which isn’t reciprocated although she’s clearly aware of it.

I decided to create a scientific study on the subject (and by scientific, I mean that I asked my friends what they thought). I’ve compiled their responses in the list below.

1. One or both are gay.

2. One or both is in a committed relationship and is not willing to cross any boundaries.

3. One is not attracted to the other (although when my friend suggested this she also added that this eventually may have a negative effect on their friendship as one will inevitably want more).

4. Neither are physically attracted to each other.

5. Both are attracted to each other, but have mutually agreed that they value their friendship more.

What do you think? Do you have a platonic relationship with a member of the opposite sex?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

50 thoughts on “Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?

  1. I think men and women can be just friends, but it does seem to get more complicated with a quickness sometimes. One of my besties is male, and it causes no weirdness, but we’ve been friends since I was 19 (a giggledy million jillion years ago), and we’re both happily married…we, like you, got that pesky dating business out of the way at the start and quickly realized that wasn’t the ideal relationship for us.

    Also, you are the newest winner of the Spectacular Blog Award. Go you! 😀
    http://nerdinthebrain.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/the-spectacular-blog-award-3/

  2. I did …. we were friends for ten years. Eventually we started dating. But I have other friend, BP. We have been friends for years and talk to each other about everything…. but we think of each other more like brother and sister, so I think it´s possible to be just friends 30% of the times.

  3. Men and women can be friends, for sure. Best-friends? Possibly, if they are single. If my husband’s best friend happened to be a woman, to be honest, I’d be a little insecure. Like, what is he sharing with her that he can’t with me? However, singles can have close friendships but if they are attracted to each other there is potential for a romantic relationship to develop. This is by choice, though. I believe a person’s will is stronger than desire.

    Nice post! I really enjoyed it and will share it with my students. 🙂

  4. I have a lot of friendships with women, but none of them are that close. Most of my women friends are either in relationships or otherwise not attracted to me, a few are lesbians, and a few I’m not attracted to (often, but not always, because of a large age gap). I would love for a friendship with a woman to turn into a relationship (in fact, this is the only way I can really see entering the sort of relationship that I want), but respect is the key. If you really care about someone, you’ll accept whatever level of relationship they will give to you and not cross any boundaries.

  5. It can happen, it all just depends on the circumstances and people involved. Each situation is unique and has it’s own factors.

  6. I have more female friends than male, I get on with females better, I think its psychological as I was constantly bullied from an early age by males so I avoided male company. One of my friends and I would say my best female friend, we met at college just over 3 years ago and we sat at the same table and from that point we became firm friends and even during a progress interval by the senior lecturer she brought up the fact that we got on so well and implying that there might be something going on but I put her straight and this came from the person who told me student do not have opinions….. So yes males and females can be firm friends as long as the ground rules are laid out and stuck to. I am married and there is 25 years between me and my female friend and that’s how it will stay, we talk, help each other out, discuss problems about her daughters and how she can fix them, we are both very experienced when it comes to working with children in nursery and schools so we have lots to discuss and we try and put the world to right. 🙂

  7. Because I work in a very male dominated field (automotive), almost all the people I come into contact with are men. Most women aren’t interested in cars or racing, that’s why nearly all my buddies are men; I only have two close female friends.

  8. Hi Susie, I’m very much the opposite of you – my long-term boyfriend was not someone I was friends with before, actually we couldn’t stand each other. I also have a lot of male friends and while we can all appreciate each others’ attractive qualities we don’t see each other in that way. I have several from university who I meet with for dinner and drinks regularly. We talk at length about relationships, career plans etc. I also have a huge group of boy mates that I initially met through my boyfriend, but who have all become close friends of mine as well and I often hang out with them individually and without my boyfriend. I look at them more like brothers and we have a more protective relationship but can still talk about anything and get up to all kinds of fun in a non-relationship/sexual manner. I have a lot of close girls mates as well, but I find it such a different type of friendship and I find myself craving the more laid back approach of boys. I think it is definitely possible and easy to be friends with men – often easier than with women who can be quite judgemental and less approachable in some cases. However, sexual attraction can complicate this. Although, as in your case, often it can be a case of getting the sexual connection out of the way and then you can develop a friendship without feeling a certain way.

  9. It is a question that I have pondered often, and have come away with no answers.. look forward to what results you find. When Harry met Sally is a classic and made that question come to the forefront… great movie..

  10. I’ve usually had more male friends than female friends. I’m viewed as “safe”, or so I’ve been told. Sadly, some of those friendships died out when the guys got married or coupled up with someone who couldn’t believe “just friends” was just that and nothing else.

  11. Being at college, this is the first time I’ve had genuine friendships with girls. I have developed a crush on a couple of them, but one ended with disaster and I had to make amends; the other I’m trying to slowly dissipate my romantic thoughts of her out of respect for our friendship, plus she’s never expressed any romantic feeling towards me and she doesn’t want to be in a relationship at the moment.

    I believe that the best romantic relationships should have a strong friendship at its core, that way the relationship can be genuine instead of just lustful. Like you said with you and the Bloke, while you both are in a romantic relationship, you both are perfectly willing to do stuff as friends.

  12. The answer is YES to me, Suzie. My ex is my best friend and my other male friends are those whom I had known for years. We could have started when they were attracted to me (as a woman) but it was strictly a No No for me for whatever reason and we remained friends and time has proven, yes in my case that Men and Women can be friends. Nice article. 🙂

  13. Certainly men and women can be friend, deep friends, regardless of nay kind of physical attraction, What can also happen is that a deep mental attraction can occur where one or both partners can “fall” for each other with out any thought of physical desire or appearance.

    I experienced this personally when I was 22 (ish). I got to know a, 18 yr old lass who I eventually fell in love with, yet I have no recollection of what shew looked like from the neck down. I helped her grow and mature into a very well balanced lady with an assured future, while she showed me a degree of warmth that hitherto had never come my way. We would go to concerts and I would escort her home; then i would leave, If she invited me in for a coffee, I would accept that invitation, and then leave. To the best of my knowledge there was no desire for intimacy from either of us at any time.If anyone wants to know about this particular story, click on the link that follows http://bublicksblog.org/2014/02/14/the-bluebird-daily-post-its-fridayim-in-love/

    What I would say is this so. Pressure often comes onto such a relationship from the outside rather than from within. people around us assumed that were were physically attracted, and years later while working in a hotel I was deemed to be a potential homosexual because I was not chasing every eligible female around.

    That was of no concern to me as, without being homophobic, I was and am comfortable with my heterosexual desires, but as on the same day I was also informed that I was a married as I baked homemade bread I was quite amused

    As I said to a collegiate that I was working with

    “Maybe I should get pregnant, then I’d be the first pregnant married homosexual guy on the Isle of Man.

    Maybe we should all concentrate on a persons mind rather than their body, Bodies wear out fairly quickly, but a good mind and a harmony of minds lasts a lifetime, and, for all we know, beyond

  14. I think it’s possible but can be confusing. What’s really interesting to me, though, is that we rarely have conversations about whether 2 gay, same-sex people can be just friends or whether a bisexual person can be just friends with members of either sex. Heteronormativity assumes that this applies to opposite sex relationships exclusively.

    There’s something about the male/female, non-familial relationship that we tend to, as a society, see as already sexualized somehow (pop culture is a major culprit–there’s a reason those articles all mention When Harry met Sally). The idea of the friend zone is built on this premise, as is the question of whether men and women have platonic relationships.

    I’ve always wondered about the phrase “just friends” anyway. A friendship is a complex thing, and it can mean a lot. Something about “just” trivializes that.

    Anyway, just food for thought.. 🙂

    • THANK YOU. This blog is really great, Suzie, but this is also a brill point. I’m a long-term-single bisexual woman with male best friends. I have incredibly close relationships with them, but have never even considered what they might think of the friendship because, frankly, I think they see me as gay and write me off as unattainable (let alone the hugely long list of physical and emotional flaws they oft make known to me in banter). It becomes an issue even more when in a relationship (there’s a reason for long-term singledom other than my monolithic gigantor elements on the outside) – whoever I’m dating takes offense at *any* close friend, because they can’t trust that there is nothing else going on underneath the guise of friendship.
      It can get confusing, but I try to ignore anything that might confuse things further because I enjoy the brotherly, protective friendships of my boys and the girly, supportive friendships of my girls.

      Life is never simple, eh?

  15. Awesome post. As usual 😉

    I had a platonic friendship with a guy. That’s what I told people anyway when they would tease me about having feelings for him.

    Said guy is now my husband 😉

    The only male friends I have are his friends because I know they wouldnt cross any lines. Other than that, male friendships are reserved for Facebook. It’s just from personal experience that I find there can never be a platonic friendship. One party always seems to ruin it.

    My husband and I are great friends though, and I agree that a good friendship should be the foundation of a relationship. It just works out that way.

  16. I have always found it easier to befriend men than women. In my experience, men are easier to understand, relate to, and maintain lasting friendships with. That said, my friendships with men have never lasted for any extensive period of time – at least not the really good ones. At one point in my life, I was able to rekindle a friendship with a former boyfriend. We maintained an incredible friendship for quite some time but it didn’t last. He told me once, in the middle of one of our regular 4 hour long phone calls, that we would have to end it at some point. He said that eventually I would meet someone that I wanted a relationship with and that person wouldn’t understand or appreciate the “friendship” that I had with him. He also said that that man shouldn’t have to either – that I should find someone to be in a relationship with that I’m able to also be friends with (the way that he and I were friends). I rejected his theory at first but later realized how right he was. I did want that kind of friendship, honesty, and closeness within the context of a romantic relationship as well. Our friendship slowly faded and we no longer communicate (I actually have no idea where he is now) but I will say that I have been searching for that kind of friendship with a man ever since.

    Aside from the intimacy that comes with a really close friendship – and the awkwardness that can create when friends with the opposite sex, there’s always the risk of unrequited love. Most of my friendships with men have ended because one of us actually had serious romantic feelings for the other one and those feelings weren’t returned. Then there’s a communication issue that arises too – when one person misinterpreted the other’s words or actions for something other than just friendship. It all just becomes confusing and frustrating and usually ends up with one or both people getting hurt.

    Is it POSSIBLE? Yeah, probably. Have I ever personally experienced or seen it happen? Nope! 🙂

  17. I think it’s entirely possible. A friend from high school, two years younger than me (exactly, actually. We have the same birthday.), was friends with several girls. Some outsiders (as in, not in our group of friends) assumed that he must be gay, but when asked he always said it this way: “Why should I have to hang out with the guys when I have more fun here? Girls talk about interesting things, you know. And besides, all those other guys are just jealous. They don’t have any friends who are girls, after all.”

    Of course, high school isn’t always the best example, since we were all still in that “I don’t know what I want to be or do or anything” phase of life. I haven’t talked to that friend in years (primarily because I moved away, got married and life just changed that way), but I think it is possible. It just depends on the individuals.

    On another note, I usually get along better with girls. Guys are really hard to understand sometimes.

  18. I have a few very strong friendships with guys…sometimes girls can be incredibly passive-aggressive and just generally catty, and I need a break from all the drama 🙂

    • I think they can be, but as someone mentioned above – it takes mutual mindsets. I think one or both will always think about the “what if,” but that doesn’t guarantee that they will act on anything or cross the line. So I don’t think it’s possible to FEEL like 100% platonic friends, but I do think it’s possible to APPEAR as 100% platonic friends.

  19. I do think it is possible, but …..
    A couple of years ago, a male friend (Who I was absolutely not attracted to!) made an unexpected, awkward move on me. We no longer hang out.
    Also, my most successful romantic relationship started out as a friendship. We already knew and were comfortable with each other.

  20. I’ve grown up with females, who I’m definitely great friends with. I have sustained female friends from grammar school and friends from college, and they is definitely a friendship definition, and no lines have been crossed.

    Yesterday, I hung out with a close friend, who I’ve known for 25 years. We’re turning 31 this year, She’s married. She pointed out in the car yesterday, her husband was with us, that we have never had an argument. We found that odd, and questions were asked to purposely try to argue. That failed.

    Despite my ex’s thoughts, my ex who had a fair number of male friends, yet she’d contest to my having female friends, I strongly feel that men and women can be friends..

  21. Yes, absolutely, as long as you agree what the boundaries of the relationship are. Some of my lifelong friends fall in this category and I feel very fortunate that it’s the case.

  22. I think the short answer is it depends on the two people involved. A lot of the “why” to that has been said by other commenters, but simply put – yes – it can work if that’s what both parties want. And that’s the big “if”.

    I have two close male friends – and it works. I’ve had others in the past that come and go – because obviously, after a while, it didn’t. I appreciate having another male perspective to bounce ideas off (in addition to my husband’s perspective obviously). And I also appreciate how uncomplicated the friendships can be (ie: there is no triage and months of planning to go out, then negotiation over activity. Rather if we haven’t spoken in a few weeks, there’s a “Hey, maybe we should go for beer on date x?” text one way or the other and its done).

  23. So, I finally got around to finishing my post about male/female friendships today. And I wanted to come back to your story to read it. I really enjoyed it! It seems we have two different takes on the topic as you have close male friends and in my post, I question if that can genuinely exist. Take a look at my blog, if you have a chance, and let me know what you think…

  24. Such an interesting topic! I think it IS possible, but it definitely depends on various circumstances. One of my dearest friends is a guy (who was actually a close friend to my first boyfriend). When we were younger, I think there were times when we both wondered if we would/should date. There was this one night when things felt a bit ‘romantically charged,’ and we kinda snuggled. The next day, we both agreed it shouldn’t happen again, because we didn’t want to risk messing up our friendship. Now, years later, I’m happily married and we’re STILL good friends, something that did not pan out with anyone I was in a romantic relationship with. SO glad we made that decision : )

  25. Wow…popular topic Suzie81. You know what to write about…and get everybody hooked 🙂 I have been following you and learning from your blogging ways. But I still need to explore the WordPress community even more to find out how we can support each other. Time is the problem. Baby steps for me. But you were one of my first followers. I am flattered. Gracias amiga!

  26. I once declared that platonic friendships are possible because my best friend is a guy and we’re just friends. One fine day, we crossed the line from friends to lovers. It didn’t work out. A year and a half later, we are back to being best of friends. I suppose if the foundation of your friendship is strong enough, there’s no such thing as not being able to go back to the way it use to be when you were just friends. In fact, I’m still friends with 2 of my ex boyfriends. Just sayin’ =)

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