It’s a question we’ve all faced at least once in our lives, and it divides opinion: Can men and women just be friends?
I’ve met people who swear that men and women can never just be friends and that something else must be going on if they’re spending time together.
I’ve also met people who insist that any friendship that includes people of the opposite gender is purely platonic.
I have always defended the fact that men and women can be friends and nothing more.
However, the other day, I was watching an American sitcom that concluded that men and women can’t just be friends.
Why is this belief so widespread?
As a liberal (slightly effeminate) man, I have almost as many female friends as there are men; however, some of the women I know swear that two members of the opposite gender cannot be platonic (which leads me to question what kind of weird pseudo-friendship/relationship we have).
Does being “just friends” with someone mean that if you participate in an occasional flirtation, you are automatically more than a friend?
Or does it mean that as long as you don’t end up in bed together, it’s okay?
The problem with this question is that the answer is entirely subjective; it seems to depend on someone’s level of jealousy, or rather how jealous a person is.
The more jealous a person is, the less likely he is to believe that friendship of the opposite gender is possible.
Alternatively, someone less jealous may think that most interactions with a friend, no matter how flirtatious, are good.
It seems to boil down to the potential for attraction between two people.
If you’re straight and you’re spending time with someone of the opposite gender, the potential exists that attraction could, or already exists, form.
It is this possibility that seems to lead the envious to conclude that men and women cannot be friends.
As humans, we tend to gravitate towards those who are most similar to us, so it’s only natural that most people have more friends of the same gender than the opposite.
If you intentionally strike up a friendship with someone of the opposite gender, could you already be attracted to that person?
If you don’t have any common denominator with a friend (like no mutual friends, no school or work connections or anything else), then chances are one of you made friends with the potential for “more” in mind.
As a man, I will admit that I made friends with women because I found them attractive, mostly out of curiosity about whether or not they would reciprocate.
The funny thing is that most of these encounters actually led to a real friendship, where physical attraction (on my side, at least) dwindled to zero.
In fact, some of my closest friendships came about that way.
Two people become very good friends after meeting each other as a result of a mutual or one-sided attraction.
In these cases, if there was no initial attraction, the friendship would never have existed.
On the other hand, we all have some friendships that exist because of some form of mutual interest or activity.
They could have come from classmates or co-workers, friends who live in the same building, or something else.
In these circumstances, friendships do not necessarily arise after one person intends to get to know another better.
Instead, they blossom because of the situation you two are in.
Even with these early relationships and blossoming friendships, the potential for attraction still exists.
Again, it is this potential that leads many people to conclude that men and women cannot just be friends.
The bottom line is that in almost every opposite-gender friendship, at least one person has thought about what it would be like to be more than just friends with the other.
I’m not saying that every friendship is like that – just that there’s a chance that a person in the friendship has thought about the possibility of having more.
This does not mean that any fleeting impulses will be triggered or that two people cannot be friends if these fleeting thoughts occur.
So it seems that the “men and women can’t just be friends” scenario carries some merit in the sense that we as human beings are social beings by nature and it doesn’t seem like we can help our innate urge to find a mate, or at least keep it from passing through our minds.
However, I maintain that men and women can just be friends.
Despite the potential presence of attraction, on one side or both and however small, this does not mean that friendship does not exist.
Attraction and friendship are not mutually exclusive and one will not necessarily cancel out the other.
While moments of attraction may be small or large, for the most part, they will be of a fleeting nature, and while the attraction waxes and wanes, the friendship will endure.
So while some friendships may arise through attraction or there may be momentary “what if?” thoughts, men and women CAN just be friends and can have some of the best friendships imaginable.