The age old question of whether men and women can be merely friends. Can they? Can’t they? It’s a question that has baffled many for years. Some swear that it can’t be done. Some swear that it can and has been done. It doesn’t help their case when movies like When Harry Met Sally get produced.
In fact there has been a host of movies about male-female friendships that end in romance. It’s all rather confusing for people who are trying to navigate a male-female friendship. Because every step of the way, society and the media is saying that it can’t be done.
Back in ye ol’ days when only men worked and women stayed at home and tended to the home and hearth, the only reason for men and women to meet were to find a mate, and because of this, it made it hard for men and women to become friendly. But times have changed and now both men and women stand on (almost) equal footing. Now we mingle and socialize and it’s much easier for us to become mates with each other.
Don’t just take my word for it – Don O’Meara, Ph.D., at the University of Cincinnati-Raymond Walters College who published Sex Roles, a study on the hindrances of cross-sex friendships has written intensively about this subject. The reason being, his best friend is a woman!
The thing is, as much as I want to claim it’s easy to become friends with the opposite sex, some factors do come into play that won’t if you’re friends of the same sex. O’Meara identified some challenges to male-female friendships: defining it, dealing with sexual attraction, seeing each other as equals, facing people’s responses to the relationship and meeting in the first place.
O’Meara has broken it down for us, but think about it, this is what you do naturally when you find a friend of the opposite sex. You decide that you want to have this person as a friend in your life, you decide to forgo the sex over long-term friendship, you see this person as an equal and you get tired explaining to everyone how you’re ‘just friends’ and nothing more!
I personally notice that people who don’t have friends in the opposite sex usually also see the opposite sex as partner material or only for sex and nothing more. If they’re men, then they usually have a posse of guy friends that they hang out with and do the ‘fun’ stuff with, and then go home to the ‘wife’ who generally does the ‘wifey’ stuff. I’m not saying that these people are old fashioned or not progressive, but in my personal experience it comes across as seeing male-female relationships as very black and white.
Well, to each their own, but to this gal (and to scientific research) male-female friendships can exist if we learn to navigate the basic challenges that exist. No biggie as challenges to friendships exist whether its same sex or not. I for one value both my female and male friends! How about you?