Platonic friendships: Can men and women really just be friends?

When it comes to this burning question, there are all sorts of views, some may even have an anecdote to share. In the 1989 movie, “When Harry Met Sally”, the writer Nora Ephron was exploring the exact question, “Can men and women be friends?” According to Harry (played by Billy Crystal), men and women can’t be friends “because the sex part always gets in the way.”

“Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.”

Oscar Wilde

Firstly I’d like to note that I am referring mostly to deep, connected friendships between both a heterosexual man and woman and not the casual and circumstantial interactions that happen between people in groups of friends or work colleagues.

From an evolutionary standpoint, men and women were never meant to be friends in the first place. Many leading philosophers claim that the entire purpose of life is to reproduce and pass on your genes. Although this statement is controversial and debatable, we can all agree that our basic instinct is to survive and reproduce.

“If I had the chance, I would smash”

There’s a reason why cross-sex friendships tend to make a significant other feel jealous or threatened. Even if it isn’t said outright, sometimes you can feel tension in the air or glaring eyeballs burning into your skin. Trust me, I know! At this point, I’d expect someone to comment and say, “Oh but if someone’s jealous of a cross-sex friendship, then that’s down to their own insecurities!” — sure, I don’t disagree with this statement. You do find many individuals in relationships while simultaneously still healing from old wounds or unable to let go of past trauma which can create these negative feelings towards the “friend”. However let’s be real… there is a risk that in cross-sex friendships, one or the other will develop sexual attraction, and possibly feelings over time. It’s just how human nature works, but it doesn’t always happen.

Bear in mind that just because your friend is sexually attracted to you, it doesn’t mean they will necessary act upon it. Either they will keep it hidden from you or confess to you when they get the courage to do so. In the past, I’ve had one great friendships fizzle out because he chose to admit his feelings for me… it was pretty awkward and a shock to say the least. After I told him the feelings were’t mutual, he started backing off and our friendship unfortunately never went back to normal. I really hoped he’d be fine over time, but he clearly wasn’t. I reached out a few times to see how he was, and although he would respond (short, blunt answers), I realised our friendship was pretty much dead in the water. 🙁

I have many male friends, and it’s not by choice. I’ve always naturally found that we have more common interests, the same humour, a similar outlook on life and I appreciate that they’re all straight up, no bullshit kind of people. That’s not to say my girls aren’t!

Here’s a confession… I had a little thing with one of my good guy friends about 9 years ago… it was a while back and we were young, but I definitely don’t see him in that way at all. There’s no emotional attachment and it’s certainly the same from his side. He’s a good looking dude and we’ll joke about the past if it ever comes into conversation (rarely!) but it’s never impacted our friendship. These days we’ll talk about life and even offer each other dating/relationship advice!

There’s a couple guys I’m close with who I’ve known since primary school and we literally have a brother/sister type of bond, nothing more, nothing less. I’ve been to their house, I know their parents, siblings and vice versa. And I really value those long-lasting friendships.

With some of the other fellas, they have openly told me that if they had the chance, they would “smash”. Does it bother me? No. Does it affect our friendship? No. I’ve always set and maintained boundaries and I don’t entertain flirtatious behaviour for sake of an ego boost or anything. I draw the line and they know that. I’ve joined in on a “lads holiday” and taken a trip with just one of them in the past. Nothing happened — we slept in separate rooms, partied together, dined together and soaked up the sun by the pool. All amazing holidays! Ultimately, I believe we all have a high degree of maturity which allows our cross-sex friendship to be really lovely, fun and wholesome.

Woman please

When my guy friends get into relationships, I respect the boundary and tend not to invite them out one-on-one. I also decrease the calls, texts, cut the explicit chats about sex, etc. — I just know that their partners wouldn’t appreciate it. Likewise I would feel the same if the roles were reversed. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want their partner to feel uncomfortable or feel like I’m getting in between them. Funnily enough my friend recently admitted that his ex wasn’t a fan of me, 😆 she thought I was “going after” him. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Woman please.

I do get it though, I used to be in a relationship with a guy who was always chatting to his female friends. If we went to an occasion/event, all these chicks would be hugging him, constantly floating around him, giving him that little “playful” stroke on the arm. He ended up being a cheat anyway 🤷🏻‍♀️ so yes I get it!

So… can men and women really just be friends?

I do believe it’s possible… with a few caveats here and there. Sometimes you grow up as childhood friends and it simply remains that way. In other cases you build friendships overtime, and if it so happens that one develops feelings or the “sex part” gets in the way (and it’s not reciprocated) then by all means, a line needs to be drawn. From my experience, this “line” usually come from the woman. This is where boundaries must be put in place. I’ll leave you with some final points to think about.

BE EXPLICIT WITH THEM
It’s important that you’re clear on why you are friends with them. If the motivation is not platonic, then be honest with yourself and admit that you are attracted to this person. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a friendship with them, but it will help to acknowledge the attraction you feel and know your limits in awkward situations.

EASE UP ON THE TOUCHY FEELY-NESS
Rein it in so you don’t give the other person the wrong idea. At the same time, don’t entertain it if they start getting all touchy-feely with you. A hello/goodbye hug is okay, but shoulder rubs, thigh grabs, hair stroking… well! 👀

SHARING THE SAME BED… REALLY???
You know, I was reading up on this… and perhaps I’m an old skool kinda gal but apparently cross-sex friends sharing the same bed is fairly normal? I never realised that and don’t get it. I’ve never shared the same bed with any of my guy friends and wouldn’t want to! How awkward! Personally, I wouldn’t suggest this.

BE AWARE OF EACH OTHER’S SITUATION
When a boyfriend or girlfriend enters the scene then it’s probably time to take a step back. It’s not worth treading on someone else’s toes. Acting accordingly is the respectable thing to do, the last thing you want to do is cause conflict!

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