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Can men and women be friends only?

This is a question that men and women have been asking for years. Can a heterosexual man or woman have friends of the opposite sex? I feel that it depends on the individuals. I say yes to men and women being friends. If you get in a new relationship and your significant other knows about your friends from the very beginning and you were that person’s friend before you met your new partner, then I feel it’s definitely okay. Think about it, if a person wanted to be with a friend, why wait until they get in another relationship then all of a sudden fall for their friend? I also believe that women have more will power to say no to a friend who tries to flirt in an inappropriate way. Don’t get me wrong, there are men who have the will power to say no, but women just have more will power than men.

I decided to do a little research to see what the professional are saying about this topic. I found a few interesting articles on this topic. When researchers spoke with men and women friends they found different answers between men and women. The first article verified my statement about the will power difference between men and women.

Scientific American
By Adrian F. Ward—is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His doctoral research is focused on the relationships between technology, cognition, social relationships, and self-esteem, and he worked briefly as a scientific consultant for a dating website.

In order to investigate the viability of truly platonic opposite-sex friendships—a topic that has been explored more on the silver screen than in the science lab—researchers brought 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends into…a science lab.  Privacy was paramount—for example, imagine the fallout if two friends learned that one—and only one—had unspoken romantic feelings for the other throughout their relationship.  In order to ensure honest responses, the researchers not only followed standard protocols regarding anonymity and confidentiality, but also required both friends to agree—verbally, and in front of each other—to refrain from discussing the study, even after they had left the testing facility. These friendship pairs were then separated,and each member of each pair was asked a series of questions related to his or her romantic feelings (or lack thereof) toward the friend with whom they were taking the study.

The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.

Men were also more willing to act on this mistakenly perceived mutual attraction. Both men and women were equally attracted to romantically involved opposite-sex friends and those who were single; “hot” friends were hot and “not” friends were not, regardless of their relationship status.  However, men and women differed in the extent to which they saw attached friends as potential romantic partners.  Although men were equally as likely to desire “romantic dates” with “taken” friends as with single ones, women were sensitive to their male friends’ relationship status and uninterested in pursuing those who were already involved with someone else.

These results suggest that men, relative to women, have a particularly hard time being “just friends.” What makes these results particularly interesting is that they were found within particular friendships (remember, each participant was only asked about the specific, platonic, friend with whom they entered the lab). This is not just a bit of confirmation for stereotypes about sex-hungry males and naïve females; it is direct proof that two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways. Men seem to see myriad opportunities for romance in their supposedly platonic opposite-sex friendships. The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic. Finish reading the rest of the article here https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/men-and-women-cant-be-just-friends/

The last paragraph really tickled me, it says So, can men and women be “just friends?” If we all thought like women, almost certainly.  But if we all thought like men, we’d probably be facing a serious overpopulation crisis.



Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D.

The Attraction Doctor

I took a look at the research literature on men and women being friends. Apparently, research into this question began about a decade ago. Bleske and Buss (2000) surveyed college students regarding the benefits and costs of opposite-sex friendships in their lives. In general, many of these benefits and costs were the same for both men and women: Both sexes enjoyed opposite-sex friends for dinner companions, conversation partners, self-esteem boosts, information about the opposite sex, social status, respect, and sharing resources. Both sexes also noted some similar costs of opposite-sex friendship, such as jealousy, confusion over the status of the relationship, love not being reciprocated, cruel or mean behaviors, and being less attractive to potential romantic partners because of the friendship.

Male and female responses differed on a few key items though. Men were more likely to see sex and romantic potential in an opposite-sex friend as a benefit, while women primarily saw it as a cost. As a result, men were also more likely than women to report that they had sex with an opposite-sex friend (22 percent vs. 11 percent for women). Men were also more likely to report friendship costs of lowered self-worth and giving time to help the friend, while women found their own inability to reciprocate the male’s attraction as costly. Therefore, when friendships did not turn sexual or romantic, men were often left feeling rejected and used (i.e., “friend zoned”), while women felt uncomfortable with the unequal attraction. In contrast, when friendships did turn romantic/sexual, some of these men continued to label the women as “just friends”—at about double the rate of women. This leads to the “other” friend zone women more routinely face, the “friends-with-benefits zone,” where sex may be shared but commitment is not reciprocated.

Women reported their own unique costs and benefits in opposite-sex friendships. They were more likely to experience the benefit of their male friends paying for outings and enjoyed the physical protection of those friends. (Men saw these as costs of time and money.) Women also enjoyed the ability to network through male friends. However, as noted above, women found it costly when those male friends desired sex or romance. They also disliked when their male friends caused difficulty in the women’s other dating efforts. Read the entire article here https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201304/can-men-and-women-be-just-friends#:~:text=In%20many%20cases%2C%20the%20answer,one%20friend%20desires%20something%20more.&text=Friendship%20between%20men%20and%20women%20is%20not%20impossible.


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