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Browse all Get Skilled. Can men and women just be friends? The debate continues to come up again and again. For most of human history, men and women basically lived in homosocial worlds until they got married, meaning men only hung out with men and women only hung out with women.
Even after marriage, men and women for the most part continued to have distinct and separate social lives — men would hang out with other dudes all day on the hunt in primitive times, and at work or in male-only colleges in more modern times; women stayed at camp or at home and hung out with their gal pals.
The pairs were required to promise in front of each other that they would refrain from discussing the study after they left the lab. They were then separated and asked a series of questions to gauge their romantic feelings towards their opposite sex friends. Researchers found that while women were generally not attracted to their male friends and saw the relationship as strictly platonic, the men usually had romantic feelings for their lady friends.
Not only were the guys more attracted to their supposedly platonic female buds, they also mistakenly believed that the feelings were reciprocal, and they were more willing to act on their erroneously perceived mutual attraction.
Can men and women just be friends?
However, these same sociologists qualify those conclusions with the caveat that cross-sex relationships are typically more complicated than same-sex ones and require much more communication and transparency. But I will nonetheless humbly submit that the best way to gauge the viability of cross-sex friendships is by using a sliding scale, girded by two general guidelines. The first is that having cross-sex friendships becomes progressively harder from middle school through college and finally into adulthood.
Cross-sex friendships in elementary school? No problem. In high school?
Usually pretty natural and easy. In college? Then things start to get sticky.
Guys and girls can be just friends, but you will fall for him
And that brings me to my second guideline: Cross-sex friendships become increasingly difficult the greater the commitments one or both of the friends have with their romantic partners. As mentioned above, opposite-sex friendships give you insight into how the female mind works, which can help you successfully navigate the dating scene and just make you an all-around more perceptive guy.
And of course another benefit of opposite-sex friendships is that they sometimes lead to fulfilling romantic relationships. Many solid marriages began from solid friendships.
Why men and women can (and should) be friends
This can often lead to anger and frustration about being friend-zoned. I realize this is an unpopular opinion with some. Yet you simply never know what the future will bring. Marriages hit rough spots. When they do, people often turn to their friends for emotional support.
Sadly, Kate and I know a few people — both men and women — who ended up cheating on their spouse with a close opposite-sex friend when the above scenario played out. They were ardent proponents of the idea that men and women can just be friends, even while married…right up until those friendships contributed to the break up of their union.
Instead, stack the deck as much as possible towards having a happy, long-lasting marriage.
Men and women can't be "just friends"
So, can men and women be friends? With caveats.
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