This is an age-old question that continues to be asked time and time again: Can men and women really be friends? Some say yes, while others say not at all. According to Steve Harvey the answer to this question is no. The comedian and author of the best-selling relationship books Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and Straight Talk, No Chaser does not believe men and women can truly be just friends. He’s onto his third marriage and feels his experiences have taught him enough to know how to advise others.
One of the best movies that chronicles the friendship between a man and woman is the 1989 flick “When Harry Met Sally” starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Crystal’s character had one of the most memorable lines in film when he said, “Men and women can’t be friends … the sex part always gets in the way.” Ironically I recently had a conversation with a man who said he believed men can only be friends with women they find unattractive. Do you agree? Does this mean a person has to be considered unattractive by the other sex in order to maintain a strict ‘friend’s only’ status?
According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, men often become friends with the opposite sex when there is a level of sexual attraction. The friendship is initiated to satisfy the desire or possibility for sex. Whereas many women saw a friendship with a male as the opportunity to guard themselves and have no threat or possibility of sex. Why exactly do women even seek out friendships with men? I am sure you men have had a woman in your life who looks you in the eye and says, “I’m so glad we’re friends…” If you’re attracted to her you’re like…”What the?” If you don’t find her attractive you probably had a sigh of relief when she said that.
I personally have heard some women say that they choose to have male friendships because it allows the freedom from gossip and ‘catiness’ that happens in female friendships. One of my closest friends is a football fan like no other and it’s only natural she can hang with the fellas because of that interest alone. The reality is some of those fellas could have an interest in her and some of them may just see her as ‘one of the guys’. Women aren’t stupid, and know when a man is into them. His actions, eye contact and tone of voice will let her know. Some women are desperate for attention and will seek out male friends subconsciously looking for validation from someone who finds her attractive. She may have no desire to be in an intimate relationship with him and is only using him to feed her ego. Meanwhile, the guy is looking for something more.
One other reason is that the men they are in relationships with are not communicating with them. Men don’t like to talk. Women do like to talk as all you men know. For a man, there is nothing worse than having a conversation…especially if he’d rather be tuned into the championship playoff game he’s been waiting all week to watch; not the best time. On the other hand, a male friend who will make the time for her, listen to her, and actually have a conversation will definitely have ill effects on her relationship with said ‘playoff watching boyfriend’. (This by the way, is the main reason a woman will cheat; because her own man isn’t giving her the time of day and someone else is.) In some situations, the man is genuinely interested in this woman as a friend; as long as he is not the least bit attracted to her (or he thinks of her as a sister or just like family). Once an attraction begins, a man will fall into his primal nature and find a way that he can open the door of sexual opportunity.
The same study by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology went on to estimate that friendships between men and women have resulted in affairs up to 15 percent of the time. If that is the case, that means when friendships are maintained with the opposite sex, there is a slight chance it could cause infidelity. Sometimes in a relationship the simple act of hiding friends outside of the relationship can cause a level of mistrust. If you are ‘hiding’ a friendship from your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, does that mean there is a little bit of an attraction and you are afraid to open the door to your mate? Perhaps. There is also the concept of protecting your mate because although the relationship could be completely platonic, your partner might view it differently and thus cause a sense of insecurity.
To handle this situation it’s best to introduce all your friends to your partner in order to break down the barrier or idea that something might be going on. The other option is to cut all ties in order to preserve the relationship. This all depends on how you and your partner view the concept of male/female friendships.
In 1989 rapper Biz Markie’s biggest hit song was “Just a Friend”. He crooned about how his girl insisted the guy she hung out with was ‘just a friend’. Since then it’s become an anthem for people in similar situations. You know, the ones who say it’s just a friend but it’s really not.
Friendships that are kept with ex’s can also be a sticky situation. According to an advice article on eHarmony, people shouldn’t stay friends with an ex because it doesn’t allow the people to move on. Nor is it healthy for the person who may have been dumped and could be clinging with the hope of getting back together. Usually it’s the women who are clinging on. Men just move on to the next one. But, there are people who genuinely feel they have a strong enough friendship and that there isn’t a need to end that just because they have broken up.
Often women think that benefits can come from having a friendship with a man. For example, women will seek advice from other women on what to do in a relationship but, the reality is, another woman may not have a clue how a man thinks. This is where she thinks having you, a man, as a friend is cool. She thinks she’s getting an objective opinion on what might really be going on in that boyfriend’s mind. If he’s not attracted to her, she’ll get real advice. If he is, I’m sorry to tell you ladies, it is likely his agenda is to get you and the man split up so he can move in. There are women who have been naive to the fact that her ‘friend’ is actually falling for her and he’s not thinking she’s just a friend. In fact he is very likely undressing her in his mind and waiting for the perfect opportunity to step in when the door is open.
Psychology Today printed a story in its September 2010 issue standing by the ideas similar Steve Harvey; men and women can’t be friends. Because women have the possibility of pregnancy on the table, their primal nature is not as strong as a man who freely allows his sexual reflexes to determine his actions. A woman can get past the sex (pregnancy fears) and focus on “non-sexual aspects of a male”. Which, could be why more women think they can be friends with a man than the reverse.
There are so many factors to consider when forging a friendship with someone of the opposite sex. What are your motives? Is there integrity in this friendship? Have you known each other a long time? If you’re single it’s not as complicated as if you are already in a relationship. Single people can do whatever they want and have as many friends as you like, you don’t have another person to consider. Once you’re in a relationship or married it’s another story.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think men and women can be friends? Why or why not? Are there certain exceptions to your rules? We’d love to hear your comments below.