Can Men and Women be “Just Friends”?

The universal and timeless conundrum...

5 September 2018

Article heading image for Can Men and Women be “Just Friends”?

It's a pretty universal and timeless conundrum – can men and women really be “just friends”? Let’s face it, romantic comedies have ruined our capacity to think clearly when it comes to our male/female friendships; most plotlines are – various combinations of male/female friendships turned into flirty banter turned into a happy ending turned into millions of dollars at the Box Office turned into some very confused individuals – aka me.


So - I was having dinner with my friend last week and I had barely finished my sentence when I was speaking about someone WHO WAS A GUY, who was single, straight and happened to be my friend and she replied with ‘no, nup, negative – men and women cannot be “just friends” – not in this lifetime, not in this universe’. I nearly threw a nacho at her because he IS my FRIEND and I like him in a very non-physically attractive way. But she wasn’t having any of it. One of us would end up in love, maybe even both of us but we’d never be ‘just friends’

My friend definitely had a point (not that I let her think that at the time for arguments sake). Think about it, you put a boy toddler and a girl toddler next to each other at a café and then watch as the whole coffee shop comment on how they’ll end up married one day while the babies knock back their baby-chinos, none the wiser. And maybe they will end up married. Or maybe they’ll just be friends. P.S no babies were harmed for the sake of this social experiment.


To be honest, I was that girl baby. And my best friend was a boy for a while. I spent my late teenage years FENDING off family members and fellow peers teasing me for having a boy as a best friend. Not exactly teasing me, but ALWAYS commenting about us sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G. It was exhausting and awkward AF when they did it in front of both of us. Apparently, our families would conspire behind our back, guessing and placing bets on when and which would rooftop we would announce to the world we were in love.


And the result of my friendship? He got a girlfriend. And our friendship deteriorated. She was jealous of me for having a friendship with her boyfriend and I was jealous of her because now he bailed on pizza nights to go on dates. I know - it’s not a great anecdote to reinforce that men and women can be friends but it’s a true story!  

Science kind of backs this up too. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in America conducted a survey once that showed cross-sex friendships can be challenging but more so for men than women. The study found (between 88 pairs of male/female friendships) the women generally viewed their male friendships as mostly platonic, but the men were more likely to have a big crush on their female friends and/or have had thoughts about doing the hanky-panky with them.


Despite the research, you probably shouldn’t start walking around assuming your cross-sex friend is in love with you. I’m going to guess no one will want to be your friend if you start acting like Zoolander.

I find it trickier as I get older too. There always seems to be an ‘assumption’ or a little unanswered question hovering over your cross-sex friendship (if you’re both single) - is this person purely my friend or are they writing love poems about me in their spare time?


Let’s get one thing straight - it’s certainly not impossible for men and women to be just friends. There are no rules to friendship. You pick the people you like and you hang around them; sometimes they stay and sometimes they go. Friendships enrich our lives, teach us valuable life lessons, help us get perspective and stay up with us until 3am trying to figure it all out – male or female. If (and that’s a big IF) you happen to fall in love with your friend – great, I heard it worked out on When Harry Met Sally. And if it doesn’t, hey, you can always find a new friend. 


This article was originally published by The Border Mail  

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