Does Friendship Between Man and Woman Exist?


There has always been debate about whether relationships between heterosexual people can be truly platonic. Over recent years, there has been a great deal of talk about the, which refers to situations where expectations around male-female friendships differ and one person experiences feelings of unrequited love.

All about male and female friendships

It seems there can be many advantages to platonic opposite-sex friendships. These relationships can offer various benefits related to companionship, avoiding loneliness, improving self-esteem and finding out more about the opposite sex. However, some of the negative aspects attached to opposite-sex friendships seem to include jealousy, cruel behavior and confusion about the purpose of the relationship as well as unrequited love. Studies suggest that men are more likely to experience disappointment when opposite-sex friendships fail to blossom into something romantic or sexual. Some ‘platonic’ opposite-sex friendships do actually involve sexual activity without romance, with many people finding themselves embroiled in ‘friends with benefits’ arrangements.

What do women want from male-female friendships?

Studies suggest that women are more likely to value opposite-sex friendships for providing them with protection and access to resources. Men are more likely to feel frustrated about time invested in opposite-sex friendships when sex and romance are not involved. Women are likely to find ‘friends with benefits’ arrangements unfulfilling due to the lack of resources and protection on offer. However, it’s important to remember that women can also experience unrequited love in opposite-sex friendships and can also gain a great deal of fulfilment from no-strings-attached sex.

Mismatched expectations

To make an opposite sex friendship a successful one, it’s possible to choose the right approaches. It is important not to prioritise your expectations for the other person’s and it is vital to respect their wishes. If you find your romantic or sexual urges too hard to ignore, or if the other person seems keen to pursue something that you are not interested in, it may be wise to call time on the friendship.

Be honest with best friends of the opposite gender

It’s also important to be honest about your intentions. Don’t pretend that you are only interested in being friends if you are actually craving intimacy and romance with the other person. You should also avoid allowing the other person to think there is a chance something deeper will develop over time when the likelihood of this actually occurring is low or non-existent. If you have specific expectations about the friendship, it’s important to avoid them to avoid friction or embarrassment in the future. If sexual activity does occur but you are not interested in dating the person, don’t allow them to think there are any strings attached to the arrangement. Unequal same-sex friendships involving clashing expectations rarely work out well, so it’s often best to end things before the potential for disaster builds up to stratospheric levels.

Making male-female friendships last

None of this means it is impossible for men and women to enjoy long-lasting and fulfilling opposite-sex friendships. As long as the expectations match, there’s every chance that the arrangement will be a success. Many people find it better to be friends with others that are already in romantic relationships. One of the reasons why there is still so much debate around same-sex friendships is that most friendships were between people of the same sex until around a century ago. This changed when greater numbers of women entered the worlds of work and study and were then tasked with forming non-sexual relationships with people of the opposite sex.

Are guys attracted to their female friends?

In one study carried out at the University of Wisconsin, 88 pairs of opposite-sex friends were asked about their feelings towards the other person in private. The researchers found that the male friends normally had romantic feelings for the females, with many wrongly thinking their feelings were reciprocated. The study seemed to find that women were more likely to treat platonic relationship as just that, whereas most men hoped that something more romantic would develop in time. Many experts suggest that it’s easier to hold down cross-sex friendships in early adulthood, whereas things become more complex as people head towards middle-age, especially when people have entered into marriage and such relationships seem increasingly inappropriate. Nonetheless, people can use opposite-sex friendships to find out more about how the minds of males and females work, using the evidence they have gathered to make genuine romantic relationships more successful. Holding down a cross-sex friendship can be much more difficult when in a relationship with another person due to issues such as jealousy, mistrust and suspicion. Many people have turned to opposite-sex friends when experiencing problems in their relationships and marriages, with lines often being crossed as a result.

Sexual tension in friendships

The likelihood that expectations will differ within opposite-sex friendships tends to be very high. However, many people have been able to keep their friendships purely platonic and avoid crossing boundaries even when they find the other person sexually attractive. In one study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the main thing women disliked about cross-sex friendships was sexual tension, whilst a large number of men said sexual attraction was one of the main reasons for starting a friendship. 62% of all participants said that sexual tension played a role in their opposite-sex friendships.

Get on the same page

Male and female friendships can be very complicated, and some last a long longer than others. It seems that debate about whether guys and girls can just be friends will rage on for many years to come. Many friendships between a male and a female are completely healthy and normal. However, it is important to make sure you are both on the same page when it comes to what you want out of the arrangement and to respect what the other person has to say if they make it clear that nothing romantic or sexual is likely to stem from the friendship.