Since what seems like the beginning of time, there is one question that has been raised consistently: Can men and women be just friends? It’s a question that most would like to assume is an obvious “yes,” but is that really true? Many studies have been conducted based around this very topic yielding some interesting findings.
One thing is clear; men and women are not always on the same page when it comes to this. In the year 2000, this notion of “just friends” was explored in depth in a study conducted by Bleske and Buss. They observed two main elements, the benefits and costs of an opposite-sex friendship in their lives. Those participating in the studies were asked to evaluate how 100 different costs and benefits of their opposite-sex friendships affected them.
Women often (not surprisingly) found benefit in being paid for by their male friends during platonic outings such as dinner. They also enjoyed the physical protection they felt from their male friends. Oppositely, men felt as though these things were costly to them, literally costing them money, but more importantly costing them time. On the topic of sex and romance in their friendships, men were more likely than women were to see it as a benefit. With this in mind, not surprisingly, 22% of men as opposed to 11% of the women mentioned that they had had sex with a friend of the opposite sex. When these friendships did turn romantic or sexual, men were twice as likely to continue labeling the woman in the relationship as just a friend.
From a woman’s perspective, I would ultimately have to note that I do believe it is possible, but it’s unlikely. Women are likely to build platonic relationships with men with no feelings involved. Men on the other hand typically act on the attractions they have for many of their “friends.” I personally have had many friendships with men that I knew harbored some type of attraction toward me, both those who have expressed their feelings and those who have acted upon those feelings. These specific friendships, while to me are still just friendships, would possibly be something more if I reciprocated the feelings. Whether it be a “friends-with-benefits” relationship, or something deeper; I’ve experienced both scenarios.
Very often, men act on the attractions they feel for their female friends because they assumed the feelings were mutual. In this way, we women are usually to blame; we can often be quite flirtatious or have our niceness misconstrued for flirtation. This is where we can see a lot of confusion arise.
It has been argued by many evolutionary psychologists that we as humans were programmed to mate, not to maintain platonic friendships. With all this information in mind, it seems as though men and women maintaining a strict friendship is as I said, unlikely, and at the very least quite difficult. In most platonic friendships, there is still going to be an attraction present on one or both sides. Whether that is ever acted upon is a completely different ballgame. Either way, when it comes down to it, we can ultimately blame all these urges and tendencies on our animal instincts.
For the men’s perspective on this question check out our last video from our backyard mystique video series.