Think Jerry and Elaine from the now cancelled hit show, Seinfeld. If you were like most people, you watched the two of them transition through their completely heterosexual lives with one another at each others side and wished that you could find a friend just like that. You know, someone that you could go on trips with, hang at the movies with, sit, and watch television with – whose home you could just barge into anytime day and night knowing that they would be there for you, regardless of the problem. The relationship between the two of them worked so well, as do many single man and woman relationships, because the two of them seemed blissfully unaware that the other was a sexual creature or even a candidate for dating. Plus, to have a best friend of the opposite sex can truly take friendship to the next level, and proves to be supporting and helpful when it comes to knowing what the opposite wants when it comes to a relationship.
The question of course, is can single men and women be just friends. If you remember correctly, even the amazing collaboration of Jerry and Elaine ended up accidentally in bed together, naked – after a night of too many drinks. Is this the repertoire for any single man single woman relationship? Or is it possible to be ‘just friends?”
Many critics say that it is not possible for the big brother little sister (or vice versa) relationship to exist among heterosexual single adults. However, these people also whole-heartedly believe that no man woman relationship can exist without a man secretly vying to ‘get into the pants’ of every woman they encounter. And while according to a Maxim survey, men do think about sex with most women they find attractive at first meeting – they are able to follow the rules of the buddy system with a female that they truly love as a friend. This doesn’t mean that the thought of sex with their ‘girl’ friend has never come up, but means that they have moved passed the immediate surge of sexual desire and accepted friendship. And men are picky creatures. While they might find women attractive, they aren’t necessarily attractive to ALL woman who cross their paths. Yet, they may enjoy and gain from the benefit of female company, just as women gain a lot from male friends.
And women, for the most part – particularly enjoy the company of male friends. In fact, there are millions of women who have better relationships with their guy pals, that are free from the whining, complaining and underlying jealousy that laden many female-female friendships.
According to Men’s Health magazine, men benefit profusely from platonic relationships with women. In fact, psychologists believe that men who take the time to befriend women are often offered an outlet to emote fearlessly. Aside from getting the inside scoop on what makes women tick, they also get to experiment with their own emotions and talk to someone who will not judge them or call them “sissy” for having feelings. Most men do not communicate with one another based on emotions and are rather prone to either joking around with one another OR talking about facts. These friendships can offer a lot of insight to men that will help them with romantic relationships later and allow them to understand a whole new meaning to the word intimacy.
A study performed by Psychology Today, studied 20 sets of platonic male – female pairs, and found that when men and women become friends they develop what is known as ‘friendship attraction.’ Decades ago, this was thought to be impossible because largely men and women ran in different cultural circles and fulfilled altering societal roles. The woman was at home and only came in contact with other men when it was for romance. Today, men and women are equals, and the ‘power play’ between the sexes is simply outdated idealism. Now that women and men have integrated worlds, the friendship attraction exists and explicitedly shows that the two sexes can be platonic and simply friends. This shift in thinking has a lot to do with the new norms that men and women can expect something other than sex, or sexual attraction from one another.
In the study of 20 couples, around 3/4ths admitted that at one point or another, sexual intimacy was attempted or performed, only to be served with denial or regrets later. Since the friendship survived, sociologists believe that men and women are breaking down the barriers that for years seemed to indicate that men and women could not be platonic.
One of the major struggles that platonic friendships face is criticism and doubt from onlookers. For the male female best friend couple, it can be difficult for others to understand the relationship, and quite often, their romantic relationships are met with jealousy or even anger. The author of the book Adult Friendships (and renowned psychologist) Rosemary Blieszner says that men and women involved in platonic relationships found them to be much more satisfying and fulfilling than friendships they had with the same sex. Additionally, both men and women in these relationships felt that the most important aspect of the friendship was constant, compassionate, and understanding communication.
And there you get back to just why the Jerry and Elaine relationship on Seinfeld, worked so well. The entire sitcom was based on communication – and resonated with millions of fans because it was humorous, and most importantly honest.
So can men and women be just friends?
The answer is a resounding yes. It may take a while to work out the boundaries and the details of the relationship, but the bottom line is that both men and women benefit greatly from having friends of the opposite sex.