Why Men and Women Can't Be Just Friends

What's Good | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 01/30/2014 | 10:00 AM EST

Being in a friendship with the opposite sex can be tricky

It’s a question that has been posed for many years: can women and men be just friends? While there’s no definitive answer to the question-- as there are just as many opposite sex friendships, as there are ones that tend to blur the lines-- research somewhat reveals that men and women are unlikely able to co-exist in the friend zone.

The main reason men and women are less likely to work out in platonic relationships is that both sexes typically expect different outcomes or have alternative expectations. A survey conducted in 2000 among college students revealed that men were more likely to see sex or romantic potential in an opposite sex friend as a benefit, whereas women generally saw it as a cost. Additionally, when the friendship did not turn romantic or sexual, men were often left feeling rejected or used.

Contrastingly, women were less likely to have a desire in their male companion being more than just a friend. They often saw benefits to such friendships, such as male friends paying for outings, having a sense of protection and the ability to network through male friends. However, this is not to suggest that men are more likely to desire a committed relationship. Men are actually more likely to view the relationship as a “friends-with-benefits,” where sex is shared but commitment is not reciprocated.  Both men and women, however, may see benefits of being able to get insight from the opposite sex, as well as receiving a boost in self-esteem or social status.

However, there appears to be more cons than pros to being friends with someone of the opposite sex, such as feelings of jealousy, confusion over the status of the relationship, love not being reciprocated, cruel or mean behaviors, and being less attractive to other potential daters because of the friendship. Overall, each sex sees the other's benefit as their own cost - leaving quite the conundrum when it comes to expectations.

However, though the odds seem to be against opposite sex friendships, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Men and women can certainly work in a friend zone if both sexes properly communicate their expectations and/or needs - or unless the friend is gay or lesbian. Sometimes there’s just no sexual attraction, or maybe both parties are already in relationships - however, even then anything is possible.

In a nutshell, men and women can technically find a way to co-exist in a friendship. It just may not be as simple as one would like.

(Photo: Sam Bloomberg-Rissman/Getty Images)

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