Women and Men: Can They Be Friends?

Friday, 29 October 2010 14:08 Written by  Ebony L. Morman

If you’re in a relationship, having a mate that has a best friend of the opposite sex can be intimidating and just plain old irritating, especially when many people act as if “Women and Men Can’t Be Just Friends” is the 11th Commandment.


Let’s face it, having some other guy or girl do virtually all of the things that you do with your significant other can’t be ideal, and if it is, then good for you. For the remainder of the world, those minor feelings of jealousy that happen when your mate spends time with a best friend that happens to be of the opposite sex, may be healthy. Additionally, these friendships often have a unique quality. So there might be reason for envy.

“Cross-gender friendships do fall on the borderline of what is socially acceptable and comprehensible,” says Juliana Tashiro, who recently received her master’s degree from University of Chicago. “They do require extra work and engagement than a same-sex friendship, but it’s this very aspect that makes them ‘special’ and ‘important’ to many of those involved.”

Psychology Professor at Western Illinois University Kristine M. Kelly points out the differences in thinking between the two sexes.

Kelly says that it seems as if women are happy to be just friends with men. Women can usually have platonic friendships without desiring more intimacy. However, Kelly shares a different sentiment when it comes to men and their intentions when pursuing friendships with women.

“There are some studies that indicate men do want more than friendship,” Kelly adds. “They are often friends with women in the hope of something more happening.”

Even if all men don’t fit the previous description, it still may be difficult to wrap your head around another woman, who he refers to as his “little sister,” having a bond with your mate that you may never understand. The same applies for women; it may be equally as difficult for him to compete with another man in your life, whom you call your “older brother.”

For both single and committed women, the responsibility may lie solely in your hand to keep your friendships with the opposite sex in line.

In order to insure a successful platonic relationship with men, it’s your job to talk to your male friend to make sure he understands that you’re only interested in friendship, Kelly comments.

Theoretically, it makes sense. If you tell him don’t cross the line, then the thought shouldn’t cross his mind, right?

During her extensive research, Tashiro, who specializes in the sociology of gender, has found that some platonic friendships have indeed taken a toll on romantic relations, which can be attributed to various reasons. Additionally, there may be an initial interest or attraction that typically fades as a friendship develops, Tashiro says. Oftentimes, there’s usually a “talk” where romance is discussed between friends.

“Of course the idea of a relationship or ‘more than friends’ is always there because it’s an option, but in some situations it’s more prevalent than in others,” she adds.

Having the “talk” may seem like a simple concept, but even if both sexes communicate their intentions from the start, there’s still a risk of miscommunication or one of two people being misled, especially considering some single women’s dependency on their male friendships.

“There are different types of social support, and one of them is instrumental support,” says Kristine. “Women could depend on men more for instrumental social support, which would involve physical assistance with problems or perhaps monetary contributions.”

Even if women don’t exactly depend on men for this type of support, Tashiro agrees with the notion that the value of these opposite sex friendships definitely has some differences.

“Since these friendships tend to challenge normative structures of male-female interaction, the effort that’s placed in maintaining and carrying out this relation makes that value of them different from same-sex friendships,” Tashiro adds.


-Photography by GMO Photo Editor Billy Montgomery

Ebony L. Morman

Ebony L. Morman

GMO's Senior Editor Ebony L. Morman received her B.A. in journalism from Northern Illinois University and her master’s in journalism from Columbia College Chicago. The Chicago-native enjoys writing about almost anything, but since she also has a passion for music, writing reviews of albums has become one of her favorite past times. Aside from GMO, Ebony freelances for a variety of publications and volunteers in her community.

Ebony can be contacted at EbonyM@glossmagazineonline.com
Follow her on Twitter at @EbonyEyes_GMO

Website: www.glossmagazineonline.com