Can Men Really Be "Just Friends" with Women?
Can men be friends with women? We questioned 13 real men and women to get their candid opinion.
It's the age-old question that comes up in every rom-com where the guy and girl best friends eventually fall in love: Can men really be just friends with women? What happens when something platonic crosses the line?
It's not just movies, either. IRL the challenges of navigating your own heterosexual relationships might lead you to believe that men and women can't be friends. Research suggests that when men and women are friends, their relationships face unique challenges that aren't as common in same-sex friends, including potential sexual attraction and the possibility of interfering with outside romantic relationships. That said, with the proper communication and boundaries, it certainly seems possible that a woman and man can be friends. (Just look at people who are bisexual, gay, lesbian, or pansexual — they can make friendships work with people of the gender they're attracted.)
Curious about others' experiences? Here, 13 men and women of all ages and backgrounds share their take on whether a man can have a friendship with a woman that doesn't involve sex.
At least one party is drawn to the other sexually.
"While men and women can be friends, it is difficult for the relationship to be entirely platonic. Our genetics simply drive our attraction to the opposite sex! The likelihood that at least one party is drawn to the other sexually is very high, regardless of whether or not anything ever comes of it. This is the reason jealousy and infidelity exists; we are not wired to be a monogamous species."-Dr. Soroya Bacchus, 51, psychiatrist
You can get a lot out of a friendship when you keep it platonic.
"With my line of work, I come into contact with women all the time. But for me, it is a matter of knowing when not to cross boundaries. With some people, there will always be sexual attraction, but you don't have to always go there with them. You can get a lot out of a friendship when you keep it platonic."-William Moore, 26, personal trainer
Expectations don't always match up.
"Men and women often think they are nothing but friends when in reality one person's mind or the other is thinking more. They may never share this information with their friend, but there's always that feeling that one of these days we're going to get a little tipsy and make out."-John Powers, 29, stand up comic and relationship columnist
I think sexual tension is always there.
"I have many guy friends. They're my friends because they all started out as guys that wanted to date me or sleep with me. If you have an unattached female and male, I think sexual tension is always there. Typically the reasons they are 'friends' is because one of them doesn't want more. I mean, if you get along enough to hang out, have dinners, talk on the phone, that's a big part of a relationship, right?"-Angela Lutin, 38, Flywheel instructor and blogger at EssentiallyAngela
Men and women can only be friends when the woman dictates the friendship.
"Men and women can only be friends when the woman dictates the friendship. She has to be sure to keep him at bay. Her inability to create proper distance barriers, limit the time they spend together, and restriction of intimacy can cause the relationship to go too far."-Devin T. Robinson X, 28, author of How Good is Sex?
I would get worried if your guy was off doing one-on-one stuff with a woman.
"Men and women cannot be friends with someone they are attracted to, and unfortunately, most men are attracted to almost every woman so the idea that they can be friends without thoughts of sex is ridiculous. Being friends in group activities is fine. I would get worried if your guy was off doing one-on-one stuff with a woman. That's called a date."-Lindsley Lowell, 42, author of My Knight in Shining Armor Is Coming, He's Just Stuck in Traffic
If they can get past that sticky phase, then yes.
"I know firsthand, both through personal experience and through witnessing it, that men and women can be friends. But, there are some caveats around it. More often than not, either the man or woman at some point in time, wanted 'more'-either to have sex, date or to have a relationship. If they can get past that sticky phase — which most do not — then yes, a warm friendship can result. Also, friendship comes in many different depths so it's important to get clear about what you mean by that word."-Delaine Moore, 41, dating coach and author of The Secret Sex Life of a Single Mom
There's usually an underlying attraction.
"The only way you can have a guy friend when you're married is if you find this man so unattractive, there would be no way he could ever worm his way into your pants. There is just no real male/female heterosexual friendship that doesn't have an underlying attraction."-Jennifer Hutt, 42, host of "Just Jenny" on Sirius XM Stars and author of WHATEVERLAND: Learning to Live Here
Related: 5 Ways Sex Leads to Better Health
It isn't possible, especially if the woman is single.
"No, it isn't possible, especially if the woman is single. Women always do the 'match up' first for their criteria and, if not, for one of her BFFs. It doesn't matter how long the woman knows the man; if he is good looking, smart, charming, resourceful, courageous, adventurous, and gainfully employed, she. will. always. wonder. what. it. would. be. like. to. be. married. to. him. Period."-Stefan Pinto, 40, model and writer
It's pretty easy to tell if you feel something other than friendship.
"I have more guy friends than female friends and I think it really comes down to interests and personality or whether or not you have something to talk about. It's pretty easy to tell if you feel something other than friendship or vice versa, and in that case, you just move on. When I got married, I had two Men of Honor. Growing up, my best friend was a guy. It actually feels more comfortable [to me], and I think that's the key. If it's too labored or analyzed, then it'll never work."-Lucy Bohnsack, 29, president of East Camp Home
The only time it works is if both parties are in happy relationships.
"The only time it works is if both parties are in happy relationships, sexually satisfied at home, and there are strong professional or interest reasons to be friends."-Pablo and Beverly Solomon, 64 and 57, artist and fashion executive, respectively
We truly enjoy each other's company without any weirdness.
"There is a big group of us, both male and female, who all take boxing together at the Main Street Gym in Midlothian, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Because the men have seen how strong and determined the women are and because the women see and feel how hard the men work alongside us, a true appreciation for one another has developed. We hang out together and truly enjoy each other's company without any weirdness! It is a friendship that is based on respect."-Alex Allred, 47, college professor and kickboxing instructor
I got used to seeing men as people, not objects of affection.
"As the youngest of three with two older brothers, I always had them to look up to. I had many guy friends growing up. I got used to seeing men as people, not objects of affection, and it has helped me to garner healthy friendships with men... If you leave sex OUT OF THE EQUATION, then a guy can really give you some insight about men that your girlfriends just can't."-Julie Webb, 23, public relations coordinator