Men and women have two different mindsets when it comes to friendship. Where women want friends, men see the possibility for something more.
With the added influences of evolutionary urges and complicated attraction, heterosexual, cis-gender, opposite-sex friendships have been a topic of discussion–it brings to question whether it’s a viable option or a myth passed down from one foolish generation to another.
On a stereotypical basis, men are portrayed as having other intentions when it comes to trying to be friends with women. On the other hand, women seem to separate their friendships and romantic interests.
Adrian F. Ward, a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at Harvard University, does not consider a friendship between two opposite-sex, heterosexual individuals possible. Ward concludes that relationships between the opposite sex cannot exist without being blinded by possible romantic attraction. In his article “Men and Women Can’t Be ‘Just Friends,” Ward stated, “Although women seem to be genuine in their belief that opposite-sex friendships are platonic, men seem unable to turn off their desire for something more.”
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire found that opposite-sex friendships between heterosexual individuals are easily compromised by one-sided attraction. Through examining 88 pairs of undergraduate-age, opposite-sex friends, it was concluded men were not only more attracted to their female counterparts, but they also assumed they women were attracted to them as well.
The girls surveyed were generally not interested in their male friends at all but did hold the notion that things were mutual. “Men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends,” Ward said.
As broad of a statement as it may seem, science has contributed to the notion that men are the ones (unintentionally) who are unable to maintain opposite-sex friendships.
I polled Instagram to find out what they had to say about men and women hanging out platonically. Overwhelmingly, my followers voted that opposite-sex friendships were totally possible. Out of the 76 people who voted, 69 people (91 percent) claimed men and women could get on platonically, while seven voters (9 percent) were less optimistic.
Similar to the ideas expressed in the article written by Ward, a male respondent said, “I feel like they can be friends, but there’s always suppressed attraction coming from the guy’s part.” He went on to say some guys opt into friendships with girls simply because being friends with the one they can’t have is better than nothing at all.
In response to his comments, another male respondent offered up some positive insight on how men and women can make things work in the friend zone. “Culturally, I think it’s difficult for men to separate friendly interaction with romantic interest, but clear boundaries, as well as specific and directed communication, can definitely allow for regular platonic friendships.”
At the end of the day, no one can read minds.You will never truly know the intentions of the people around you.The line between romantic and platonic relationships is solid to some and dotted to others. Science may not be in favor of opposite-sex friendships, but with communication and understanding, it’s possible.