Can men and women really be “just friends?” In my younger years I would always answer this question with an emphatic, “YES!” Now that I’m a little older, and presumably a little wiser, I’m less likely to answer the same way. In my younger, more optimistic (and possibly more naïve) days I would say “yes” because experience hadn’t yet shown me anything different. In the years since then I’ve learned that it is highly unlikely that men and women can be just friends.
Starting in college I developed a close circle of friends that has, at some times, consisted of more men than women. I’ve considered many of these men to be amongst my closest friends. However, at some point 80% of them have expressed interest in me either directly to me or to someone they knew would share their feelings with me. The first couple of times it happened I blew it off. When it began to happen with more frequency, and with individuals with whom I’d had longer friendships, I decided that it was highly probable that men and women simply can’t maintain plutonic relationships for long periods of time.
I once got into a debate with a friend on this topic. He and I started as friends but he later expressed interest in me. He was a firm believer that men and women could not be friends. Period. Back then I still thought it was absolutely possible. He bet me that if I were to poll three of my current, long-term male friends who had never expressed interest in me that I would find that they too at some point had been interested in exploring a romantic relationship with me. I took the challenge and polled three friends. The results were mixed. While none of them had previously expressed any interest in me, two admitted to having “considered” me at some point in our relationship.
After reflecting on my own personal experiences I’ve decided that it is absolutely impossible for men to be friends with women without wanting more at some point. Maybe this is true for some women as well but not for me, or any of the women I’ve polled. Men have told me, that it is a waste of their time to invest time in a relationship with a woman they don’t intend to have sex with (at some point). For these men, cultivating a relationship with someone of the opposite sex is singular in purpose: mating. That’s it.
So, ladies and gentlemen, what’s been your experience? Can men and women really be just friends?????
(Clarification: We’re talking about heterosexual men and women. However, that raises the question: Can two gay men be friends? Can two gay women be friends? Based on the experiences of some of my gay, male friends, the answer is “no!” What say you?)