Can Men & Women Ever Truly Be “Just Friends”?
Ah. The age-old question.
This is one that I have been contemplating for most of my life (welcome to the mind of Alyssa haha), and it’s a tough one to write. My thoughts are all over the place on this one. Thanks in advance for your patience as I muddle through this murky water.
I’m not the first to explore this territory (When Harry Met Sally, anyone?), and I’m sure I won’t be the last.
I’m talking about straight men and women here. Is it possible to have nothing more than platonic friendship?
I’m talking about the kind of friends who talk every single day, share every aspect of their lives, and have a deep emotional connection with no attraction from either party and no secretly longing for more from either side.
Does anyone particular come to mind? Are you thinking of your current spouse? Boyfriend? Friend?
Is this scenario possible?
I asked this question on an Instagram poll and on a Facebook poll, which led to some pretty interesting conversations. It was the most popular poll I have ever done, and I was getting direct messages left and right.
I asked many people in real life too. Not the most scientific study, but I’ll take what I can get 😊
Most people said “Yes.” Men and women alike.
On Instagram, 81% said yes and 19% said no.
On Facebook, 76% said yes and 24% said no.
I’m in the minority on this one, I guess. I strongly disagree.
I think that if we’re REALLY being honest with ourselves here, then we have to come to the conclusion that it’s not possible.
It’s impossible to get that close to someone and NOT develop romantic feelings.
For the majority of relationships, men and women cannot be “just friends.” Do I think it can happen on a VERY rare occasion? Sure. Maybe one in a million.
However, when most people seem to think it is possible, I have to wonder if they’re not just in denial. They don’t want to see that the other person in the friendship probably has feelings for them or vice versa.
We all want connection
We need it to survive. We crave it.
There are two different kinds of connection, right?
Physical and emotional.
Both important, but I’d like to make the argument that emotional connection is the most important.
The ideal situation is when you get them both from the same person, and that creates a relationship.
Humans are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
We get the obvious kind of pleasure from a physical connection, but I think we get even more pleasure from an emotional one.
We want to protect that emotional connection that we have built with a person. If we deem the pain of potentially losing that emotional connection GREATER than the potential pleasure we might receive from pursuing a relationship, then we’re going to maintain the status quo and keep it at the friendship level…even if we might be craving more.
We will choose the option that is LESS PAINFUL rather than the option that is more pleasurable every time! (I find this fascinating!)
How many times have you heard, “I just value our friendship too much to risk losing it!”
How many relationships have started out as “just friends?”
One of my friends who has been married for quite a while said that he was friends with his wife first for years first, and then they eventually got together and got married.
Another girl who responded yes on my poll (that men and women can be just friends), has been dating a guy that she had previously been “just friends” with! They have been together for YEARS now.
A close friend (who said yes) was telling me about her “just friends” guy friends from back in the day (before a husband and a child). She was talking about one in particular and she said, “Well we did kiss once…”
My college boyfriend had a lot of “friends” who were girls. He became friends with them AFTER we were already in a relationship. I can guarantee you that 9/10 of those friends were his “friends” because they wanted to get with him. And he liked the attention.
One of them was texting him at 4am while she was in bed with her boyfriend, and he still maintained that they were “just friends.”
Another one (who he lived with for a while) was texting him saying, “Maybe I’ll jump on you the next time you fall asleep on the couch (winky face).” She was talking about the kind of wrestling match that ends with sex. And yet he still maintained that they were “just friends.”
Now you’re probably thinking, “WTF, Alyssa?!?!? Why were you with that guy? How did you know about those text messages?”
Those are excellent questions. Ones that I’m working on answering. I’ll have that ready for you soon 😉
The problem is attraction.
The problem is sex.
Whether you’re having it or not, it’s still there. It’s the elephant in the room. The elephant in the friendship. The bull in the china shop that everyone is blissfully ignoring. “That bull isn’t going to break my china!” “What bull?”
We need to define a few things first if we’re really going to dive deep into the question, “Can Men and Women Really Be Just Friends?”
What is friendship?
A friendship after all is type of relationship. So, what makes a friendship different from a romantic relationship? What is it that separates the two? Is the physical aspect the ONLY difference? Is that the only thing that makes a relationship special?
That doesn’t sit right with me, and I don’t believe it.
A friendship is an emotional connection to varying degrees.
An emotional connection with platonic feelings. What separates platonic feelings from romantic feelings? Attraction.
A romantic relationship is where an emotional connection and a physical connection intertwine. It’s where emotional and physical intimacy meet.
Kind of like a Venn Diagram. A romantic relationship is that part where the two circles overlap.
What keeps a friendship from turning into a relationship?
Well, it has to be a lack of physical attraction then.
With a same sex friendship (assuming both parties are straight), there isn’t a risk of attraction. The friendship remains at an emotional level, but the risk of romantic feelings isn’t there.
In a friendship with the opposite sex, attraction is always there one way or another. Emotion + Attraction = Feelings.
As my cousin Ben pointed out, “I just think no physical attraction whatsoever is impossible. There’s subconscious things no one can control.”
One person or the other experiences attraction at one point or another. It can even flip flop between the two people.
Your conscious mind can deny that the attraction is there, but what is going on subconsciously?
Have you ever noticed that you might not initially be attracted to someone, but they become more attractive to you the more you get to know them?
You didn’t have any “feelings” at first, but you built an emotional connection which increased attraction which led to feelings.
Conclusion: An emotional connection breeds attraction and therefore feelings between two straight people of the opposite sex.
Let me ask you this, which would be more painful?
Your partner physically cheating on you or emotionally cheating on you?
Which betrayal is worse?
I’m betting that most of you would say emotional cheating is worse. Why is that?
Physical cheating comes about because of attraction or lust, but emotional cheating adds in the extra layer of feelings.
Why do we make friends with someone in the first place?
Is it common interests? Your weirdness is in sync with another person’s weird? What is it that draws you to a person? What is it that makes you decide, “I like this human and I want to hang out with them”? I’m thinking in terms of a same sex friendship at the moment. There is no risk of physical attraction between two straight people of the same sex. So, what draws you together?
Again, is it something happening subconsciously?
And is the same true of a friendship with someone of the opposite sex? Are you initially drawn to that person because of common interests? Or were you drawn to them by attraction? My bet is that you started talking because one party was interested in the other. Then, as soon as you bond over common interests, attraction begins if it wasn’t already there before.
To quote my friend Sarah on this, “…all relationships begin with some type of attraction between two people. Not like sexual attraction, but some kind of attraction that pulls people together. It’s always hard to know a solid answer because I could be friends with a guy that’s always been platonic, but maybe secretly I always had a thing for him? Or vice versa? And we just never knew? I only know what I think. People are really really good at hiding feelings. I still think it’s possible to have a guy friend without wanting to have sex with him. Although, what is he thinking? That’s the unknown. Friendship is a type of intimacy without sex basically…”
On the flip side, someone else said, “..one sided attraction isn’t anything…still just a friendship.”
But is it?
Is it really a platonic friendship if it’s not platonic on both sides?
As if the waters weren’t already murky enough…let me ask you this…Why does everyone say “Marry your best friend”?
Do you agree with that?
And if you do, then can men and women really ever be “just friends”?
I rest my case.
It’s blurry and confusing. I can’t quite wrap my head around it myself. There are so many factors to this question, but I love debating the topic anyway.
If you were thinking about someone the whole time while reading this post, are you still friends? What happened with that relationship?
Like all of the interesting things in life, there is no clear cut answer. I’m afraid I just muddied up the waters even more.
What is your take on this? Can men and women ever truly be “just friends”? Let’s duke it out in the comments below 😊
As always, thank you for joining me on this journey! I love chatting with you! (And I love asking the tough questions.)
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