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Cherie Burbach

Men and Women Can't Be Friends? Give Me a Break

By November 6, 2012

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Is anyone else sick of the question: can men and women can be friends? I'm not sure where these questions pop up in the news, but they tend to run in spurts. I just noticed producers were talking about the end of Friends lately, so maybe that's how it all begin, with the discussion yet again about Ross and Rachel and if they were the typical male/female friendship.

They weren't.

But let's put them aside, because they are fictional and in order to really understand our opposite sex friendships, we need to look at reality. Namely, research. A new study confirms the rumblings we've heard recently, that men and women can never really be friends without one of them feeling attracted to the other. Namely, men more than women will feel as if there will be an opportunity to act on their feelings at some point in the friendship. This feeling is always there under the surface.

What's more, men will assume that their women friends feel the same way. They'll be attracted, so they think the women must feel equally attracted.

Women, on the other hand, won't assume that. If they're attracted, they don't automatically think that the guy is interested in her that way. What's more, if he's attached, then she gets over her feelings of attraction and moves on.

Despite this news, I just don't believe this. I think men and women can be friends, and if the research is true and men really do think that if they're attracted to a girl she's attracted to him, I think men eventually get it at some point that that isn't the case. It's hard to determine in the research that was conducted where in the friendship the participants were. For example, were they new friends, and thus still exploring their feelings and the boundaries of their friendship? Or were they old friends, who knew how each other felt and had built a strong friendship they could both feel physically and emotionally safe in?

The study used 88 pairs of undergrad students for this, and that tells me that they were early in their friendship and in the way they felt. I imagine that if research interviewed a bunch of 40-year old men and women, results would have been much different.

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