To Be Friends or Not... That is the Question?

Can men and women really be friends? This is a question that has plagued the minds of many not only in today's society but also in popular culture all around us. Many of today's television program storylines revolve around the on-again, off-again friendship/romances of the male and female characters portrayed. It is a fact of life that male and females everywhere are trying to have platonic relationships with one another. Some of these friendships succeed but the majority do not because of a certain factor, we'll call it the 'S' factor. Now you only have to be human to work out what the 'S' factor is...of course I'm talking about the Sex Factor. The most common reason why friendships fail between men and women is because sex becomes part of the equation.

My mission should I choose to accept it, was to delve inside the minds of the male and female species and find out if men and women are capable of being friends. So armed and ready for battle, I endeavoured to roam the streets of Melbourne in search of some answers. Just as I imagined, the first reaction to this line of questioning was instant chuckles and amused looks.

Generally speaking, gauging from some of the responses, men and women genuinely believe that we can all be friends with each other without the risk of a sexual attraction entering the relationship. But there are also the cynics who feel that men and women were destined to be more than just friends.

"God created Adam and Eve therefore men and women were made to be lovers, not friends".
...Vicky, 25 yrs, Receptionist


I also discovered that what seems like an obvious question, is actually quite a grey area. There is no clear-cut answer to this question, as people's response will differ depending on their relationship experiences. An underlying theme though is that a fear seems to be present, that one day a close friend might in fact cross the line. Which leaves us with the dilemma of what to do next should we find ourselves in this predicament? Should we also cross over to that so-called line which isn't physically there but of course, it is understood that it is. By crossing over, will the friendship be jeopardised or strengthened?

"If you're physically attracted to that person, then that relationship can't be platonic. On the other hand if you're prepared to take that chance, then you should be willing to lose that friendship if the relationship doesn't work out"
...Melissa, 22 yrs, Sales Assistant


It also seems that the "we're just friends" line is often met today, with doubtful looks and suspicious grins from other people. Even when a male and female are just good friends, people tend to assume that there is more to the friendship. Are we as human beings so cynical as to believe that we are incapable of maintaining a platonic relationship with members of the opposite sex? Arguably some people are.

CASE 1:
22 yr old Lee and 25 yr old John were friends for five years. They went out a lot together with their other friends, talked on the phone regularly and enjoyed each other's company. Although they were friends, they innocently flirted with each other as there was a mutual attraction there. One night they went out and in the heat of the moment, Lee and John kissed. They continued to go out together as a group but Lee soon found that she was seeing less and less of John, until the phone calls stopped as did the regular meetings. A year passed by and Lee and John were still not on speaking terms. Nothing was ever said about that kiss but it was because of that event that the friendship dissolved. Lee believes that the friendship line became confused and both Lee and John didn't know how to deal with the situation. "Because of that tiny mistake, I lost a great friendship. John and I are talking again now, but it still feels really weird and awkward".


CASE 2:
17 yr old Belinda and 18 yr old Daniel were best friends. But Daniel had developed deep feelings for Belinda, which he never revealed to her until Belinda started dating a guy. Belinda was surprised at Daniel's feelings for her because as far as she was concerned, they were really good friends. Daniel's jealousy and feelings for Belinda affected her relationship with her new boyfriend as she felt like she was betraying Daniel, even though it was Daniel who had a crush on Belinda. The situation became very uncomfortable and tense. Daniel was finding it difficult to accept Belinda's relationship with her boyfriend and Belinda also felt guilty about dating this guy. The situation ended with Belinda eventually breaking up her relationship not only with her boyfriend but with Daniel as well.


FACT #1: Friendships that start out in the workplace are more likely to succeed and can be quite satisfying.

FACT #2: A common factor for friendships failing is the fact that behaviour can often be misinterpreted. For example, an innocent flirtatious smile between friends can often be misread.

FACT #3: Male partners are more likely to have a problem with their girlfriends having male friends.

FACT #4: Many men prefer friendships with women as they feel they can trust them more.

So am I any clearer on the situation than when I first began? No way, I am just as confused as ever!

But here are some points to jot down for future reference...Friendship between men and women will only succeed if the ground rules are set out from day one. You need to decide what each individual's expectations are from the friendship. This in turn, leaves no room for misunderstanding. Unfortunately successful friendships are not guaranteed in life so make the best of what you've got. Every situation will vary depending on the individuals involved so what is good for one friendship may not necessarily be good for yours.

Just some parting words of advice, if the 'S' factor enters your relationship.......RUN!

CAN MEN & WOMEN REALLY BE FRIENDS?.....THE WORD FROM THE STREET....

"Yes, why can't they be friends? At times, I get along more with the opposite sex than my own"
La.rs, 35 yrs, Restaurant Manager


"No because I think that one individual will always have stronger feelings about the 'friendship' than the other person. It's that extra feeling that will always get in the way"
Erin, 17 yrs, Student


"Absolutely...some of my best friends are actually male. As long as all parties understand from the beginning the ground rules to the friendship, there should not be any problems"
Lina, 28 yrs, Beautician


"Sometimes, depending on the person and what their intentions are."
Magdalen, 20 yrs, Student


"Yes and no, it really depends on the individual. I'm in a situation at the moment where I am good friends with one female, we go out for coffee and do all that 'friend' business, but then I have this other female who is not interested in being friends with me unless we become lovers first."
Jeremy, 27 yrs, Manager


"Yes, provided they're not the same age as this factor tends to spark a conflict of interest."
Andrew, 40 yrs, Security Guard


"Yes, one of my best friends is female. A possible attraction between us has never been an issue. We respect each other as friends and value that friendship."
Rob, 29 yrs, Accountant



Advantages of Being FRIENDS with a MALE

  • Gain an insight into the male species (to say the least!)
  • Can introduce you to their CUTE friends! (Bonus!)
  • Not bitchy
  • Won't steal your makeup (well???)
  • Offer you an honest opinion when clothes shopping
  • Instant shoulder to cry on
  • Can rely on them to accompany you to a party when you're dateless!


    - Annemarie Failla
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