Ladies, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you know that wonderful male friend who offers you a shoulder to cry on or company when you can’t get a date on a Saturday night?
The one you are absolutely certain has no sexual interest in you whatsoever? That man is a liar. That man is a cheat.
He is a con man guilty of friendship fraud. I know this because that man is me. And he’s every other man, too.
The Cross-Sexual Friendship
Apparently this “just friends” question was pondered by others beginning about a decade ago. In general, many of these benefits and costs were the same for both men and women. For example, both sexes enjoyed opposite-sex friends for dinner companions, conversation partners, self-esteem boosts, information about the opposite sex, social status, respect, and sharing resources. Both sexes also noted some similar costs of opposite-sex friendship, such as jealousy, confusion over the status of the relationship, love not being reciprocated, cruel or mean behaviors, and being less attractive to other potential daters because of the friendship.
Male and female responses did differ on a few key items though. Men were more likely to see sex and romantic potential in an opposite sex friend as a benefit (women primarily saw it as a cost). As a result, men were also more likely than women to say that they had sex with an opposite sex friend (22% vs. 11%). Men were also more likely to report friendship costs of lowered self-worth and giving time to help the friend, while women found their own inability to reciprocate the male’s attraction as costly. Therefore, when friendships did not turn sexual or romantic, men were often left feeling rejected and used (i.e. “friend zoned”), while women felt uncomfortable with the unequal attraction. In contrast, when friendships did turn romantic/sexual, some of these men continued to label the women as “just friends” – at about double the rate of women. This leads to the “other” friend zone women more routinely face, the “friends-with-benefits zone”, where sex is shared but commitment is not reciprocated.
Women also had their own unique costs and benefits of opposite-sex friendships. They were more likely to experience the benefit of their male friends paying for outings and enjoyed the physical protection of those friends. Women also enjoyed the ability to network through male friends. However, as noted above, women found it costly when those male friends desired sex or romance. They also disliked when their male friends caused difficulty in the women’s other dating efforts.
Friends, Lovers or Nothing
A friendship attraction, or connection devoid lust is a bona fide bond, and science suggests it does exist. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found bonds between men and women are changing, with both men and women in cross-sex friendships more often seeing each other as friends or confidants rather than romantic interests. Participants who reported no physical or sexual attraction to their friend were in significantly longer friendships compared to those who felt an attraction. The findings suggest types of bonds other than romantic connections can and do occur in friendships between males and females.
April Masini, relationship expert and author, disagrees and believes that at some point in an opposite-sex friendship, one person usually develops romantic feelings for the other.
“This idea that men and women can be friends is fraught with obstacles,” she told Medical Daily. She added: “They can’t be friends, and if they think they are, the clock is ticking. Eventually one person will have a crush on the other.”