The short answer is yes, you can have a platonic friendship with the opposite sex, but of course -- like any other topic open to debate -- things can get complicated. Either party involved could develop feelings for the other, and therein lies an issue with platonic friendships involving men and women. Then again, the benefits of such friendships can be invaluable.
One of the most beneficial aspects of having opposite sex friends is that they can help you with relationship issues by offering the other gender's perspective. Male friends often give reliable problem-solving advice to their female counterparts, while women guide their male friends on how to treat a girlfriend -- informing them of acceptable verses unacceptable behavior. Men are a source of comfort after a breakup because they often know how to go out and have a good time, make you laugh and help you forget about your ex. Women help you vent your emotions and talk out the issues, to come up with a plan of reconciliation or establishing emotional closure.
The Undeniable Con
The downside of having a platonic friendship is falling in love with your friend -- but the feelings aren't returned. As published in the "Journal of Social and Personal Relationships" in 2012, psychologist and professor April Bleske-Rechek led a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire in conducting two studies on male and female friendships. The results of both studies suggest that men are more attracted to their female friends and were likely to believe that the feeling is mutual. Whereas women are less attracted to their male friends and assume the lack of attraction is mutual. This isn't to say that women never develop romantic feelings for their male friends; however, both studies showed that the numbers were lower with women than they were with men.
Understanding Friendship Needs
Men and women have different needs, even in a friendship. In a "Psychology Today" article, social and personality psychologist Jeremy Nicholson asserts that it's important to respect those differences and know what your opposite-sex friend desires from the friendship. This doesn't mean you should allow yourself to be used, but it does require more effort on your part to work on providing those needs if you want it to be a mutually satisfying friendship. For example, women generally like to get a man's opinion on things -- they desire emotional and intellectual support. Men like to attend sporting events with their gal pals or play a game of tennis -- this physical support helps men release from the stresses of the week.
Communicating Your Intentions
Communicating your intentions to your opposite-sex friend will set the precedence for the friendship. Nicholson says issues of frustration and difficulty may arise if the two of you aren't honest about your feelings and expectations for the friendship from the beginning. To eliminate any confusion or disappointment, tell your friend that you're only looking for a friendship and nothing more the first time the two of you go out alone together. For example, you might say, "I'd like to go out to dinner with you tonight, but I want to be clear that this isn't a date -- it would just be two friends having dinner together."
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