Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?

Although many women and men manage to form and sustain long-term friendships, romantic feelings can and often do develop. Studies show that men are more likely to become attracted to a female friend. This attraction can develop even if the female is in a romantic relationship with another person.

More about being "just friends":

  • Many people regard attraction in a friendship as negative and burdensome. People who are already involved in romantic partnerships often find that their attraction to friends can reduce their satisfaction with their current partners.

  • Men in opposite-sex relationships are more likely to overestimate how attractive they are to their friends. Women are more likely to underestimate their attractiveness to male friends.

  • Middle-aged people report less attraction to their friends than younger people do.

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Discussion Comments


This is a very complicated question. I think almost all heterosexual men can become attracted to any heterosexual female and vice-versa. It may not happen all at once, but I figure if any two people were trapped on a desert island long enough, they would eventually act on their own biological urges. It's a basic instinct between cells, not the intellect.

But I also believe many men and women could learn to channel their natural instincts and achieve some sort of sexual detente. Co-workers in an office or factory can usually get through a shift without becoming more than friendly acquaintances. The desire to date an attractive co-worker may never fully go away, but the realities of work, like a no fraternization policy, could make it difficult to pursue. Outside forces might make it challenging for men and women to become more than friends if they cannot socialize outside of that environment.

The question in the article suggests a more intimate definition of friendship, however. Would it be possible for a male to maintain a platonic friendship with a female without the temptation to take it to a romantic or sexual level? Personally, I think there are any number of male/female friendships which have already survived that test. I've had friendships with females that were never based on mutual attraction or interest, so they never escalated to anything other than a platonic friendship. If they happened to be in romantic relationships, my role often became more of an older brother or confidante.

I think the problem would be more with forming a platonic friendship under false pretenses. There shouldn't be a strong underlying attraction for a friend of the opposite sex, since forming a casual friendship for the sole purpose of making a play later could backfire spectacularly.

In short, I believe certain men and women can become and remain good platonic friends, but the circumstances have to be above board. If one finds the other attractive, it doesn't have to mean the end of a perfectly good platonic friendship, but the feelings need to be acknowledged and dealt with early on before someone gets hurt.


This study outcome is very true. When you find yourself getting attracted to your friend, you will be less attracted to your partner if care is not taken. That is why some people say that men and women cannot be friends.

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