By Amanda Gabriel
Romance has long been the basis of the prototypical male-female relationship because the continuation of the human race depends on this connection. As a result, cross-sex friendships have been disregarded or trivialized.
Romantic relationships are defined by a set of rules or a timeline of stages—the talking stage, dating, getting married, etc. Similarly, same sex friendships are built upon men relating through activities and women relating by talking and sharing. Yet, platonic male-female relationships do not have a set definition, which is why many people are left asking, can men and women be friends?
There is a common misconception that almost every time you see a male-female relationship their connection will turn into a romantic one. Friends will relentlessly ask “are you two dating yet?” but the constant questioning is only one of the many challenges that exist in any cross-sex relationship.
Platonic love does exist because it is based off the idea that a man and a woman care for each other emotionally, but are not attracted physically. The problem often lies in distinguishing between romantic, sexual, and friendly feelings, because people do not know how to feel toward the opposite sex unless society defines the relationship for them. Then, when in this situation, we are left asking ourselves, “I love someone and enjoy them as a person, but not enough to date them. What does this mean?”
When these feelings are confused, one or both parties may start to feel attracted to the other person. Or, one may develop feelings for the other out of nowhere which can in fact happen. Sexual tension is usually present in any male-female relationship whether we want it there or not, and it must be overcome. Although the idea may be uncomfortable, it is best to discuss this problem with your friend, because communicating problems is better than swallowing the problem only to have it come out at a later time. If the friendship is strong, this will not affect the circumstances, and the two of you can talk about it down the road as a “remember when…” story.
In reality, sex isn’t always the end goal in a male-female relationship. Both men and women can benefit from each other’s company, as women can take a break from female-female relationships that are emotionally exhausting and joke in a more lighthearted environment, and men get to confide in women in a way that they normally do not when it is a male-male friendship.