Men are men. Women are women. We’re genetically wired to, if not check each other out, at least notice when there’s attraction. Behavioral scientists say it’s primal: We can’t help it; the survival of the species depends on that which begins with a glance. So, too, are men programmed to be predisposed toward sex and women to see relationships as central, which isn’t to say that men can’t commit and women aren’t sexual beings. It’s just biology keeping things in balance.
For all the complexities in love relationships, that balance is, at least, clear: “I like you and you like me. We’re meant, for now or forevermore, to be mates.” Getting to that point, however, requires doing the mating and dating dance, and that’s when matters can get muddy. Women tend to see friend potential everywhere. Men don’t generally “go there” first, instead seeing a woman as a possible mate if she fits his criteria (e.g., relatively attractive, single, approximately the same age – give or take 20 years).
Even when there are no existing or developing love vibes, male-female bonding can be tricky. Social conventions, cultural views and jealous spouses confuse the friendship terrain, with even an undercurrent of attraction on one side or both potentially causing complications.
So, can men and women be friends? It largely depends on the scenario in which their connection is playing out. Here are the top three friendliest:
With an activity or work partner with whom you share a common interest or focus
They’re more than an acquaintance, but less than a social friend. You mutually benefit from the interaction, but don’t spend time together outside of that context. Such friendships can sometimes turn into more.
Between exes who forge a congenial relationship for the good of everyone, often their children
Former loves have, in all or part, “spent” their attraction, so friendship is a possibility. However, it can be easy, especially in the early stages of separation, to cave in to old impulses, so it’s important to clearly articulate and adhere to boundaries.
When neither party is physically attracted to the other but they share a unique connection
The parties aren’t activity partners as in Scenario No. 1, yet they share constructive energy. If one party develops an interest beyond friendship, though, the relationship stands to change or disintegrate.
Understanding the clear differences between how the sexes approach relationships can make life — and friendship — easier.