“What I’m saying is that men and women can never be friends because the sex part always gets in the way,” Billy Crystal said in the classic, When Harry Met Sally. I have to say that I agree.
Not that there have been hordes of men knocking down my door to be “just friends” with me, but in the cases of the male friends that I’ve had, it has never remained purely platonic. Someone always develops feelings deeper than that of conventional friendship, which complicates things.
So, when deciding whether or not men and women can truly be friends, one has to decide where they draw the line between friends and acquaintances.
Many people would agree that a friend is someone that you can rely on — someone that is there for you regardless of the situations either of you are in. A friend is on your side — there to offer advice when you need it and just to listen when you don’t.
An acquaintance, on the other hand, isn’t someone that you share deep, dark secrets with. An acquaintance is someone that you know for a specific purpose, but the conversation usually halts around small talk.
So one would agree then that friendship requires a certain level of intimacy, which Dictionary.com defines as “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” But when dealing with members of the opposite sex, what differentiates that level of intimacy shared with a significant other from that of a “friend”?
My argument, therefore, is this: you can have an acquaintance of the opposite sex, but never a true friend.
So that means that one cannot be “just friends” with a member of the opposite sex, because there’s simply no such thing.
Think about it: a significant other is commonly called a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” Coincidence? I don’t think so. We’re always told by those that are old and wise that we should marry our best friend, right? With men and women, the intimacy required in a friendship will always turn romantic on at least one end.
Which begs the question: can one be “friends” with an ex?
In every relationship I’ve been in, the male counterpart is always in communication with his exes, and that has always made me uncomfortable. When two people in a relationship share that level of intimacy, those feelings just don’t disappear. In fact, many of them admit that they still care about the other person, hence why they’re trying to be “friends”. But where, then, does the new significant other fit in?
I do not believe that you can simply fall out of love with someone. Therefore, I do not believe that one can be just friends with someone that they’ve been in a committed relationship with. Either you still love that other person, or you count them as more of an acquaintance – where you chat up the weather every once in a while to make sure they’re still alive but rarely go beyond that.
Friendship is reserved for those of the same sex, where romantic feelings don’t sprout and they can completely empathize with your experiences. Now, that being said, I do have a number of strong male acquaintances, where there is no attraction. However, there is also no intimacy shared, so those men know the basics of what happens in my life but not much beyond that. These are not the people that I call in the middle of the night and expect to pick up.
I have tried being friends with men, I really have. But always — always — someone develops romantic feelings. Someone ends up in the friend zone, and it can be hard to accept the fact that the focus of your affection is not reciprocating your feelings. Unrequited love is the worst.
When it comes to matters of the heart, learn that intimacy and platonic friendships rarely mix. As much as you may not want to admit it, sometimes members of the opposite sex are best held at an arm’s length.