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Can Men and Women Be Friends?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Are you friends with people of the opposite sex? To clarify this question let define what is meant by friendship. According to the Oxford American Dictionary (2nd edition), a friend is defined as "a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, exclusive of sexual or family relationships." Please note that the definition excludes sexual relations. Men and women experience mutual sexual attraction. Because of the fact of sexual attraction is it really possible to have a friendship with the opposite sex? Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls that accompany male female relationships. In looking at pitfalls or obstacles I am not providing any answers to the question nor about my own opinion. In fact, I invite the readers to let us know their own experiences and opinions about this issue.

Pitfalls to Male Female Friendships:

1. From the time of adolescence onwards, males and females are drawn to each other because of sexual attraction and curiosity. How do friends draw a distinction between mutual affection and sexual attraction and romance?

2. To make matters more complicated there is an excellent likelihood that if young and newly married spouses befriend someone from the opposite sex jealousy, suspicion and doubt are liable to infect the marriage.

3. Another complication is that those who surround the friends are likely to wink, make jokes, report to the spouse back at home, and otherwise act as though something more than friendship is occurring. What is more damaging than the rumor mill at work or in the neighborhood?

4. How do opposite sex friends behave when they meet each other? Do they embrace, hug, kiss or shake hands or none of the above? If male female friends hug and kiss is there a risk that, at some point one or the other will misinterpret this behavior?

5. If these friends go out to lunch how does the woman behave with regard to the check once the meal is over? The traditional role of the woman is to be passive, allowing the male to pay the bill and lead the way. Is this appropriate behavior for friends?

Although these may seem like silly questions the fact is that the world has changed and social roles have changed and are continuing to change for males and females. For instance, women are now a major force in the work place so that men and women have many more opportunities to meet and interact today as compared to thirty years ago. Women are now in the professions as psychologists, medical doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. On every level and in every way, women are the equal of men both in the work place and at home.

Your Opinions and Experiences?

Everyone is invited to write in about this topic. After all, we now have a rate of divorce in the United States that exceeds fifty percent. Does the opportunity for male female friendships and co worker relationships drive this divorce rate? What do you think?

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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