Why can't we be friends?

Thanks to the hilarious and provocative Rob Reiner film, When Harry Met Sally, there is one debate that still gets even the most reticent people taking a stand.  And, that, of course, is whether men and women can really be friends (y'know, of the strictly platonic variety).


In the film, Billy Crystal's character, Harry, informs Meg Ryan's Sally that male/female friendship is impossible.  When she calls him on that statement, he informs her that "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way," and "no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive" (nor, apparently one that he finds unattractive as guys "pretty much want to nail 'em, too").  It was a very funny scene--and a question, one might argue, that was never fully explored because, while Harry and Sally did become friends for a time, the two ended up as a couple. 

Over the past few decades, I've heard good arguments both for and against male/female friendships.  But a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire suggests that Harry was on to something--at least for the dudes.

April Bleske-Rechek, a psychologist specializing in individual differences and evolutionary psychology, recruited 88 students from UW-Eau Claire and their friends of the opposite sex to come in to the lab and fill out a questionnaire that tackled their friendship history, current and past romantic involvement, sexual desire and activities and physical attraction.  They were also asked about their current relationship status and, if they were involved with someone, their level of satisfaction with their current partner.

She and her colleagues found that men, regardless of relationship status, were more likely to admit to a strong attraction to their female friends.  They also believed that their female friends were more into them than they actually were. 

The Sallies, if you will, however, were less attracted to attached men--and the attached ladies only admitted a similar level of attraction to buddies if they were dissatisfied in their current relationship.

The results suggest that men's friendships with members of the opposite sex may be partially driven by sexual attraction.  And given that cross-sex friendships are a rather new phenomenon, Bleske-Rechek suggests that evolved mating strategies may influence these friendship experiences.  Basically, that physical attraction in male/female friendships is common and can get in the way of both platonic interactions as well as a person's long-term relationship with a partner.

What do you think?  Are male/female friendships possible?  Are they likely to interfere with a person's long-term relationship?

Photo Credit:  CREATISTA/Shutterstock.com

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

This 5-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years before it emerges

The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.

Mikhail Kalinin via Wikipedia
Mind & Brain
  • The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
  • Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Keep reading Show less

Preserving truth: How to confront and correct fake news

Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?

Videos
  • "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
  • The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
  • Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
Keep reading Show less