Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”


Talk about a dilemma! Some married partners demand the right to have close opposite gender friends AND they expect their partners to approve. I’ve yet to see this work. One is accused of being overly jealous; the other is accused of lacking healthy boundaries.

In a recent Scientific American article opposite sex friendships were studied and the authors concluded, “The possibility remains that this apparently platonic coexistence is merely a facade, an elaborate dance covering up countless sexual impulses bubbling just beneath the surface.” Strong language, indeed.

 Other thought provoking observations:

  • Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa.
  • Men were more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief.
  • Females generally were not attracted to their male friends and they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual.
  • Men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
  • Two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways. Men seem to see myriad opportunities for romance in their supposedly platonic opposite-sex friendships. The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic.

Glass cover

One of the best affair recovery books I use as marriage therapist is Shirley Glass, Not Just Friends. She explores the new crisis of infidelity resulting from platonic relationships that become progressively intense. Personal and professional friendships between men and women have become so prevalent and accepted that, according to Glass, even “good” people in “good” marriages can be swept away in a riptide of emotional intimacy more potent than sheer sexual attraction. 

While it’s true some partners can be insecure, possessive, and jealous without cause, greater damage is done to marriages by partners who defy, deny, and disregard the concerns of a loving spouse. I don’t get to vote who your friends are…but your spouse does. And I believe we ignore their cautions to our peril.