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Society has long singled out romance as the prototypical male-female relationship because it spawns babies and keeps the life cycle going; cross-sex friendship , as researchers call it, has been either ignored or trivialized. We have rules for how to act in romantic relationships flirt , date, get married, have kids and even same-sex friendships boys relate by doing activities together, girls by talking and sharing.
But there are so few platonic male-female friendships on display that we're at a loss to even define these relationships. Part of this confusion stems from the media. A certain classic film starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal convinced a nation of moviegoers that sex always comes between men and women, making true friendship impossible.
Television hasn't helped either. Think Sam and Diane or Chandler and Monica. These cultural images are hard to overcome, he said. It's no wonder we expect that men and women are always on the road to romance. But that's only one of the major barriers. Don O'Meara, Ph. Platonic love does exist, O'Meara asserted, and a study of 20 pairs of friends published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships lends credence to the notion.
In it, Heidi Reeder, at Boise State University, confirmed that "friendship attraction" or a connection devoid of lust, is a bona fide type of bond that people experience. Distinguishing between romantic, sexual and friendly feelings, however, can be exceedingly difficult.
List of compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff - Wikipedia
What does this mean? The reality that sexual attraction could suddenly enter the equation of a cross-sex friendship uninvited is always lurking in the background. A simple, platonic hug could instantaneously take on a more amorous meaning. In a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , Sapadin asked more than professional men and women what they liked and disliked about their cross-sex friendships. Topping women's list of dislikes: sexual tension. Men, on the other hand, more frequently replied that sexual attraction was a prime reason for initiating a friendship, and that it could even deepen a friendship.
Either way, 62 percent of all subjects reported that sexual tension was present in their cross-sex friendships. Friendship should be a pairing of equals. But, O'Meara said, "in a culture where men have always been more equal than women, male dominance, prestige and power is baggage that both men and women are likely to bring to a relationship. Society may not be entirely ready for friendships between men and women that have no sexual subtext.
People with close friends of the opposite sex are often barraged with nudging, winking and skepticism: "Are you really just friends? As the workplace and other social arenas become increasingly open to women, the sexes are mingling more and more.
Still, men and women continue to have surprisingly few opportunities to interact. So when they do get together, inspired by puberty , they see each other as dating partners because they've never really known each other as friends. Called "voluntary gender segregation," it continues into adulthood.
These obstacles may seem numerous and formidable, but male-female friendship is becoming not only a possibility but also a necessity.
If men and women are to work, play and coexist in modern society, researchers believe men and women must learn to understand and communicate with each other. To that end, social scientists like Sapadin, Monsour and O'Meara have studied how to do just that. The field of research is still in its infancy, but they are now beginning to understand some basic truths about male-female friendship:. Not until high school does puberty really draw boys and girls together, which then continues into college. But as people develop serious romantic relationships or get married, making and maintaining cross-sex friendships becomes harder.
6 Romances, Op.6
The number of cross-sex friendships continues to decline with age—not surprising, because most older adults grew up in an age where consorting with the opposite sex outside of wedlock was taboo. According to Rosemary Blieszner, at Virginia Tech and author of Adult Friendship , elderly people rarely form new friendships with members of the opposite sex.
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Her research shows that only about 2 percent of the friendships elderly women have are with men. There are proven—and apparent—distinct differences between female friendship and male friendship. Women spend the majority of their time together discussing their thoughts and feelings, while men tend to be far more group-oriented.
Males gather to play sports or travel or talk stock quotes; rarely do they share feelings or personal reflections. This may explain why they seem to get far more out of cross-sex friendship than their female counterparts. In Sapadin's study, men rated cross-sex friendships as being much higher in overall quality, enjoyment and nurturance than their same-sex friendships.