Beer and wings night with the guys is simply a must in your world; or maybe you have no problem taking your best gal pal out to brunch; but that philosophical question will always linger at the back of your mind. You’re not the only one! Opposite sex friendships have been studied by psychological researchers, casual observers, and relationship advisors of varying types for many years. If you’re still left with questions about the feasibility of being “just friends”, here are some facts to help you think the situation through (and ponder whether or not you’re beating the odds!).
Boise State communications professor Heidi Redder conducted a study in 2003 in an attempt to shed light on the “just friends” phenomenon. She found that she could distinctly classify four different kinds of attraction which may arise between guys and girls who are “just friends” and that these four types led to a unique understanding of the friendships in question…
1) “Friendship attraction”: the same attraction that anyone would feel towards a friend regardless of gender.
2) “Current Romantic Interest”: the present desire to become a couple; reported by 14% of participants.
3) “Subjective physical/sexual attraction”: the desire to go to bed with this friend without becoming a couple; reported by 1/3 of participants.
4) “Objective physical/sexual attraction”: an understanding for why others would be attracted to this friend, although the survey participant was not personally; over 50% of participants reported feeling this.
According to Redder’s statistics, at least one friend in a cross-gender friendship (if not both) feel an attraction of some sort for the other. This is probably why Hollywood has capitalized on this trope for so long… it’s something that anyone who has ever been in this situation can relate to (at least on some level).
A different study conducted in 2000 by April L. Bleske and David M. Buss surveyed college students in an attempt to understand the perceived costs and benefits of opposite sex friendship and how these perceptions differed for men and women. Some mutually enjoyed benefits were self esteem boosts, dinner companions, resource sharing, and conversational de-coding of the opposite sex. Some mutually found costs were jealousy, being less attractive to prospective dates because of the friendship, and confusion over relationship status.
Bleske and Buss found that men were more likely to view romantic potential and sex with their female friends as a benefit while women saw it as a cost. Due to this, men were more likely to have sex with a friend of the opposite gender. Men reported that some costs of their friendship were lowered self esteem; i.e. when the friendship did not become something sexual or romantic, men were left to feel rejected and “friend zoned”. Click next to find out costs or benefits this had for women!
Women enjoyed their male friends as companions when going out and more frequently reported being treated to dinner or outings by their male friends. They also reported being able to better network via their male friends. The most pricey “cost” of these friendships to women was difficulty in dating others, and discomfort with unequal attraction between themselves and their male friends.
Despite this, friendship has been proven to be beneficial no matter the gender of the friend in question. A 2009 study performed at BYU by Julianne Holt-Lunstad found that an individual who fails to maintain a circle of close friends risks mortality at the equivalent rate of an individual who smokes fifteen cigarettes every day.