Can men and women be just friends? If you ask any Hollywood film producer, the answer is a resounding “no.” Hollywood’s magic formula for success seems to take seemingly platonic friends, and make them “suddenly realize” how in love they are. (See: “When Harry Met Sally” for proof.) But what about real life? Are platonic friendships between men and women ever truly just that?
Stories of truly platonic relationships do exist: Witness our Jessica’s story of platonic friendship, after the jump…
“My best friend for 10 or 11 years was a boy I met in 8th grade. I actually had a crush on him, but he had a crush on my best friend instead. We ended up sitting at lunch tables close to each other and then talking on the phone. By high school, we were close friends and he was one of the few people I could really talk with about stuff going on in my family: drug abuses, mental illness problems, stuff like that. His parents would actually let me spend the night at their house when things were going badly at my place. Weirdly, we became super-close friends when his family moved to the UK at the beginning of 11th grade. His dad got transferred for business. Writing letters long-distance to each other just really solidified our friendship and our ability to communicate really candidly with each other. He chose to go to college in the same city that I did, I chose to move to the same neighborhood he lived in post-college, and then he followed me to a new neighborhood. We were totally fixtures in each other’s lives: helping each other move in and out of apartments, complaining about our jobs, getting advice on dating, soothing each other’s broken hearts. In a lot ways like a twin brother to me, more so than a best friend. He was really, really protective of me and I know he genuinely wanted only the best things in life for me.
We’re not super-close anymore, which partly has to do with a dispute we’re having but I also think has to do with me falling in love with my boyfriend and moving to a different state. It sucks, but I have also seen how I’ve become more of my own person without my fake ‘twin brother.’ I hope we’re close again some day, though, because not having a really close platonic male friend anymore makes me miss the advantages of having one.”
Jessica’s story brings up a couple of points — platonic cross-sex friendships sometimes act as surrogates for romantic relationships. And they can be upended when one or both of the friends enters into a romantic relationship. For Jessica, being in a romantic relationship put her platonic relationship in the background. Being in a relationship tends to at once solidify and muck up platonic relationships: After all, when one or both of you are in a relationship, the friendship boundaries are even more apparent.
But for singles, platonic friendships can both be more valuable and more fraught with stress. How do you know, after all, if a relationship is truly platonic? Figuring that out can spell disaster for a friendship if one of you is interested in more than just friendship. And as Jessica’s example shows, they can be complicated when one or both of you gets into a relationship.
I do believe that platonic cross-sex friendships can exist. But they require both parties making their intentions clear from the get go. I have a couple of close male platonic friends — and I believe that part of what makes us such good platonic friends is that we’ve already sussed out that we have absolutely no compatibility in the relationship department. And surprisingly, some of my closest cross-sex friends are guys who I once dated but for whatever reason, the relationship didn’t work out. Not immediately, but eventually, we’ve come to inject a platonic tone to our friendships, and since they know me better than most, they make great people to go to for advice and companionship.
What about you? Do you have any platonic cross-sex friends (or if you’re gay, same-sex friends) — relationships that are tinged with not the slightest sexual charge? Tell us in the comments!