Can Men And Women Truly Maintain Platonic Friendships?

A couple of days ago I asked a movie-addict friend to recommend me a good old-fashioned sappy rom-com. And she urged me to find an online link to the well-known 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. So I thought why not? I’d never seen it before but it’s always sounded like one of those films that you just have to watch once in your life, like Grease or Forrest Gump. I found a link and the copy was relatively clear so I pressed ‘play’ and sat back.

Once the 96 minutes were up, I was neither satisfied nor dissatisfied… I was contemplative. The film is renowned for its exploration of the male-female relationship dynamic, so the main focus of the storyline follows the tumultuous and indefinable bond between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan over a period of 10 years. At the start of the film, the pair clash and severely dislike one another. But as the story progresses, fate causes them to cross paths every few years or so. All the while, they respectively overcome divorce and multiple break-ups with other people, thus, they mature more and more every time they meet. Eventually, we watch them become best friends who know each other inside-out. They can no longer function properly without being in constant contact with one another. And that’s when, in accordance with Hollywood protocol, they experience a momentous epiphany wherein they realise that they’ve reached the expiry date on their friendship and that unknowingly, they’ve been soul-mates all along! The pretence of friendship is no longer necessary and both unanimously agree to take the next step and become committed life partners. So they seal it with a passionate kiss and the end credits start to roll.

And that was when I began to think.

This film, like all major Hollywood blockbusters, teaches that men and women cannot be friends in the long-term, but I have to say that I disagree. I don’t believe that all male-female friendships can be viewed as pretences. Some of my closest friends are of the opposite sex and whilst romantic relationships will come and go, I know that we’ll always remain in each others’ lives in some way or another, strictly in a platonic manner.Therefore, you can consider me to be living-breathing proof that platonic friendships between sexes do in fact exist, because I’ve maintained such bonds for about 3 years now, without incurring any major blips in the road!

Conversely, I accept that a number of male-female friendships can indeed evolve into romantic relationships and that’s great and incredibly sweet too. I guess it’s what we’re intrinsically programmed to do from a biological stance, so chemistry between members of the opposite sex is arguably inevitable in that way. Furthermore, when it comes down to it, everyone dreams of having a best friend in their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife and if you are one of those people whose friendship did successfully progress into a stable romantic relationship, you should count yourself as one of the few lucky ones. I, for one, can say that I envy you!

However, that’s still not to say that all platonic relationships between men and women are fated to eventually become something more. Sometimes if you’ve been friends for a significant period of time, it’s hard to suddenly start looking at your friend in that way, just because you’ve grown so accustomed to and comfortable with them…in that case, even rose-coloured specs can’t help you!

I can say with certainty that I’m the sort of person who believes that once you’ve drawn a line that reads: THIS FRIENDSHIP WILL ONLY EVER BE PLATONIC, it shouldn’t be crossed. And if both parties are in accordance with observing this boundary, you’ll have a prosperous and strong friendship, devoid of any confusions and complications. If one of you does choose to cross it, everything will change forever… either for the better or for the worse, it’s a 50/50 gamble and consequently risky business.

You don’t have to buy into the Hollywood fairytale smoke-cloud that films like When Harry Met Sally  promote. Just because you like to spend time with someone of the opposite sex, doesn’t mean that you’re destined to fall madly in love, get married and have kids. Who knows, it might actually happen naturally over time, but the point is not to force things or read into anything just because that’s what’s expected by everyone around you. Opposite-sex friendships don’t always have to be precursors for romantic relationships, so just enjoy your friendships as they are and be happy…Que Sera, Sera 🙂

8 replies

  1. Yes, it’s best to just see what happens and not force things, that’s how the best friendships and relationships are formed

  2. It all starts with friendship. I met Alice by mail, developed a rapport with her via the letters, went to Florida, met her, felt she was the best person in the world. Wanted her as my forever friend, married her. We have three children and have been married since 1970. She is indeed my best friend.

  3. Wow. Impressive. Great wisdom here, STG. Rock on.

    My mantra lately (well, one of many) has been: Expectations are premeditated resentments.

    I don’t think it’s so much a question of whether men and women can be ‘just friends’ as it is whether men and women can be Persons who self-love, self-trust, and self-respect..and dispel their externally-oriented expectations. When two of ‘those people’ meet, anything is possible.

    Thanks for the follow and the like. =]

  4. Hi Small Town Girl,
    Stumbled across your site completely by accident and was curious about this post…

    Have to agree with your thoughts on the matter…, mostly. I carried on a very wonderful, deep friendship with a female/girl/woman for more than 50 years. I have also been friends with many other women through the years. These have been co-workers, wives of other friends, and just people I’ve happened to meet. Don’t get the wrong idea, I have many male friends too (must keep a balance). Sometimes when I’m thinking or doing something, it just helps to have a woman’s perspective on it and this is when I turn to my friends (female). I’m a happily married man but sometimes “wife thoughts” and “woman thoughts” come from a different point of honesty. My friends will be bluntly honest. My wife feels she must protect my feelings (which I love her for doing) but sometimes a person needs to hear straight blunt truth. Summing this whole thing, I feel that it depends on what you are looking for in the relationship. Romance doesn’t develop by happenstance but by the thoughts/feelings of one or both parties involved. Do you want a friendship…, or are you looking for a romantic relationship???
    That is the question. It’s up to each individual to answer it to himself/herself honestly. 🙂

  5. My closest friends have always been females, so this post resonates with me. Nearly all of my experiences with these friends have been platonic and very casual. The only time that I had made the mistake of going over the line was after a night of dancing and drinking. I wish I could go back and correct that, because it was incredibly awkward after that night, and soon after, that friendship faded away.

  6. I feel its too risky(just my humble opinion). There are exceptions tho’ for those on a spiritual path or if either is asexual…. lol But, if they are both full blooded mamals with even as much of an inkling of admiration or attraction. All I see is danger. I guess this supports your assumption in “I guess it’s what we’re intrinsically programmed to do from a biological stance, so chemistry between members of the opposite sex is arguably inevitable in that way”.

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