Just Friends or Something More?
Dozens of debates, surveys, films and even scientific studies have attempted to answer the old-age question of whether a man and a woman can ever be ‘just friends.’ That which makes the idea of platonic relationships between the sexes so contentious is the tentative boundary that divides the intimacy of friendship from romantic affection.
We talk of this metaphorical frontier between friendship and sex as being a fine line and agonize over the implications and consequences of crossing it. But what is the nature of this elusive line? What does it separate or protect and who is responsible for drawing it?
When two heterosexual people of the opposite sex form a close bond, distinguishing between romantic, sexual and friendly impulses can be difficult. Yet, to avoid slipping into the potentially disastrous grey area inhabited by friends who sleep together or by those who behave like a couple but aren’t, defining the terms of the affiliation is crucial. Negotiating the limits of such a friendship, however, is not easy.
Snuggling up to your friend during a scary movie may seem harmless, but problems arise in trying to distinguish where platonic affection ends and flirting begins. A relationship between a man and woman who claim to be ‘just friends’ yet share a high level of intimacy is likely to raise eyebrows. Society tends to have a problem accepting that there is no sexual subtext to male-female closeness and a barrage of winking, nudging and skepticism is often the price people pay for a loving, platonic relationship. And more serious complications can arise from the jealousy that will likely plague any rational person whose boyfriend or girlfriend shares a close bond with someone of the opposite sex.
Miscommunication within the friendship can result in a dangerous situation whereby two people standing on either side of the same line can perceive it very differently. For one of you, it may be a natural boundary separating you from someone for whom you care deeply yet have no romantic feeling towards, yet for that person the line might just as easily be conceptualised as a temporary obstruction to a relationship which will eventually and inevitably evolve into a romance. Scores of hearts have been bruised by such innocuous clich