Mandy Kloppers

Can men and women be friends?

men and women photo

Can men and women be friends?

Can men and women ever be just friends? The movie, When Harry Met Sally, is one of my favourite films and it set out to answer that question. However, there still seems to be an ongoing debate around this topic.

According to one new survey, the answer is a straight no. Social network MeetMe polled 6,500 of its users and found that more than half of people said they have fantasised about sleeping with their best friend of the opposite gender. What’s more, nearly 40 per cent (four out of 10) reported actually having slept with said best friend, while two thirds admitted they would should the opportunity present itself.

Despite these numbers, the truth may not actually be so ‘cut and dried’. It depends more upon how men and women define friendship.

Women clearly have more intense close friendships whereas guys tend not to have that” according to Prof    Dunbar .
Evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar, at Oxford University, found that while women view their best friends as something in between sisters and soul mates, men see theirs purely in terms of convenience. He came to this conclusion by exploring how people’s friendship circles changed when they left school for university.

Girl’s friendships tended to last longer when they made the effort to talk more on the phone to each other. Talking had no effect on the boy’s relationships at all. Theirs was stronger by doing things together, like a drink at the pub or going to a football match.

“Women clearly have much more intense close friendships. Guys tend not to have that relationship. They tend to have a group of four guys that they do stuff with. That is much more casual. With guys it is out of sight out of mind. They just find four more guys to go drinking with.”

This will be familiar to any woman who has had both the pleasure and disappointment of a close male friend – particularly in your twenties and thirties. At first, things are wonderful. Life is full of great catch ups, and laughter over pints of beer. They listen to your woes, and you help them with their woman problems. It’s the friendship neither of you knew you needed.

Only then, something changes. They start a new relationship. They move to a new postcode (really, it doesn’t have to be far). They get a new job with a ready-made social life. They get a new flatmate. Whatever the change, they suddenly have a replacement for you, and can’t seem to find the time to meet you for that coffee.

You, naively, keep trying. You call them, you send jokey pictures and do exactly what you’d do if a girl friend was growing distant: bombard her with the attention you wish that she was showing you. Except with a male friend, it just doesn’t work.

Whether it is nature or  nurture, most men simply do not view friendships in the same way as women. Sex is hardly the issue – it is the practical problem of how much time and effort they are able to put into a platonic relationship. As the study says, there’s always another drinking buddy around the corner.

Men reading this may feel unfairly judged but when asked, many men will admit that they could not spend hours on the phone with their friends – of either sex.

With male mates like that, it’s probably no surprise that many females put all of their efforts into female friendships and now the academics seem to have backed that choice too.

Mandy X