Often we find a friendship between a man and a woman become more than they have declared before, as friends. The more they know each other, the bigger the chances of them falling for each other.
One case, the women expect more than just friends; another case it is the men end up hoping to date the women, or if they are lucky enough, the feeling is mutual.
It is not a rare issue as well to witness a case of a lasting heterosexual relationship where they see the friendship as more of a brother-and-sister relationship.
Which side are you? Have you experienced one or both of the cases mentioned above? Do you believe that it is very possible for men and women to remain as friends in the long run?
Platonic love of friendship is rooted from the writings of an infamous Greek philosopher, Plato, that explains the friendships or relationships without romantic and sexual desires. Meaning that, when men and women who are really into this kind of friendship, they would remain friends because of same interests, emotional and spiritual connections, and similar perspectives, but do not have sexual and romantic attractions for each other.
Numerous researches have been conducted to look closer at this behavioural dynamic. Based on the research by Valerie Akbulut and Harry Weger from the University of Central Florida, published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2016, the tendencies of individuals to upgrade their cross-sex friendship into a more romantically-driven connection are measured by several factors.
For example, dating status of each, the possibility of disapproval or rejection from the other individual, reward and costs calculation, relationship position, physical or sexual attraction to the other individual, sexual permissiveness or access, and the quality of friendship itself.
According to the research, if most of all of these factors indicate definite tendencies, the transition from a casual friendship to a romantic relationship might occur. Furthermore, the study also finds out several possibilities.
For instance, in a case where only subjective factors—which are related to desire—are fulfilled, such as the quality of friendship, sexual attraction, and possible rewards; then the friendship has the possibility to be transformed to a friends-with-benefits relationship. While to escalate the casual friendship into a romantic dating relationship requires more than the desired factors.
Other factors which are related to expected elements such as consideration of each other’s current dating status, social permission or approval, and sexual permissiveness should be put into the mix to transform the heterosexual friendship to a romantic dating relationship. In sum, it is not that easy.
Men are often judged to have a hidden sexual agenda when interacting with women in a heterosexual friendship. However, it seems to be a false judgement after all, because research conducted by Diane Felmlee, Colleen Sinclar, and Elizabeth Sweet in 2012 on Same-and Cross-Gender Friendships Norms explains that men have the same level of optimism as women in developing a purely platonic friendship.
The same research also finds men would even feel discomfort as women generally do when their partners develop a heterosexual friendship. We could not deny the fact that according to several researches, men have a bigger tendency to secretly have a sexual attraction towards their women friends in a heterosexual friendship, but this does not hinder the optimism of men being just friends with them platonically.
Furthermore, William Hart, John Adams, and Alexa Tullett from the University of Alabama in their publication titled “It’s Complicated—Sex Differences in Perceptions of Cross-Sex Friendships” conveys that at least 52% of heterosexual friendships share a mutual secret sexual attraction within the individuals. Yet, we do not have to be worried since this research was conducted among college students.
Thus it is not a cookie-cutter for all cases. Moreover, developing a platonic friendship is healthy for our mental as it can broaden our perspectives in viewing the world and increase our level of sympathy. All we need to do is to stand firm and ensure our purposes while involving in a heterosexual friendship and set boundaries if needed.