This is a question that is being raised more and more in the academic world and, above all, in the world of psychology. Gender equality has brought many changes and one of them is the way we relate to each other. Men and women now share many aspects of their lives as equals, but can they be just friends?
Evolutionary psychology seems to have an answer to why this does not always work, but the fact is that more and more people choose friends who are not of the same sex. It seems that the answer we are finding, as in almost everything, in the ability of people to know themselves and their environment.
Without the development of this ability it is possible that men and women tend to misinterpret the signals, and this is one of the biggest obstacles so that we can be just friends, without romantic comedy in between. In fact, it seems that this ability would be the basis of true friendship between men and women.
How do we understand friendship?
Although, basically, we all know what friendship consists of, it is important to also know that for men and for women, friendship has different nuances. Friendship is a relationship of shared interests, support and companionship. But men and women understand this in different ways.
Men develop a sense of friendship among them based on activities. They are more casual relationships that are defined as “side by side”. They are intimate and transactional relationships. Men do not usually share their feelings with other men, although they do share a taste for camaraderie and common interests and friendship is lasting over time.
Women are another world. The friendship between women is not as conceived as “one next to the other” but rather as “face to face”. The friendship between women is based on intimacy, on shared feelings and thoughts, and they are much more emotional and contact-dependent relationships.
The sense of humor is another factor that distinguishes us. While men learn to make fun of their friends to laugh and the fact has no major consequences, women do not use the sense of hurtful humor between us for fear that the other person will be damaged.
We are much more compatible than we think
In fact, and seen thus, the friendship between a man and a woman is much more complete than that maintained between people of the same gender. Women find in our male friends the camaraderie and the fondness for activities, hobbies or academic or work issues. Men find in their female friends an emotional support that their peers can not provide.
In this way, it seems, a priori, to be the perfect friendship relationship, the connections are many and we both provide a lot of things mutually. So, what is wrong? It seems that according to several studies it is sexual or romantic tension or attraction that can negatively affect.
Misinterpreting the signals
A study carried out at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, found that men and women misinterpret each other in reference to signs of sexual interest. We do not know how to interpret the signs of sexual interest when our friendship belongs to the other gender.
It seems that women interpret the signs of sexual interest as friendship and that men usually interpret the signs of friendship as a sexual interest. Other studies previous to this one already gave little encouraging data in this respect.
The studies on natural selection showed us that men perceive sexual interest in excess, with which they are more likely to feel sexually attracted by their female friendships according to this evolutionist vision
But, although evolutionists argue about this innate instinct in males, the truth is that it is not a decisive factor. Before throwing in the towel and resigning ourselves to not understand each other, we should know that this factor only hinders the friendship relationship, but it does not make it impossible.
The good news is that our new generations, the young millennials, are developing much less difficulties when it comes to building and maintaining friendships
quality with the opposite gender. In fact, it is absolutely normal for them to be just friends. It is also true that to the elderly this seems to be costing them a little more.
In the past men and women were related in purely romantic and reproductive matters. But today, in many parts of the world, men and women interact in a way that has no historical precedent. We work together, we study together, we share leisure time and interest in many topics that unite us much more than what separates us.
As in many other aspects of good personal development, the healthy friendship between men and women seems to have some secrets that deserve to be dusted off and put into practice by both men and women.
Even though men misinterpret the signs of sexual interest, I would dare to say that women also misinterpret the signs of romantic interest in men. If our friendship hides any hope of resulting in romance or sexual intercourse, someone will be hurt.
Learning to put limits on oneself and others is fundamental for the friendship relationship between a man and a woman to be successful. At the end of the day, respect and limits is something that we all put on unconsciously when friendships are of our own gender.
Friends do not invade personal space or time. In all friendship there are some implicit codes that nobody questions. And those same rules of respect must be developed when our friends are of a different gender to ours.
Overcoming, as adults we are, our most basic instincts and doing a good exercise of emotional intelligence can help us develop friendships with the other gender that will bring many good things to our life experience.
The friendship between men and women is not only possible, but probably the most complete friendship relationship that exists. As in almost everything, it is a matter of personal evolution.