PhotoWe’ve all heard the question before, in conversations with our friends during dinner, in daytime talk shows and in a host of romantic comedies. Can men and women really be just friends?

Right off the bat many would say yes, as a lot of us do have good friends of the opposite gender, but a study by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire says otherwise.

When it comes to guys and girls maintaining a platonic relationship, guys are much more likely to see female friends as potential mates, finds the study.

Researchers at the Midwestern school conducted an analysis of 88 young adults, and found that men have an unbalanced interest in female friends, compared to women being attracted to their male pals. They also conveyed that no matter how platonic a relationship is between the opposite sex, there are still hints of attraction between the friends.

It's persistent

“Attraction in friendship is happening, and it’s persistent,” said April Bleske-Recheck, associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and chief study author. “I’d venture to say based on all our data that in the majority of friendships there’s at least a low level of attraction. And if it’s coming more from one friend than the other, it’s probably the guy.”

Photo“Historically, men faced the risk of being shut out genetically if they didn’t take advantage of various reproductive opportunities,” she added. “So the argument is that men have evolved to be far more sexually opportunistic.”

In the recently-conducted survey, researchers gathered a group of platonic opposite-sex friends and gauged each person’s level of attraction to one another. The participants were also asked to list both the cost and benefit of being attracted to a friend of the opposite gender.

Researchers found that 32 percent of those surveyed said that being attracted to the opposite sex came with a cost, while 6 percent said that attraction was a benefit to the friendship. And as far as the gender split, 47 percent of women between 18 to 23 said being attracted to a male friend came with a cost, and 22 percent of men said the same when it came to being romantically drawn to their female chums.

Age matters

In a separate study, Bleske-Rechek found that middle=aged adults who were attracted to opposite-sex friends were more inclined to be dissatisfied with their current romantic relationship.



“Although middle-aged adults reported less attraction overall to their cross-sex friends than did young adults, those who did report being attracted romantically to their friends were less satisfied with their current mates,” she said. “I think this is a significant finding.”


In both studies Bleske-Rechek and her team found that attraction and flirtation were significant motivators for both men and women to maintain friendships, and this particular finding was consistent among all age groups in the study.

“Mating strategies may influence people’s involvement in cross-sex friendships to begin with, as well as unintentionally color people’s feelings toward members of the opposite sex with whom their conscious intent is platonic,” said the researchers.

“Perhaps attraction can be both benefit and burden for the same individual in different friendships, or be both benefit and burden for the same friendship at different points in time,” they said.

Relatively new 

Bleske-Rechek also says that platonic opposite-sex relationships are still somewhat new compared to years past, and that neither gender has yet learned how to socially adjust to the change, or how to properly manage the attraction.

“It’s very likely that modern environment has changed so quickly that we’ve got these novel opportunities to engage in a variety of types of relationship with the opposite sex that we probably didn’t historically,” she noted. “It’s going to take us a while to adjust.”

Share your Comments