Can you be friends with the opposite sex (or the sex you are attracted to)?

Look, platonic relationships between men and women exist.  Nobody should be so bold as to assume that there are ZERO platonic relationships between people who could be attracted to one other.  The world is big and the people in it are powerful enough to achieve very significant and (perhaps) counterintuitive feats.  But… how frequent or likely are platonic relationships between men and women?  This question is unfortunately flawed.

There is no real answer to the question about the likelihood of friendships between men and women because it fails to consider the psychological and emotional mindset of both people involved.  …and I’m sorry….. I know this is not the answer you were looking for.  In truth, the existence of a genuine platonic relationship between a guy and a girl depends on the internal workings of each respective person.  So the age-old question “can you be friends with the opposite sex,” put plainly, sucks.  However, there is a more appropriate replacement and it’s: “Can you be friends with the opposite sex (or the sex you are attracted to)?”  Well?  Can you?  If you can, well then you can, and that’s great.  But here are the conditions in which a platonic relationship is doomed to fail. 

If you always fall for a friend of the opposite sex, here are some of my hypotheses as to why.

It’s Evolution Baby

Researchers at Harvard in the 1970s generated the theory of Parental Investment and Sexual Selection. Since eggs are scarce and sperm is abundant, women are more selective and men are more competitive when choosing their mates.  Many researchers have since built off of this pioneering idea but in terms of how it applies here – if you are a man who finds platonic relationships with women impossible, you might have a strong (conscious or subconscious) instinctual drive to compete for women with the goal of dating and mating, making platonic relationships impossible.   

Unmet Needs or Desires in your Current Relationship

If you have a partner and suddenly find yourself constantly falling for your friends, the reason might be because you are unsatisfied in your relationship.  We can spend all day guessing the ways in which you might be displeased with your partner or relationship but if this sounds like you, I encourage you to think about your needs and consider whether or not your current partner meets them.  As opposed to being unconditional, relationships have to be conditional, i.e. your conditions and those of your partner must be met in order for your relationship to thrive.  So if your partner possesses your deal-breakers, the solution is ending your relationship…not starting a new one with your platonic friend (unless you have genuine feelings for each other, of course).    

Psychological Wounds

If the inability to friend the opposite sex is a chronic blueprint in your life, your psychological patterns are likely involved.  Lack of worthiness, desire for validation, and need to feel valued, are a few reasons why you might find it impossible to be “just friends” with the opposite sex.  In other words, failure to “get the girl” or “get the guy” might falsely symbolize that you are not good, less than, not enough, and/or insignificant to name a few possible distortions.  There is so much to uncover here so feel free to bring this hypothesis to your therapist.  There is no time like the present to right these very wrong and heart-breaking views of self.

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.