Strictly platonic friendship between men and women is not impossible, but difficult

This comment won consolation prize for March's What Say You. For that, the Stomper won $50 in shopping vouchers.

Stomper Anonymous feels that while it is not impossible to have a strictly platonic friendship between a heterosexual man and woman, it is still difficult to maintain.

This is her entry for this month's What Say You topic, 'Can men and women have a strictly platonic friendship?'

From time to time, I have pondered over this question, sometimes with friends or family members who have varied experiences to account for their opinions. Having made my own assessments and after listening to these opinions, my personal take on the possibility of having strictly platonic friendships between men and women would be that it is certainly not impossible but it is indeed very difficult to have and maintain in the long run. My opinion relies on the assumption that the said men and women involved in the friendship identify themselves as heterosexuals.

Humans are social beings that exist within certain sociocultural contexts. More often than not, heteronormativity is the dominant ideology governing many societies today. I am sure we are all quite familiar with the various values and beliefs on how men and women are said to complement one another as a pair or are normally assumed to be attracted to the opposite sex. This makes the whole idea of viewing a friendship involving a man and a woman to have a normal and expected possibility of it being a romantic relationship.

This becomes problematic, especially when both parties are often seen to be in contact with each other without the presence of others. The people around them, such as friends or colleagues would question or suspect the possibility of a romantic relationship between the two even if it was platonic to begin with. Such questions or teasing from the people around them could introduce ideas of romantic attraction between the two and thus influence both parties to consider the prospect of the other as a romantic partner. This could possibly change the dynamics of the initially platonic friendship into one that treads the boundaries of dating.

When friendships become lasting or at least have the potential to be maintained in the long run, it usually is a result of some form of mutual understanding and similarity of feelings. Just like any forms of friendship, feelings could develop overtime into deeper feelings of security, dependence and liking for the other. However, in the case of a friendship between a man and a woman, such feelings have the potential to develop into feelings of romantic interest and love as there are similar qualities and attributes between what one finds in a good friend and what one finds in a good romantic partner. Especially if both parties are single and available, I feel that there would be a high potential of the friendship to develop romantically. Thus creating a situation in which it becomes likely for either one or possibly both parties to start liking the other, as they grow to enjoy the company of the other as a friend and also grow to be fond of the other as a romantic partner.

In essence, I do feel that it is very difficult to sustain a strictly platonic friendship between a man and a woman in the long run, as there are various overlaps in terms of identifying attractive qualities between what constitutes as a potentially good friend and a potentially good romantic/life partner. This is also in addition to the various ideas planted and introduced into the friendship of the two parties by the people around them. Even if it becomes a one sided and unreciprocated romantic attraction, the platonic relationship still fails. 

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