This is the great song written by Marty Balin rewritten as a letter to a friend.
Might as well start with a conversation. Usually a good idea to strike up a conversation first.
Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.
– From the 1989 screenplay, “When Harry Met Sally”. Written by Nora Ephron; Columbia Pictures
That movie is a true classic on human nature (behavior) as you’re about to find out. Most of us already have formed an opinion on the question, “Can men and women really be friends”? My answer is of course, is (____fill in the blank). Provided, of course then that it (the “friendship” is a mutually expected arrangement. Otherwise it can potentially be a bit confusing. Not to each other mind you (keep laughing) because we just don’t communicate these things with our different-gender friend. Those gentle words, “And where did you get THAT idea” become rather loud and resonant. That just might be a bit embarrassing…
Here are some quotes I read (selectively) on the Internet recently, pro and con, on than very question:
Male: For me it only works with married women and women dating really good friends. I’ve only had one female friend for a long time with whom I truly have that kind of stable friendship and actually she pined for me for a while (as I found out later.)
Female: I have been lifelong friends with several guys. Sure there was/is sexual tension as far as they are concerned but they know better than to cross that line. Sex isn’t everything. Women value friendship more than sex. Don’t get me wrong; women love sex.
Female: I think that you can have a best friend of the opposite sex. My ex-husband is my best friend…
Male: With my line of work, I come into contact with beautiful women all the time. But for me, it is a matter of knowing when not to cross boundaries. With some people, there will always be sexual attraction, but you don’t have to always go there with them. You can get a lot out of a friendship when you keep it platonic.
Female: I have many guy friends. They are my friends because they all started out as guys that wanted to date me or sleep with me. I mean, like, if you get along enough to hang out, have dinners, talk on the phone, that’s a big part of a relationship, right?”
Female: When I got married, I had two Men-of-Honor. Growing up, my best friend was a guy. It actually feels more comfortable [to me], and I think that’s the key. If it’s too labored or analyzed, then it’ll never work.”
Female: While men and women can be friends, it is difficult for the relationship to be entirely platonic. Our genetics simply drive our attraction to the opposite sex! The likelihood that at least one party is drawn to the other sexually is very high, regardless of whether or not anything ever comes of it. This is the reason jealousy and infidelity exists; we are not wired to be a monogamous species.
Male: Men and women often think they are nothing but friends, when in reality one person’s mind or the other is thinking more. They may never share this information with their friend, but there is always that feeling that one of these days we’re going to get a little tipsy and make-out.
Female: Men and women cannot be friends with someone they are attracted to, and unfortunately, most men are attracted to almost every woman so the idea that they can be friends without thoughts of sex is ridiculous. Being friends in group activities is fine. I would get worried if your guy was off doing one-on-one stuff with a woman. That’s called a date.
Female: The only way you can be friends with another man when you’re married is if you find this man so unattractive, there would be no way he could ever worm his way into your pants.
Female: Rule number 1: There is no such thing as “just friends” between a man and a woman where at least one is sexually attracted to the other.
Rule number 2: First learn rule number 1
Emotional Sanctuary (defined):
“The state of wellness in a relationship, including the family, where mutual agreed upon emotional boundaries are respected, conflicts are centralized and resolved only between the those individuals directly involved in the relationship (trust). Additionally, the individuals are capable of both giving and receiving Kindness, exhibit Compassion towards each other, and are capable of initiating Joy in their partner(s). A central feature of the Emotional Sanctuary is that each individual in the Sanctuary has the Freedom to experience life and not interfere emotionally on the Freedom of the other within their Sanctuary.”
-Rick Perez, August, 2013
If you’ve not read this book, and I highly recommend it, “True Love: An Awakening of the Heart” by Thich Naht Hahn, you’ll recognize where the term “Emotional Sanctuary” came from. It’s my Bible when it comes to how an ideal couple should and can relate to each other completely.
And so she asks her friend, “Why do men like to start talking to me about their marriage problems?”
The number 1 polled answer was:
–To demonstrate that they’re taken so you’ll be more interested in them.
Figure1. Link to, “When Harry Met Sally“, on YouTube. The “scene” of course! The “When Harry Met Sally” research effect is alive and well in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationship.2
Recently published research appears to lend credence to what we would innately already know 8,9,10,1,13. When asked about their friendships, men report greater sexual attraction to their female friends than females report regarding their male friends (as reported by Kelly, 201210). Additionally, it appears very likely that males overestimate how attracted to them their female friends actually are10.
Representative Case Study “Katie’s Story”
“Years ago, there was a married guy who occasionally came into the office where I worked. He was nice and funny, but I thought he had a really odd look about him. The only attraction I felt for him was as a friend. However, over a period of months, we went from small talk to brief conversations. From there, we developed trust and friendship.
We went to lunch, and from there, we began to talk sometimes on the phone, but it was still strictly platonic. Our conversations became more frequent, with his building my trust and encouraging me to depend on him as a friend. He said that his wife was completely supportive of our friendship, and since he would call and talk to her in front of me, telling me she said hello, and telling her that he was staying at my house for the night, I saw no reason not to believe him. (I thought she was stupid… NEVER think its okay for your husband to sleep over at another woman’s home, regardless of what she looks like!)
Then, he told me that his marriage wasn’t what he had portrayed it to be, that they had been “growing apart” for years, and all the other garbage that married men tell women they want. Since he had very carefully established my trust, I believed he was being honest with me. Soon after that, at the end of our phone conversations, he began to say he loved me, with the caveat that it was “as a friend.” I felt very uneasy about it, but I felt compelled to say it back to him.
After a few months, he told me that he wanted to “express his love for me physically”! Looking back, I should’ve seen it coming, but I didn’t! He was such a “proper” guy, I just couldn’t imagine him saying something like that. I was really shocked, and I told him. He said, “It’s no big deal. It’s just sex.” I said, “And what would your wife think about that?” He said he was sure she would understand! I said, “Oka“When your husband tells you, “I’m not attracted to her! There’s nothing going on,” don’t trust it. I used to think that physical attraction was something that was either there, or it wasn’t–that it couldn’t be cultivated. I learned that I was wrong about that.
y, why don’t you give her a call, and ask her how she would feel about it, and if she’s okay with it, we’ll do it.”
Of course, he didn’t call her. Over a period of several more weeks, he tried to get me to go to where he and his wife lived and spend a few days with them. At that point, though it seemed to not fit with what I thought I knew of his character, I assumed they had an open marriage, and that he wanted us to have a three-way. I wasn’t about to go for that, so I told him that just seemed a little too weird, considering the fact that he had said he wanted to sleep with me.
I was going through a divorce and was extremely vulnerable at the time, which I had shared with him. I had developed feelings for him as a friend, and when he continued to pressure me about sex, I began to fear that I would lose him as a friend if I didn’t give in to him. (Totally out of touch with reality, I know!) So I eventually gave in, and stayed with him for four years, the last one of which I refused to see him because he was still married. He had told me all along that he was getting a divorce, but that he couldn’t do it until he could afford to.
I loved him, but after four years, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to end it, but I couldn’t do it without knowing the truth, and there was only one way to get it.”
In other words, males are projecting their sexual attraction on to their female friends. “So maybe it is a little naïve for women to think that our male friends “couldn’t possibly like us like that, because we appear to presume whatever we feel is reciprocated by our male friends.“1
“Katie’s Story” -continued
I called his wife, and found that she had no clue that he was seeing me, even though she said he hadn’t slept with her for almost two years! I don’t know if she ever left him. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s probably still with him, still looking the other way while he does whatever he wants, with women he calls “friends.”
Okay, I said all that to make this point: I started out with absolutely no attraction to that guy, to being completely attracted to him. You can’t trust the fact that your husband isn’t attracted to a woman he calls a friend. He might not be attracted to her now, but after he gets to know her better, an attraction might develop. Or the relationship might be platonic now because she isn’t attracted to him, but if she were to become vulnerable, she might develop an attraction to him. And, of course, the same could be said about your own feelings for an opposite-sex friend.
I’m not going to say that it’s impossible to have a platonic male-female relationship, and that if your husband has a female “friend,” he’s sleeping with her. But I will say that if your husband has a female friend, and especially if she’s attractive, you’d better not trust it. Even if she’s also your friend, if your husband talks to her or sees her without your being there, you have reason to be suspicious. Call me jaded, if you want, but I’ve seen it too many times. Don’t trust it!”
The Evidence: Scientific American, 2012
– “Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”. Scientific American. Adrian F. Ward, October 23, 201213
Men and women can’t really be just friends. New research suggests that there may be some truth to this possibility—that we may think we’re capable of being “just friends” with members of the opposite sex, but the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.
In order to investigate the viability of truly platonic opposite-sex friendships—a topic that has been explored more on the silver screen than in the science lab—researchers brought 88 pairs of undergraduate opposite-sex friends into…a science lab. Privacy was paramount—for example, imagine the fallout if two friends learned that one—and only one—had unspoken romantic feelings for the other throughout their relationship. In order to ensure honest responses, the researchers not only followed standard protocols regarding anonymity and confidentiality, but also required both friends to agree—verbally, and in front of each other—to refrain from discussing the study, even after they had left the testing facility. These friendship pairs were then separated, and each member of each pair was asked a series of questions related to his or her romantic feelings (or lack thereof) toward the friend with whom they were taking the study.
The results suggest large gender differences in how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships. Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Men were also more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends.
Funny thing was, the women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual!
As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.
Social Media and the Flurry of Emotional Affairs
“Natia W” recently posted one day on Facebook that, “If a guy, married or not, attempts to manipulate his way to into a friendship with me and I don’t know who his wife is, I tell him straight up front than he’s out of line and I have no desire to go forward with him. I don’t want someday to look in my rear view mirror and suddenly see a woman I don’t know charging at me thinking I’m after her man. I don’t need or want that kind of drama in my life.”
Dramatics are precisely what you’ll get when a married man tries to “be best friends” with a single woman without mentioning he has a wife. It is possible as we said earlier, for a man to befriend a woman provided his wife is also part of than friendship.
No double standard. \
If this ends in a divorce proceeding, keep in mind than attorneys find the social media haunts a great place to gather evidence for their clients. Roughly 81% of members from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers pull information directly from places like Facebook (66%), MySpace (15%), and Twitter (5%), to name only a few (13% remaining various accessible social media sites.). Women (27%) use it quite a bit more frequently than men (5%).
Write this down: The most important thing to do in any meaningful, real relationship is to begin:
Establishing Boundaries to protect your Emotional Sanctuary
This is one of those “Lessons to be repeated until learned”16. Boundary setting is a necessity if trust has been compromised. You need to think of every possible situation that has already happened as well as situations that may occur, no matter how seemingly innocuous. This includes flirtatious behavior from members of the opposite sex, contacts from past lovers on-line, sexually aggressive co-workers, chance encounters, etc. It should be understood that there’s nothing wrong with having friendships with other men/women. In fact, it’s inevitable. The key is to know where to draw the Redline and then to stay as far away from it as possible.
Why not? In 2009, it was reported than 20% of the people on those sites use it primarily for flirting. In a recent report in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social networking, people who use Facebook excessively (interpreted by the researchers as checking it more than hourly) are more likely to “experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners, which then may cause negative relationship outcomes including emotional and physical cheating, breakup and divorce,” In particular, they reported that “high levels of Facebook use is associated with negative relationship outcomes for newer couples (three years or less).”
In 2011, a poll of 5000 litigants in divorce was conducted (www.divorce-online.co.uk) which now indicates that 33% of all English divorces in 2011, up from 20% in 2009, cited Facebook as a contributing factor.
The 5,000 people polled gave these Top three reasons.
1) Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
2) Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
3) Facebook friends reporting spouse’s behavior.
CROSSING THE RED LINE: Emotional Intimacy Questions
Attraction + Effort + Intimacy = Emotional Infidelity
Attraction is only one possible variable in an emotional affair. It occurs when someone catches their eye (see The Three Second Rule of Enticement below) or laughs at one of their jokes. Than is, that person to whom you have experienced an attraction to must have been the Initiator. We do not, as a rule, attach ourselves to a self-generated attachment. Unless we happen to be Narcissus by the pool. Weightlifters and Body builders probably fall into this category and might be able to initiate an attachment to themselves using the reflective wall mirrors. +
The property of the initiator is that this person, or thing, through a brief 4-5 second exposure of that stimulus on the attaching object is capable of initiating an attachment (κA) by itself.
IV (Visual)–This is the minimum contribution, or numerical quantity, of physical appeal, or allure, required to form an initial attachment by itself.
IO (Olfactory) –This is the minimum contribution, or numerical quantity, of olfactory appeal, or allure, required to form an initial attachment by itself. For example, your focus is suddenly redirected and focused upon suddenly smelling a woman’s perfume alone without hearing her voice, seeing her, or feeling her touch. Pheromones are very strong initiators.
IA (Auditory ) – Ooh, that whisper!
IK (Kinesthetic) – An absolute
The action of the Initiator through these stimuli cause another individual to attach themselves to the initiator
A simple questionnaire (Q ) is given to the individual that is scored to a 100 point scale and that value is used in the final summation:
κ(A,B,C…) = ( IO +IV+IA + IK) + Q (1
Index of Attraction [κ (A, B, C…)] = = ( IO +IV+IA + IK) + Q ( .
Effort – In 1987, Edward Higgins sought to illustrate that internal disagreement is capable of causing emotional and psychological turmoil. This result from self-discrepancy. Self-discrepancy theory states that people compare themselves to internalized standards called “self-guides”. When we experience a discrepancy between the domain of self and the stand determine their attitudes and preferences by interpreting the meaning of their own behavior. It was noted in “Having the mind wander to positive events, to concurrent as opposed to past activities, and to many events rather than just one tends to be attributed to boredom and therefore leads to perceived dissatisfaction with an ongoing task. Such is the case when men and particularly “wander” onto the path of infidelity. Close relationships can lead to an inclusion of another person in an individual’s sense of self. When one becomes initially attached, little effort is required. To maintain than covert relationship over time, an increasing amount of energy is expended. Happy, covert relationships are less demanding. Not only that, here appears to be truth in the statement “happiness is contagious”. The self-expansion model has shown us than having a close relationship, even one of emotional infidelity, can lead to the inclusion of another person into our own individual’s sense of self.
In other words, the initiator provides the spark, but it is the internal self-perception, fed by the self-expansion of that “other friend” our own individual’s sense of self. Even when the behavior is inconsistent with our attitude (“What in the world am I doing? I love my wife but her I am flirting with another woman?”), this actually results in arousal and further perpetuation of the seemingly dissonant behavior.
To quantify the individual’s Effort in the EI calculation, one method would to incorporate the results from the Inclusion of Other in the Self scale (Aron, Aron, & Smollan, 1992) as a function of effort. The IOS can be downloaded directly from http://www.haverford.edu/psych/ble/continuous_ios/. The IOS can also be used as a comparative tool to examine one’s response to both the normal partner and the “friend”. The IOS is a series of seven Venn-like diagrams, each depicting two circles in various states of overlap from not overlapped at all to nearly completely overlapped. The circles are labeled as “Self” and other “Other” with the term “other” as referring to an individual or thing contributing to the dissonance behavior. The participant is instructed to select the set of circles that best represents his or her current relationship with another person, such as his or her usual romantic partner. This theoretical approach for understanding and measuring closeness has garnered much support (Agnew, Loving, Le, and Good friend, 2004). The resultant discrepancy Gap arising from the disparate closeness between friend and partner is the designated energy expenditure of closeness (evolution program).
Expenditure of Closeness = (Another time.. another blog…)
Intimacy: Emotional Infidelity is the antithesis of existence within the Emotional Sanctuary. Another time…another blog…
There are three signs than indicate than you may have crossed the red-line away from real emotional sanctuary:
“Some men and women don’t know how to just be friends with the opposite sex. There are both men and women who have to constantly surround themselves with the opposite sex to boost their egos, even when they are in a committed relationship. People of this nature are immature and have self-esteem issues and many are just sexual thrill seekers. People who are like this most likely will never be in a lasting relationship because being faithful and not cheating on their significant other is not in their genetic makeup. They will always surround themselves with the opposite sex looking for someone, the more the better, to help fulfill their desire no matter how it affects their relationship or how much it hurts the other person. It’s always all about them and what they need or want.”
A Redline to disaster or a harmless flirt?
He will tell you this over a casual discussion, as he looks longingly into your eyes (see the
The Three Second Rule of Enticement (below).
It’s absolutely deadly for the sincere, nurturing, and caring woman.
So, how do you spot this guy/girl right from the beginning? Well, the guy who just simply wants to be your “friend.” Yet, these men have a difficult time being just friends with women. Time and time again, the boundaries are tested. Plain and simple, they’re only friends with women they’re attracted to. Because that’s how it starts — with an emotional hook He’ll frame your interaction as business, like, “Hey, let’s have a business dinner,” or “Hey, let’s grab a drink after work.” He’ll flirt with you in ways that seem all so innocent. But let me tell you something: It’s not. Because this so-called “happily married man” is not happy.
He’s going to flirt with you innocently. He’s going to send you little texts to tell you that he read an article or saw something that reminded him of you, call at various times, and engage you in all your activities. It’s all going to seem so friendship-y, almost like you met a good female friend.
He’ll even tell his wife about the great friendship the two of you have. He’ll bring it out in the open, because he doesn’t want to believe that he is actually wants to cheat.
I’ve met a lot of these guys. They talk such a good game, but in reality, they’re living a compromised life. They wanted something from life but never truly believed that they could have everything. And now they find themselves “stuck” in a situation that’s displeasing and less than what they know is possible. Another surprise. The affairs the men have had were always initiated by the woman, always. Ask other men who have had an affair if they initiated the liaison or if they simply reacted to the woman’s overture. I suspect those of you who inquire will be quite surprised by your findings.
Beware. Never, ever get influenced by their flattery. They’re looking for an EMOTIONAL ESCAPE, whether it is mental, emotional, physical or all three. Be aware of these warning signs.
More Boundaries from the Female Perspective3
These Guidelines for Mutual Love and Respect were gleaned from multiple sources on the Internet, and were fairly consistent. These are not conclusive by any means. The References are listed on the last page.
Bottom line is that, to avoid the potential for “When it’s More Than “Just Friends” it’s probably a fairly safe option to say, “I don’t think a married man should be hanging out with another girl or woman even if they are supposedly ‘just friends.’ He should be home with his family. If his priorities are elsewhere and not with you and your family, then you should be questioning the marriage.”11.
The 3 Second Rule of Enticement
Also referred to as the “Copulatory Gaze”, this rule basically states that the best time to engage a man/woman emotionally after getting the “right signals” from him/her (e.g., eye contact, or a smile) is to do so within 3-seconds of quietly held gaze. “God” loves the human mating game, for no other aspect of our behavior is so complex, so subtle, or so pervasive. In Western cultures, where eye contact between the sexes is permitted, men and women often stare intently at potential mates for about two to three seconds during which their pupils may dilate—a sign of extreme interest.15
CAN MEN AND WOMEN BE FRIENDS? What’s your opinion?
Researchers tell us that men and women can be friends. But do we really believe them? A survey of more than 1,450 members of the Match.com dating site revealed that we’re an optimistic bunch7:
For the answers, click on this link (or the cartoon):