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A platonic friendship between men and women is absolutely possible.

However, it can be complicated at times. Male/female friendships can arise in a variety of ways. Quite often, it forms when men and women attempt dating and realize that sexual compatibility just isn’t there. (Back to searching on the best dating sites 2021 for you!)

Other times, men and women may become work buddies or form a friendship based on mutual interests or hobbies. Whatever the case, friendship and gender can be an awkward pairing to navigate. We look at some of the challenges and pitfalls that often come up in male/female friendships.

Problems That Male/Female Friendships Face 

  • Jealousy

One of the main problems that cross-gender friendships face is jealousy. People, in general, have a hard time believing that men and women can just be friends. This can lead to spousal jealousy or to jealousy from potential partners. 

In fact, surveys show that close male/female friendships actually put some people off dating potential matches. For instance, if a woman finds out that a man’s best friend is female, she may have reservations about dating him.

Meanwhile, friendship with the opposite gender after marriage can seem impossible. Spousal jealousy can even end friendships between men and women.

Sadly, people often find it easier to appease their jealous partner than to maintain their relationship and their friendship at the same time. 

  • Attraction 

In some ways, it’s easy to understand why people struggle to get their heads around male/female friendship.

If a man and a woman get on well together and are both attractive, it’s hard to see why they aren’t a couple. However, there are many different types of friendship and, sometimes, people who make great friends don’t necessarily make great lovers. 

Sometimes though, this line becomes blurry between male and female friends.

As friends spend more time together or become more intimate, they may start to feel romantic attraction to each other. This can be complicated if the attraction is one-sided and can lead to painful friendship breakdowns. 

  • Differing Friendship Expectations 

Say a man and a woman are both attracted to each other but are just friends – how do they judge the situation and make this call?

While there are many different types of friendship between men and women, there are male/female friends who do find each other sexually attractive. Sometimes these friendships can chug along perfectly happily for years with neither friend crossing any lines. 

However, problems can arise if men and women have different expectations of what constitutes friendship and what constitutes romantic interest.

For example, women tend to value emotional closeness in friendships and won’t necessarily take this as a romantic come on. Men, in contrast, may view emotional closeness as something uniquely romantic and may misinterpret certain friendship behaviors, like emotional vulnerability or sharing. 

These friendship gender differences can create confusion and may lead one friend to make a pass at the other when they are not expecting it.

Meanwhile, the other may not think they have done anything to encourage this and can take it as a violation of trust and friendship.

While some friendships can bounce back from these misunderstandings, sometimes these situations lead to resentment, which can, unfortunately, ruin relationships.

How to Have a Good Friendship with Someone of the Opposite Gender

  • Set Boundaries with Yourself

Friendship is organic, and not many friendships involve a discussion about boundaries, especially early on. However, strong male/female friendship pairs tend to have good boundaries.

They likely do not have many moments where they feel in danger of crossing over into romantic territory or, if this does occur, they move on from it quickly.

Friendships like this usually involve both parties having strong boundaries.

They may just not feel attracted to each other, or they may emotionally compartmentalize their relationship with this person as platonic, not romantic.

These cross-gender friendship boundaries allow for friendly intimacy without unintended subtext or confusion.

It’s important that to maintain this type of friendship, you are honest with yourself if your feelings change and become romantic. In strong cross-gender relationships, friends give each other space to deal with these feelings or take their relationship to the next level if the feelings are mutual.

  • Communicate Expectations

If you feel that you and your friend are getting romantically close, don’t be afraid to tactfully bring this up.

Tackling this topic can be scary as you may worry about doing harm to the friendship. However, it is important to be open if you notice a change in the relationship and can allow you both to get your feelings across.

Acknowledging these opposite-gender friendship boundaries can help avoid confusion later and can allow you to take space if needed.

  • Take Space

If you find yourself falling for your friend, it can be tough if they don’t feel the same way. Romantic rejection is never easy to swallow but, with a friend, it can sting a little more. You may be afraid of losing the friendship but find it too painful to be around them. 

Asking for space is important here. You must give yourself time to get over the attraction. Although this might be difficult for your friend to hear, it’s vital that you don’t allow your attraction to spiral, as this can threaten the friendship long-term. 

  • Give Space 

If you’re the friend on the receiving end of the unwanted attraction, make sure you give your friend space when they ask for it. Don’t badger them and hope that they’ll just get over it.

Accept that these things happen sometimes and keep your door open for when they want to come back. Be sure to maintain your boundaries, though, and don’t be tempted to lead them on if you’re enjoying the attention. It may feel harmless to you, but it can do lasting damage to friendships.

Conclusion

When it comes to friendship, opposite-gender relationships can be tricky.

Things like jealous partners or unwanted attraction can throw a spanner in the works. Strong boundaries and mutual respect are great friendship tips for tackling these problems, however, and can be the key to a lasting friendship.

Final Call: Do you have close inter-gender friendships? How do you make it work? We’d love to hear more, you can share your tips in the comment’s section below!

Aria Green

Aria Green

Aria is a family photographer, relationship psychology writer. A wife and a mother of two adorable kids who won't get bored even for a minute. She completed a photography course in college. Since then photography is her passion. As for a writing passion, she loves personality psychology, helping people with advice on the relationship between a man and a woman.
Aria Green

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6 Comments

  1. In my experience, there is always an undercurrent of something more than friendship that has to do with sexuality from a male to a female (heterosexual) – even if I have no interest or intention in that direction. I think it is probably generational. I am older, and I think it is a different mindset. I have two young adult sons and see a totally different interaction between the sexes in their age group. I have one male friend which I intentionally do not wear anything form-fitting, and he still makes comments. I do what you suggest. I take some space. I think it has to do with my generation of men thinking commenting on looks is flattery and polite. I have explained to him and others that it is not! I have told them I would be much more impressed with “You look healthy and happy today” more than “Your hair looks really nice”. Old dogs…

    • I had to laugh and the ‘old dogs’ comments Debbie. As I mentioned to Zeenat above I have had a few totally platonic male friendships, but only enough to count on the fingers of one hand. I like your idea of suggesting what would make an acceptable comment for you.

  2. This is an interesting article Aria. I agree with your perspective…inter-gender friendships do bring up complications at some point. But I should say, there are some inter-gender relationships I do have that have stayed healthy for many years. Yes, its rare 🙂 but it happens.

    • I know I have had male friendships that have lasted years. Admittedly few and far between, but I personally have found it possible.

  3. Those kinds of friends would definitely be difficult for me to navigate! But I see now that strong boundaries are the key. Thanks for this insight.

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