Can Men and Women Just Be Friends?

Interesting look at attraction between friends from Heidi Reeder Ph.D.

The stereotype is that men become friends with women because they’re hot and they want to sleep with them. Maybe they’re in the friend zone. Maybe they’re waiting for her to break up with her boyfriend. Maybe they work together and can’t act on their attraction. As such, this stereotype has a large basis in truth. It’s just not the full story.

Reeder analyzed hundreds of transcripts written by people about their best opposite-sex friends and discovered 4 unique but overlapping types of attraction:

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

  1. Friendship attraction – the kind of attraction you feel when drawn to someone because you like that person and enjoy being with him or her.
  2. Romantic attraction – Romantic attraction is about the desire to alter the friendship into a couple relationship. Only 14 percent of friends said they currently feel romantic attraction for their friend. Interestingly, almost half said they used to feel more romantic attraction, at an earlier stage in the friendship, than they do now.  
  3. Subjective physical/sexual attraction – Almost a third of the survey respondents felt this form of attraction for their friend, but the strong majority (over two-thirds) did not currently feel such attraction. This feeling can change over time, and is more likely to decrease (in 30 percent of respondents) than to increase (20 percent).
  4. Objective physical/sexual attraction. Refers to thinking that one’s friend is physically attractive in general terms (“I can see why others would find him attractive”), but not feeling the attraction yourself. This kind of attraction was experienced by over half of the people –one-quarter more than subjective physical/sexual attraction.

This would indicate that men and women may be drawn into friendship by attraction, but as they get to know each other, that attraction can morph considerably.

Can men and women be friends? Absolutely.

You can find someone objectively attractive and not want to sleep with him.

You can start off by feeling romantic attraction with someone and feel less over time.

You can feel sexual attraction for someone and not act on it.

So let’s settle this debate once and for all:


Can men and women be friends?


It’s that it often takes more time to see how you truly feel about someone. Which is why half of friends felt their romantic attraction lessen the better they got to know each other. Too bad more couples don’t consider this before hopping into bed themselves.

So, do you think men and women can be friends?