Point to the jealousy that plagues many rational people when a significant other befriends someone of the opposite sex. "Now they work together and share sports interests and socialize together." This cultural shift has encouraged psychologists, sociologists and communications experts to put forth a new message: Though it may be tricky, men and women can successfully become close friends.
The field of research is still in its infancy, but they are now beginning to understand some basic truths about male-female friendship: Not until high school does puberty really draw boys and girls together, which then continues into college.
"People don't know what feelings are appropriate toward the opposite sex, unless they're what our culture defines as appropriate," said O'Meara.
"You know you love someone and enjoy them as a person, but not enough to date or marry them. " The reality that sexual attraction could suddenly enter the equation of a cross-sex friendship uninvited is always lurking in the background.
Society has long singled out romance as the prototypical male-female relationship because it spawns babies and keeps the life cycle going; cross-sex friendship, as researchers call it, has been either ignored or trivialized.
We have rules for how to act in romantic relationships (flirt, date, get married, have kids) and even same-sex friendships (boys relate by doing activities together, girls by talking and sharing). "Almost every time you see a male-female friendship, it winds up turning into romance," Monsour noted. These cultural images are hard to overcome, he said. D., at the University of Cincinnati-Raymond Walters College, published a landmark study in the journal on the top impediments to cross-sex friendship.
Still, men and women continue to have surprisingly few opportunities to interact.