Friendship beyond gender: different perspectives

healtheminds

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“I am confused. I do not know what to do,” she said. Rahila is caught up in a relationship where she does not know if it is a romantic relationship or just friendship. The other person, Manesar is equally confused.

They both met in college and instantly liked each other and started spending time studying, talking. They shared similar interests such as their enthusiasm for food, offbeat movies, spending time in nature, architecture and reading fiction.

They shared everything with each other starting from every day events and conversations at home, to tiffs with friends and comments about teachers. They depended on and supported each other in difficult situations. Their friends noticed their connection and had labelled them as a couple romantically involved with each other. This has caused confusion in their minds. Added to this confusion was an incident where they both became sexually intimate at one point. During one of his visits to Rahila’s house to work on a project, he found her crying over her an argument she had had with her father. He hugged her to console her and kissed her intimately. From then on Manesar’s thoughts about Rahila had become romantic. He longed to hold her hand, be with her and kiss her often.

“I speak to him every day and I miss him if I don’t. I message him late into the nights. But I cannot think of having a romantic relationship with him despite that one-time incident where he kissed me,” says Rahila. Manesar on the other hand insists that they could be involved romantically. Their friends too are supportive of his thought. Upon exploring her feelings for Manesar, Rahila discovered that she was not romantically interested in him. She did not want to be sexually involved with Manesar. And did not want to lead him on. More over she was scared of losing her precious friendship with him. Now she is being labelled as a betrayer for not accepting Manesar has her boyfriend. Her friends tell her that she used him to have ‘fun’.

There are many others like Rahila and Manesar who have a deeper connect than other people and eventually think that they can also connect romantically. Various studies have suggested that there is difference in how men and women perceive the opposite gender friendships.

Adrian F. Ward, in his article on, Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”, published in Scientific American says that there are large gender differences in how men and woman perceive opposite-sex friendships: Men were much more attracted to their female friends than vice versa and men were also more likely than women to think that their Opposite Sex Friends (OSF) were attracted to them.

The above-mentioned study explains Manesar’s perspective where he insists that he could explore the romantic aspect of his relationship with Rahila whereas she thinks otherwise.

Another study, Opposite-Sex Friendship: Sex Differences and Similarities in Initiation, Selection, and Dissolution by April L. Bleske-Rechek and David M. Buss noted that compared with women, men judged sexual attraction and a desire for sex as more important reasons for initiating OSF while women judged physical protection as a more important reason for initiating the friendship. And lack of these conditions lead to the dissolving of the friendship, the study mentions.

Rahila and Manesar’s friendship is at cross roads now because they have different expectations from it. Here is how you could decide on whether you want to be friends with the OSF or not.

  • Explore in what circumstances the friendship developed and what attracted you to the person
  • Explore your feelings towards the person than are influenced by your friends and media (movies)
  • Explore what the friendship has brought to your life
  • Share your feelings and thoughts with the other person and understand his or her perspective on this
  • Respect each other’s decisions on adding a new dimension or continue with status quo
  • Accept if it is not possible to continue being a friend or a romantic partner and let go

 

References

Bleske-Rechek, L. A. (2001). Opposite-Sex Friendship: Sex Differences and Similarities in Initiation, Selection, and Dissolution. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc., 27, 1310-1323.

Ward, A. F. (2012, October 23). Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends”. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/men-and-women-cant-be-just-friends/