Friends…With Benefits? Nope!

In 1989, already married, my husband and I went to see Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan co-starring in a movie called, “When Harry Met Sally.” The entire premise of the film was best summed up by Harry (Crystal) when he said, “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Sally (Ryan) disagreed. She asserted that men and women could be strictly friends without having sex. We thoroughly enjoyed the film; laughing out loud and concurring – with virtually no discussion – that a single man and a single women (both heterosexual) could NOT maintain a long-term, platonic friendship.

Then, in 2011 – with a current day twist and a “thumbs up” from our daughter – we saw Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in a movie called, “Friends With Benefits.” In this flick, Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) were friends who regularly had (and enjoyed) sex with each other – allegedly without any emotional trappings. In the end, however, their physical chemistry bonded them emotionally as well. And, while the concept of “friends with benefits” was uncomfortable for yours truly (it didn’t seem to bother my husband), I couldn’t help but wonder…Have today’s women evolved to where meaningless casual sex with a male friend is okay and is just a perk of the relationship?  

I googled the question and found the article I was looking for! Can Men and Women Be “Just Friends”? was posted in Psychology Today just a few months ago. It seems that even decades later, the topic still is discussed and debated. Dr. Jeremy Nicholson (a.k.a The Attraction Doctor) assembled the research that was available and came to a series of conclusions.

  • Both men and women value their friendships with each other. Benefits include companionship, insights on male-female perspectives, mutual respect, etc.
  • Both sexes, however, often experience “negatives” or costs to being in this type of relationship; including differing goals and priorities, feelings of jealousy, difficulty in defining the nature of the relationship, etc.
  • Women tend to like their male friends for very practical reasons. For example, they feel safe with the physical protection afforded them; take advantage of men’s networking abilities; and enjoy having someone occasionally buy them dinner or drinks.
  • A man may see the potential of having sex with his female friend as a benefit to their relationship, while the woman may it as a cost.
  • In the friendships that turn sexual, the men are twice as likely to continue to refer to the women as friends; which – over the long-term – frustrates or confuses the women.

There’s more, but at the end of the day, the good doctor asks and summarizes…”Can men and women be just friends? In many cases, the answer is no.” His primary reason is that men and women frequently have very different goals and desires in opposite-sex friendships, which make the entire situation problematic.

Where do I stand on this topic now? In my previous blog post, I suggested that one should marry one’s best friend. So, in order for that to happen, a girl and a boy – or a woman and a man – have to start out as friends. The friendship should be nurtured and allowed to grow. But, at some point, either the friendship must end or it must move to the next level; presumably to a romantic and/or sexual phase. And, after that, either there’s a walk down the aisle or some other form of a serious commitment.

In my opinion…Can men and women be “just” friends? Nope. Not before, during, or even after marriage.


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