We're just friends REALLY
Until about a year ago I innocently thought that girls and guys could have a completely platonic close friendship with one another. It has been portrayed that way in shows and movies, right? ...Ross and Rachel were just friends on Friends... oh wait. Zack and Kelly were just friends on Saved by the Bell... oh wait. Harry and Sally were just friends in When Harry Met Sally... oh wait. I even thought I had a good example of guys and girls being just friends when one of my girl friends had a guy as her best friend... then 3 months later they were dating. So the question is can a guy and a girl be really "just friends?" Well to be honest and ambiguous at the same time, the answer might not be the same for girls as it is for guys. It depends how each person in the friendship perceives what the beneficial or costly parts are of the friendship.
Like every relationship there can be benefits and costs to it. Benefits of having an opposite-sex close friend could be having someone you can self-disclose to, someone to support you, gaining a self-esteem boost, and gaining information about opposite-sex. However costs of having an opposite-sex friend could be that it causes ambiguity when it comes to sexual boundaries, confusion about relationship status, jealousy of other people, and feelings about the other person being not reciprocated. It has also been found that most men report being sexually attracted to their friends who are girls. And most men say they would hook-up with their friend even if they didn't find her attractive. This has been famously seen in the entertaining Youtube video Why Men and Women Can't be Friends;where guys and girls are questioned in a Utah university about whether friends of the opposite-sex can be just friends (see the link below).
It wasn't until I entered a serious dating relationship had I really considered and questioned my close friendships with the opposite-sex. Can my guy friends and I be just friends? I quickly found out it's very difficult to be just friends when one of my guy friends had confessed feelings for me. It could be said that the guy or the girl in the friendship may be okay with being "just" friends, but would jump at the chance to hook-up or become more than friends given the opportunity.
To answer the question: yes, guys and girls can be just friends and no, guys and girls cannot be just friends. It could be said that guys and girls can be friends, but not close friends. There could always be the underlying lingering sexual attraction and question of "what could we be?" to try to define the relationship.
So how do you stay JUST friends?
Well, you have to be honest with yourself. If you can see more than just friends, then maybe you are more than friends. Can you see the other person in the friendship seeing you as more than a friend? If yes, then define the relationship (DTR). Decide what you want and understand what he/she wants from the relationship. Be on the same page. Communication is key.
For further information see the referenced article below. If you have any questions or comments we'd love to hear from you.
-From your friends here at rIQ
Bleske, A. L., & Buss, D. M., (2005). Can men and women be just friends? Personal Relationships, 7(2). 131-151.
Written by: Shaina Kohli, rIQ Intern 2012, Pepperdine University class of 2013