Why can’t we be friends?

By Collin Bryant | Columnist

The age-old statement “we’re just friends” is met with much skepticism in our culture. For whatever reason, people can’t seem to believe that two people of the opposite sex can have an ongoing friendship without any romantic interest. This logic is simply flawed; men and women are perfectly capable of establishing long-term, platonic friendships.

At best, this misguided notion could be seen as a concept that hasn’t adapted to the changing times. The social construct of what was normal and common between men and women must be adjusted. At one time, men were expected to be in the workplace while women were expected to be at home. These past expectations left men and women meeting up with one another at any given time with romantic intentions. Just as the narrative of expectations for men and women has changed dramatically throughout recent history, so should outdated notions like the expectations for friendships.

Camille Chatterjee of Psychology Today said in a recent article that the shift in our cultural social expectations are leading psychologists to send forth a new message.

“Though it may be tricky, men and women can successfully become close friends,” Chatterjee said. “What’s more, there are good reasons for them to do so.”

Sure, people will face challenges while trying to properly build these relationships, ranging from defining the relationship as purely friendly, overcoming any possible attraction, establishing equality and dealing with public opinions.

Media has also played a part in shaping the common ideologies and opinions surrounding true friendship. Television programs like “Friends,” for instance, with archetypal characters like Chandler and Monica, or movies like “When Harry Met Sally,” set a misleading standard for the way cross-sexual friendships ultimately develop. If people are able to recognize they don’t have to follow these crafted standards as a mean for operating with other people, they are much more likely to see the freedoms they have to build pure friendships with members of the opposite sex.

However, trying to overcome these obstacles can be worth it in the long haul. Purely platonic friendships have the ability to add new insights and perspectives without fear of bias. While it’s unfair to say men and women are completely the same or different, they do possess varying amounts of shared and divergent qualities. This blend of similarity and difference between genders has the ability to build a more developed and well-rounded person when they are shared in a friendship.

These co-ed friendships without any strings attached are attainable through focus and healthy foundations. Stop relying on old movies and social media to dictate the type of friendships we’re allowed to have. Friendship can be a beautiful thing; encouraging, healthy, and kind friends should be sought after and treasured. However, it is up to you to craft that friendship and to avoid the common obstacles that plague healthy development. These type of friendships should be sought out, regardless of whether that individual is the opposite sex or not.

Collin Bryant is a junior journalism major from Montgomery.

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