You’re hanging out with your significant other when their phone starts buzzing. You notice the name that flashes on the screen is one of the opposite sex. Your lover picks up and delves into conversation. Your boyfriend has girl friends. Your girlfriend has boy friends.
Many popular culture platforms insist that opposite-sex friendships can’t exist, from movies and television shows like “When Harry Met Sally” and “Friends,” to popular music like Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” which ends with Biz warning fans, “Don’t ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend.” But opposite-sex friendships are very common, especially in today’s society, with women learning and working alongside men.
In a Match.com poll from 2001, about 83 percent thought that opposite-sex friendships were possible. In past studies, it has been determined that males receive more emotional support through female friends, as opposed to friends of the same sex.
In a 2001 Psychology Today article, women stated that one of their largest problems with same-sex friendships was sexual tension. However, men replied more often that the main reason for starting a friendship with a woman was the fact that they were attracted to them in the first place. In any case, both sexes stated that “sexual tension was present in their cross-sex friendships.”
Sophomore engineering major Sean Brigandi said he doesn’t have a problem with opposite-sex friendships.
“There can be tension in the beginning of a friendship, but it doesn’t really bother me unless she’s interested and I’m not,” Brigandi said.
On the other hand, sometimes the tension is mutual. In fact, a 2005 behavioral psychology study reported that approximately half of the college population has had sexual relations with friends. While sometimes this can lead to awkward mornings after, relationships can sometimes flourish.
“My girlfriend and I were friends for three years before we finally hooked up,” Brigandi said. “Eventually it progressed into a relationship and we’ve been together six months.”
In a recent Oprah & Friends XM Radio Show, host Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told listeners that having friends with a member of the opposite sex is normal, but if you are in a relationship, some ground rules need to be followed. These rules include avoiding late dinner dates and ordering alcohol, taking long drives together and sharing secrets. Being friends with exes is also a big no-no.
“Romance grows when people are alone; romance grows when people tell secrets,” Rabbi Shmuley said on the show.
Most Binghamton students, like Caylin Braun, a junior biology major, agreed that having friends of the opposite-sex while in a relationship was fine as long as you trusted each other.
“I have a lot of guy friends and if my boyfriend was upset by that, it would bother me,” she said. “As long as you both trust each other it should be fine.”
In a recent CNN.com article, Dr. Bonnie Jacobson, a New York City clinical psychologist and author of “Love Triangles: Seven Steps to Break the Secret Ties That Poison Love” stated that those who feel jealous about opposite-sex friendships could be projecting their own fears.
“People project onto another person something they would do,” Jacobson told CNN.com. “If Tom says to Sally, ‘I don’t want you to hang out with Harry,’ it’s very likely Tom feels he would violate that boundary [if he were in the same situation], so he imagines his wife will, too.”
In order to deal with your significant other’s opposite-sex friends, Jacobson suggested refraining from setting ultimatums, but setting certain boundaries. For people who want their significant others to feel comfortable, Jacobson said to suggest hanging out as a group and never lying about spending time with your friend, as not feeling comfortable telling the truth suggests that there is something to worry about.