Point to the jealousy that plagues many rational people when a significant other befriends someone of the opposite sex. "Now they work together and share sports interests and socialize together." This cultural shift has encouraged psychologists, sociologists and communications experts to put forth a new message: Though it may be tricky, men and women can successfully become close friends.
Boil it down to the inherent differences between the sexes. What's more, there are good reasons for them to do so.
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, it may explain at least one of their shared beliefs: Men and women can't be real friends.
Blame the sexual tension that almost inevitably exists between any red-blooded, heterosexual man and woman. "The belief that men and women can't be friends comes from another era in which women were at home and men were in the workplace, and the only way they could get together was for romance," explained Linda Sapadin, a psychologist in Valley Stream, New York.
But there are so few platonic male-female friendships on display that we're at a loss to even define these relationships. A certain classic film starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal convinced a nation of moviegoers that sex always comes between men and women, making true friendship impossible. It's no wonder we expect that men and women are always on the road to romance. "I started my research because one of my best friends is a woman," said O'Meara.
"Even the most secure people in a strong marriage probably don't want a spouse to be establishing a new friendship, especially with someone who's very attractive," said Monsour.
" This is especially true, said O'Meara, of older adults, who grew up when men and women were off-limits to each other until marriage.
As the workplace and other social arenas become increasingly open to women, the sexes are mingling more and more.
Women spend the majority of their time together discussing their thoughts and feelings, while men tend to be far more group-oriented.
Males gather to play sports or travel or talk stock quotes; rarely do they share feelings or personal reflections.