There's an old question that asks if it is really possible for a man and a woman to be friends and remain friendly without becoming romantically involved. In modern times this question was the basis for a classic romantic comedy film released in 1989 - When Harry Met Sally - but it didn't start there, of course.
The tension that can result from a male and a female trying to be friends and avoid the entanglement that comes with having a sexual relationship has been a standard plot device since ancient times. Because it is such a basic but interesting question, and can be answered in so many ways, in our time it has become a mainstay of situation comedies, plays and movies. In the When Harry Met Sally movie, the couple stays friends for many years, but finally succumb to the need to be lovers and marry at the end. But is that the way it has to be - can we just be friends?
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Yes, if neither of us is available
To start with a somewhat cynical answer but an honest one, if neither you nor I (a man and a woman who are friends) is free to be in a romantic relationship, then there is a chance we'll stay friends. We are much more likely to be uninterested in taking our relationship to the romantic level if certain needs are being met in other ways - if we both have current lovers and are in relatively stable situations. The corollary to this statement is that if either one or both of us are not romantically involved, we are much more likely to become so with each other.
Yes, if we honestly have no chemistry
Most of us who have been around the block a couple of times and have had some relationship experience know what chemistry is. It's that spark between 2 people that tells them that a romance is possible because there is an attraction. It's a look that passes and lingers, and it's the thrill when an accidental touch becomes a purposeful touch. If any of these elements of chemistry are happening between a man and a woman, they may find it difficult to be just friends.
Yes, if we have a higher purpose
History and literature are full of stories of a couple who got together, became lovers while pursuing a common activity, split up, and continue doing what they were doing together. In modern times, we have couples in pop music like Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham who did this, and it happens in many creative endeavors. But it is just as possible that many men and women who are joyfully working together on a common project believe and behave as though they simply have to subsume their romantic feelings for a higher good.
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Yes, if we see each other as equals
If there is any disparity in power, salary, talent, or capability between a woman and a man who are trying to be friends, the chance that they will succeed is very low. This is because human nature makes us feel inferior and subservient even when the only source of that feeling is inside. Such a couple usually starts as friends but finds themselves on the road to romance as soon as each realizes that both can have their needs met in such a coupling.