Rule #19: Men and women can’t be “friends”
Harry : You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally : Yes I do.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally : Yes I do.
Harry : You only think you do.
Sally: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally : They do not.
Harry : Do too.
Sally : How do you know?
Harry : Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally : So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry : No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally : What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry : Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally : Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Quote from 1988 movie: When Harry met Sally
Virtually every woman that I have shared this rule with has argued with me that the rule does not apply to them- and everyone of them has within 5 years came back to me saying that I might be right. So as much as you might be saying to yourself right now, “Dad doesn’t understand people of my generation ” , I ask that you suspend your disbelief and hear me out.
My rule is based on a couple facts about people.
1. Humans beings are Animals:
Humans beings are mammals, and regardless of your position on evolution we have a great deal in common with our fellow animals:
- Animals eat. Human beings also have to eat.
- Animals sleep. Human beings also need sleep.
- Animals have sex to procreate. Humans also have sex.
- Animals defend themselves; they fight. Human beings also have to defend themselves
Yes, we have larger brains that can manage abstract thought but it doesn’t change the animal nature that underlies our thinking. We have the ability discriminate between things and postpone gratification, but in the end we are driven by the desire to eat, sleep, have sex and survive.
2. We are born with an attraction to one sex or another.
Rarely will I find it necessary to quote Lady GaGa but I have to agree with the title of her song ” Born This Way” that ultimately we are born with a preference. This is not saying anything about the moral issues around homosexuality or bi-sexuality, it just states that the survival of the human race requires mating between men and women.
As an aside I will state my views about homosexuality so that you are not left with a lingering doubt about what Dad thought about the issue.
I am a conservative, who believes in a higher power (God) and believes that there are clear moral positions of right and wrong that guide us in life. I also believe it is God’s plan that human beings continue to be successful on the earth, and as such it is important that there are more generations of people- and that requires heterosexual sex.
Although I understand and see this as an important part of us as a people, I do not know what God’s plans are for each of us. I do know that many wonderful kind, smart and good people are born with a perferance for a same sex partner. My sole criteria for evaluating a person is how they treat others in their lives. Regardless of who or what they choose to sleep with and how or where they choose to do so, the only important issue is how they treat others.
I’ve thought as most parents have, how would I feel if I had a gay son, daughter or gay grandchild? And the truthful answer is a bit sad. Not sad for me but for knowing that someone I loved faces a life filled with intolerance and at times isolation. Not sad that they are gay, but sad that they live in a world that treats them so badly.
I want my children to be proud of who they are, and I hope that over the next decades that we as a society become more focused on what a person does outside the bedroom than in it.
Saying all this just reinforces my central ideas is that we are born with a hard wired preference sexually.
3. Everyone one you see or meet will be filtered through this sexual preference- Everyone!
People do an instant sort of people when they meet each other based on the evaluation of that other person in terms of your sexual attractiveness. No one ever looks at someone who meets their definition for “sexually attractive” and ignores it, it becomes the first decision in the relationship and from then on defines all other parts of the relationship.
This sorting of people occurs a primal force, and I would argue that one that can not be avoided. It however, can be managed.
Just because you find the check out person at the Wallmart attractive doesn’t mean that you have selected her for a possible mate. You have the ability as thinking people to say yes or no to a further relationship based on all the other issues that impact a potential mate.
4. Men do not draw a distinction between friendship and sexual relationship
In humans the males have hard wiring for pursuing and wooing attractive mates. Its the same in the animal kingdom where one sexually partner is the hunter and the other the hunted. Evolution has give the pursuer skills and attributes to be more successful at being a pursuer, and the pursued different skill and assets to become more successful at being pursued.
The nature of man is that built on stimulis and response. Each interaction teaches a man what is more successful in mating than other things. Things obvious like someone smiling, laughing at your jokes and making eye contact all lead to more successful potential mating encounters.
I believe that this evaluation of responses from women is what makes men cheat with their secretaries, co-workers and others that they are put into routine situations with on a daily basis. Woman may be just being polite and friendly, and men can take it as a green light to a relationship.
Basically it comes down to men being stupid in the processing of cues.
But saying they are stupid is another way of saying way they are overly optimistic.
All men when given positive cues will view the cues in an extremely positive light- it is what allows the male sex to keep pursuing females despite rejection.
So stupidity is a survival skill.
Now, women are not going to get off the hook.
Women claim to be above it all, and just be friendly to others and dress attractively because the like to feel go about themselves. And although the statements are both true, the nature of females is to be worthy of pursuit and of interest by males. So, they are reinforced by positive reactions of all males to their personalities, appearance and dress which tells a woman they are on the right track. It isn’t that the 23 year old is trying to be flirt with the 63 year old married man next door as a partner, but when he flirts back it does it make a the woman feel good.
Humans tend to keep doing things that get something out of, and these exchanges cause both men and women to receive positive reinforcement of behavior.
So why can’t men be friends with women?
Because men and women can not turn off the exchange.
Men ultimately can not help themselves in presenting behaviors that pursue women, and women can not help themselves from presenting behaviors that attract men- It is as Lady GaGa says..it is the way we were born.
What men and women need to do is to use their brains and control the urges and desires that drive them. And this is possible.
But it has to have rules. In your professional lives I have some clear rules which need to be follow:
- Do not go to lunch , drinks or dinner with any person of the opposite sex ALONE unless you intend to puruse a relationship- the chances of one of you misreading the cues are too high.
- Do not engage in flirting or sexually charges joking, unless you either want a date or want a lawsuit.
- Never touch a co-workers. Backrubs, hand stroking and knee touching are ways to send seriously wrong messages.
Yes, the workplace is the incubator of many successful relationship, but understand the pursuit is dangerous to your career and reputation. I urge you to be virtually sexless in your professional exchanges with the other sex.
On a personal level since men and women can’t turn the desire level off there is an extremely high probability that one of you engaging in a platonic friendship wants it to become sexual and emotional.
This probability goes up with mutual attraction:
- Man is attractive to the woman, woman is not attactive to the woman (83% chance of sexual relationship)
- Woman is attractive to man, man is not attractive to the woman (72% chance of sexual relationship)
- Woman and man are attractive to each other ( 90% chance of a sexual relationship)
- Neither the man or woman are attractive to each other ( 50% chance of sexual relationship)
These probabilities DO NOT decrease if one or the other participant is in a committed relationship, in fact they increase.
If you are engaging in a platonic friendship with an committed person their is an imbalance in the relationship. Too many opportunities to share confidential information becomes a receipe for failure.
One exception to the rule is couples being friends with other couples.
The mechanism which draws couples together is able to control when there is another partner present. The power and control exchanges are much different and couples can be friends with other couples.
I know that all this sounds cynical and a bit sad, but I’m trying to save you a great deal of hurt. Almost everyone that I’ve known in my life has ignored this rule only to cause hurt to themselves or others.
People are not nearly as complex as they seem and are driven by the same set of forces- eat, sleep, have sex, and survive.