In opposite sex friendships, establishing and maintaining boundaries is key for a healthy relationship.
Each relationship is different, but communicating certain boundaries within that friendship can prevent it from escalating to something more if it’s not wanted.
Tim Eicher, associate professor of family studies, said to avoid taking the relationship into the friends-with-benefits realm because it can further complicate the relationship if there is no intention of a commitment.
“I think sex and sexuality changes the nature of relationships,” Eicher said. “[Sexuality] biochemically changes how we feel about each other.”
The dynamic may change if two friends venture into this level of friendship furthering, the complication of the relationship.
Also, other relationships can help determine the guidelines a person may follow in his or her same sex friendships.
Matthew Winder, a junior English major from American Fork, said being married changes how he interacts with his female friends.
“Obviously I don’t hang out with them alone,” Winder said. “Normally, if I do hang out with girlfriends, [it’s] in groups. [I] try not to get into intimate situations at all.”
Establishing personal limits and recognizing the comfort levels of others can be beneficial in the friendship.
Alex Seegrist, a senior biology major from West Jordan, said he is sure to make the girl feel comfortable around him but sets personal limits for himself in order to avoid offending her.
“You don’t want to go too far,” Seegrist said. “You get too far into their personal bubble then they’ll just run away.”
Also, being aware that males and females have different communication styles can help with establishing these boundaries.
Eicher said men and women communicate differently. Males tend to have a more direct communication style, and women tend to have a less direct approach.
For example, if a man is interested in a woman, he is more likely to ask her out, whereas a woman would show her intentions more indirectly, Eicher said.
“She needs to know that he’s got something else in mind [by asking her out],” Eicher said.
If this situation occurs, Eicher said to make his or her intentions known immediately if he or she has a romantic interest. This will help to define the relationship boundaries.
Paige Conrow, a senior communication major from Bigfork, Mont., said it’s beneficial to define the friendship between the opposite sexes. Giving verbal cues to the other person and letting him or her know it is just a friendship will help prevent any confusion.
Maintaining friendships with this dynamic can be difficult, but there are things a person can do to sustain it.
Eicher said spending time together is a healthy way to maintain any relationship, not just one involving the opposite sex, and being supportive in each other’s interests can help preserve the friendship.