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If men and women are to work, play and coexist in modern society, researchers believe men and women must learn to understand and communicate with each other.
The field of research is still in its infancy, but they are now beginning to understand some basic truths about male-female friendship: Not until high school does puberty really draw boys and girls together, which then continues into college.
But as people develop serious romantic relationships or get married, making and maintaining cross-sex friendships becomes harder.
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.
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.
People with close friends of the opposite sex are often barraged with nudging, winking and skepticism: "Are you really just friends?