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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.

The number of cross-sex friendships continues to decline with age—not surprising, because most older adults grew up in an age where consorting with the opposite sex outside of wedlock was taboo.

According to Rosemary Blieszner, at Virginia Tech and author of There are proven—and apparent—distinct differences between female friendship and male friendship.

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.

A simple, platonic hug could instantaneously take on a more amorous meaning.

"You're trying to do a friend-friend thing," said O'Meara, "but the male-female parts of you get in the way." Unwelcome or not, the attraction is difficult to ignore.

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."They learn their own ways of relating to each other.So when they do get together, inspired by puberty, they see each other as dating partners because they've never really known each other as friends." A surprisingly major factor in this phenomenon is the kids' own innate interest in children who act like they do.This may explain why they seem to get far more out of cross-sex friendship than their female counterparts.In Sapadin's study, men rated cross-sex friendships as being much higher in overall quality, enjoyment and nurturance than their same-sex friendships.

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