I am a Ph.D. wildlife conservation biologist and zoo professional who has worked with hundreds of species of animals over the last three decades. I have come to appreciate that whatever humans might think about their own uniqueness in love, life, and the pursuit of happiness, the animal kingdom has seen it all and more. A few years ago, some friends of mine decided to ask me how some of their personal issues would be viewed by a biologist with a literal bird’s-eye view of an endless variety of animal behavioral and social biology. They liked what they heard. This was followed by a few lectures on the subject and so now, I am opening up the floor to you.
Image courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society
Dear Dr. Dan,
Can men and women be friends?
All social animals benefit from a range of inter-individual relationships in a social group. While “friendship” is not easy to assess biologically, “partnerships” are observed frequently in tag team hunting strategies among wolves and lions, and very clearly among pair-bonded males and females of virtually all the animal species that form pair bonds. Among humans, male-female friendships are common among relatives, children, between generations, and more recently, among work colleagues. Also, some of the best advice out there is to marry someone who can be a friend as well as a mate. Of course, the spotlight is usually on those young male-female friendships that get complicated by hidden agendas, generally to do with the unwelcome libido of one or the other. So yes, men and women can be friends if friendship is the clear objective, but no, for those men and women who interpret all positive interactions with the opposite sex as courtship.
[Image from Starkinsder.com]