Can men and women just be friends? This is a timeless question that spans the generations, and if you ask ten different people for their opinion on the subject, you will probably get ten different answers and reasons for why they believe what they believe. My opinion is that it depends on the people involved.
I think there are some people who can form friendships with the opposite sex, and have it remain a friendship and nothing more. They are aware of their own personal boundaries, and have the ability to enforce these boundaries at will. Most importantly, they are also able to distinguish the difference between friendship and a romantic relationship, which may be the key to their success.
There are others, however, who are not able to form successful friendships with the opposite sex. They may be too easily tempted by kindness and flirtation, or they may not be able to easily distinguish the difference between a friendship and a romantic relationship. Some may even have difficulty either setting boundaries or enforcing them. Regardless of the reason, some people simply should not form friendships with the opposite sex, as it just does not work for them. Regardless of which category you fall into, it is important to understand that given the nature of the male/female relationship, there are always risks associated with forming these friendships.
In order to form a true friendship, there must be an element of trust between both parties. This trust and understanding can cause a great deal of confusion if you are not careful. If this person becomes your confidante, for example, and you find yourself turning to them when life becomes difficult, or when you need advice, this understanding can easily be confused with romantic attraction. If you have ever had a friend or acquaintance that you suddenly find yourself looking at differently, in a more attractive and romantic way, then you know how easily the line between friendship and romantic attraction can be crossed.
Forming friendships with the opposite sex can become particularly complicated if you are already involved in a romantic relationship. This is especially true if you turn to your friend for advice about your relationship. Though turning to your friend may seem harmless, you could easily become attracted to their sympathy and compassion, and ultimately to them, especially if you are in a vulnerable state of mind. This could not only cause mixed emotions for you, but also friction between you and your significant other.
Also, as genuine of a friend as this person may seem, how can you ever be truly sure that their intention in the advice that they give you is meant with your best interest at mind? It is true that not everybody would take advantage of your vulnerability, and intentionally (or even subtly) lead you astray. The truth, however, is that you never really know what is going on in someone else's mind, and so you can never really be sure of their true intent. For all you know, this person is just waiting for you to be single again so that they can build on the relationship that you have already allowed them to establish with you. After all, why is it that they are taking valuable time out of their hectic life to console you? Why would they break their own plans simply to listen to you complain about your relationship? And why do they care so much about your personal life if not to become more of a part of it?
My intent is not to evoke fear, or to advise you not to trust anyone of the opposite sex. My intent is to simply illustrate how the male/female friendship is extremely complex. If you insist on forming friendships with the opposite sex, at least take a few minutes to set some ground rules. Decide what you will and will not discuss with this person, and make sure that your relationship with this friend is clearly defined in your own mind before you choose to pursue it. If this sounds like too much work, play it safe, and simply do not turn to your girl/guy friend for consolation.
In the end, everybody is different. Some people can form successful friendships with members of the opposite sex, while others are better off staying clear of them. There is no right or wrong answer, because no situation is ever black and white. Just remember that sometimes it is not so much a matter of whether or not you choose to form these friendships, as it is about the boundaries you set for yourself and your willingness to stick to them that can make all the difference.