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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.

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"You know you love someone and enjoy them as a person, but not enough to date or marry them. " The reality that sexual attraction could suddenly enter the equation of a cross-sex friendship uninvited is always lurking in the background.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.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.But as people develop serious romantic relationships or get married, making and maintaining cross-sex friendships becomes harder.

"Even the most secure people in a strong marriage probably don't want a spouse to be establishing a new friendship, especially with someone who's very attractive," said Monsour.

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.

Called "voluntary gender segregation," it continues into adulthood. "Men go off to one corner, and women go to another." These obstacles may seem numerous and formidable, but male-female friendship is becoming not only a possibility but also a necessity.

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.

"They learn their own ways of relating to each other.