Our culture has a weak paradigm for love and the expression of love outside of “romantic” and to some extent familial relationships. Therefore, all attraction and expressions of love outside of family are assumed to be “romantic”/sexual. Since our culture has no alternative, indeed these things must be “romantic”, for what other alternative is there? This explains the “When Harry Met Sally” notion that men and women can’t “just be friends”. Because close friendships will incite feelings, and the only context we know for feelings is a “romantic” one.
People develop friendships with each other. Friends will likely desire to be together and interact with one another. Friends can even experience types of attraction as one appreciates the other’s character, intellect, sense of humor, beauty, and/or other qualities. These friendships can be very deep, even intimate (intimate does not equal sex). A deep friendship will bring feelings of compassion, longing, and a desire for the other’s best. We’ve often limited these types of feelings to only being appropriate in a “romantic” relationship. Therefore, many people avoid getting too close or deep in a friendship because of the fear of it being improper (in addition to other typical fears of intimacy). This is very true for some people, though for some others it’s not much of an issue at all. It also holds more true for certain types of relationships than others.
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