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Have eyes for your 'platonic' pal? You and your spouse may be on the outs

If your relationship is on the skids, your partner's opposite-sex "friend" may become your replacement, according to a new study that seeks to answer that perennial dating nugget: Can men and women really be friends?

Men and women both felt less satisfied with their partners once a friend of the opposite sex appeared attractive to them, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire discovered. Still, they're unsure if these friendships actually hindered romantic relationships, or whether people sought out "platonic" liaisons as their relationships were already flailing.

"Attraction in friendship is happening, and it's persistent," lead author April Bleske-Rechek told Postmedia News' Misty Harris, who wrote that: "Notably, this seems to occur even when both parties claim genuinely platonic intentions."

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Chalk it up to evolution, the authors write in the study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

"Because cross-sex friendships are a historically recent phenomenon, men's and women's evolved mating strategies impinge on their friendship experiences."

And men seem to be leading the charge: "Men have evolved to be far more sexually opportunistic," said Dr. Bleske-Rechek, who teaches psychology at the school.

In one of two studies making up the research, 88 opposite-sex friend pairs were separated and then grilled on their friendships. Men highballed their female friends' attraction to them, while women lowballed it.

The second study involved 400 adults aged 18 to 52, who were asked to list the costs and benefits of their opposite-sex friendships, as well as how fulfilled they were in their current romantic relationship. Younger women as well as middle-aged participants of both sexes reported the greater their attraction to a friend, the lower their satisfaction with a romantic partner.

What has your experience been with "platonic" friends of the opposite sex? Has it encroached on your romantic relationships?

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Zosia More

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