It is definitely possible for a man and a woman to have a truly platonic friendship. Frequently, we come into a new romantic relationship having a group of friends who are already a part of our lives. Some of these people may be relatively new friends and others may have been friends of ours since middle school or college.

If you are lucky enough to have a fun and caring set of friends, you are way ahead of the game in terms of life satisfaction. It means you are a fun person to be around and people like you–hopefully both women and men. Usually those friendships are just friendships for a reason. Either the option of romance was never there to begin with or the idea was considered and discarded due to lack of mutuality or discovering that they are not a romantic “fit”.

While some people have friends of only one gender, that is actually pretty uncommon these days. Most people have friends of both genders, and if they are lucky, they have friends of different cultural backgrounds and age groups too. Be careful if your romantic partner tries to separate you from your friends because you are now in a relationship with each other.

On the other hand, if you do know that you and one of your friends have a powerful sexual chemistry, it probably makes sense to step back and give that relationship a little space. You might lower the intensity of the friendship by spending less time with that person. Don’t use the pretense of “friendship” as a rationale for stirring up unnecessary jealousy in your romantic relationship. Being courteous to your partner and acting with integrity matter a great deal in creating a fulfilling and trusting relationship.

We have come a long way from the days when having an opposite sex friendship could fit into only one category—a budding romance. While there are certainly people in friendships who have romantic or sexual feelings for one another, this isn’t true of all opposite sex friendships. Even if those feelings are present in one of the friends, mature adults know when to express those feelings and how modulate them and channel them into the friendship in a healthy way.

Real friends don’t mess with the other person’s intimate relationships. Instead, real friends support us in making our relationships work and help us get through the rough times with our romantic partner.