What Is A Platonic Friendship & Why They're Good To Have
Platonic friendships can be complicated. At their worst, you might end up in a jealous, frustrating relationship. At their very best, platonic relationships can enrich your life in countless ways. Boundaries can often get blurred in platonic friendships, and that can lead to hurt feelings or even a broken heart. This why it can be important to know what a platonic friendship is, and how to treat your platonic friends with respect. Once you understand your platonic friendship, you can work toward getting the most out of the relationship and learn how to truly enjoy each other’s company, even without a romantic element.
What Is A Platonic Friendship?
A platonic friendship is a close friendship between two people who are not dating or having sex. If the friendship moves beyond “just friends” then it is no longer platonic. A platonic friendship can be very close and meaningful, but it does not have a romantic element. You might love this person in the same way you love a brother or sister.
Sometimes platonic friendships evolve into relationships, in which case they cease being platonic, but sometimes you remain strictly friends. Platonic friendships could be between representatives of the same sex or representatives of different sexes, but people often feel the need to clarify that they are “strictly platonic” when there would be some potential for a more sexual relationship. Examples could include a friendship between two gay men, two gay women, or a heterosexual man and a heterosexual woman.
What A Platonic Friendship Isn't
Any type of romantic behavior being present in the relationship can move it into the friends-with-benefits or relationship territory. For example, you might kiss, cuddle, or hold hands—beyond the limits and boundaries of friendship. You might have secret feelings for a platonic friend, but if they have expressed that they think you work better as friends, and you respect them as a platonic friend and not just a potential sexual partner, it can be important to honor their wishes and not try to pressure them into being something more. Relationships change and evolve over time. You can be platonic friends with someone, then become a couple, then become platonic friends again. These are all parts of the cycles of life, and people can serve different purposes in your life at different times. So long as you maintain respect and communication, that’s what matters. A platonic friendship, and all friendships, are based on love and respect for another person, and that means respecting what you each want and don’t want.
The Benefits Of A Platonic Friendship
There are many benefits associated with platonic friendships. Here is a list of some reasons why you should consider having one or more of them:
What is life without our closest friends? A friend is someone to understand you, keep you company, and make you laugh. Sometimes your friendships become so close that they are more like family. Sometimes, societally, we overhype romantic relationships, as if having a boyfriend or girlfriend as a life partner is the most important thing in the world. If you have a close platonic friend, don’t let that societal pressure distract you. A platonic friendship can enhance the quality of your life, challenge your perspective, and make you feel loved and supported, all without sex or romance getting involved.
If you really admire and care for this person, you may find that a friendship with them is worth maintaining, even in the long run. Regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, or background, friendship is often a reason to celebrate. So, what does a healthy friendship look like?
A healthy, positive friendship means…
You respect each other’s opinions, even when you disagree,
You build each other up and compliment the best qualities in each other, rather than tearing each other down,
You are present both in the good times and the bad, and a friend is there for you, even if it is just to listen quietly,
You make each other laugh, and a similar sense of humor and outlook on life,
You can talk openly without feeling judged or embarrassed,
You try to stay in touch with each other, even in spite of distance or busy lifestyles,
You value each other’s opinions, and seek each other out for advice,
You’re open to being vulnerable and honest with each other,
You love each other, and you would feel a gap if this person were not your loyal companion.
Some people say that when you find a true friend, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That means that together, you are each better people than you are when you are separate. A friend adds value to your life, is loyal to you, and supports you in times of need. There are many benefits to a platonic friendship, regardless of whether or not you become romantic partners. You can have all these benefits with someone, even if they are of the opposite sex, or of the gender that you are primarily attracted to.
Improved Communication Skills
The dating process can put a lot of pressure on people. You may be nervous about what will happen and when, if there will be another date, if you are coming on too strong, or if you are moving too slow. Since you usually start dating someone who you don’t know too well yet, there can be a lot of conflicting interests and miscommunication.
Friendship can be an effective way to get to know someone without all the added pressures of dating. Since you know you are strictly friends, you might be willing to open up about things that you would not tell a potential sexual partner, especially early on. You may be able to talk more openly and get to know one another’s vulnerabilities with more ease.
A big part of love is accepting the messy parts of another person, not just their best version. And yet, sometimes we’re afraid to show our true selves in a new relationship. With our friends, it can be easier to be more silly, vulnerable, goofy, and even weak sometimes. In that way, friends get to fall in love with the real you.
It Can Give You A New Perspective
Every individual is unique, but many groups share similar ways of thinking, and having a friend in that group can give you some insight as to how they behave and what you can expect. You may be able to develop more empathy and compassion for those who are different than you because of your platonic friendships. For example, you might befriend someone with different political views or an individual who has a different sexual orientation than you. Maybe you get to know someone of a different gender or who grew up in a different area of the country or world than you did. Having friends who are different from you can help humanize them and lead to greater acceptance of others as well as yourself. You may come to see that we’re not all so different after all.
You Can Mutually Support One Another
One of the strongest benefits of a close friendship is consistent support from another person. It may be more common to see romantic partners represented in the media and in our lives as our life’s greatest source of support, but this isn’t always the case. Platonic friendships can fill you with satisfaction much like a romantic relationship could.
You can care for each other in times of illness or familial strife. You can help each other financially if one of you loses a job or has a problem with debts. Life can be full of difficult moments, and it can be comforting to have people you can depend on.
Even when there is no storm, a friend can be there to celebrate with you as well. On the days you have an important game, performance, exam, or something of that nature, your friend can be in the first row to cheer you on. Platonic friendships can also benefit your mental health by giving you an outlet for your thoughts; they can lower your stress levels and even decrease your blood pressure, allowing you to live a longer, healthier life.
Help You Identify Unhealthy Relationships
When we are caught in a bad relationship, sometimes we are the last to know. It can be easy to be manipulated into an unhealthy union, but your friends often notice from the outside. Having close, platonic friends may be helpful in times when an unhealthy relationship needs to be brought to light. Your friend might point out harmful behaviors or toxic traits that your significant other has in order to look out for you. If they’re being honest, they may also let you know when your behavioral patterns are unhealthy or unhelpful in the relationship. If you notice that your relationships keep failing, you can ask an honest, close friend for their opinion. A true friend is there to help you improve and offer insight that you might otherwise miss.
Trust Between Different Genders
When sex gets involved in a relationship, things can get complicated. Maybe all your role models of a certain sex have become estranged, or the relationship has otherwise become complex.
If you keep a relationship strictly platonic, then you can get to know someone of a specific sex who is consistent. Without more stressful feelings, you can build a solid friendship with someone you can depend on, and you may not need to worry about a breakup suddenly getting in the way, like you might need to worry about with a relationship.
In general, there may be less pressure, which allows the friendship to be more consistent over time. You don’t need to worry about fights with in-laws, or long-distance, or raising children in the same way that you would in a long-term relationship. Without these added complications, your friendship can show you what it really is to depend on and trust someone.
Friendship is all about respect. That means that if your friend wants to keep things platonic, you choose to respect their wishes even if you do not feel the same way. When that person draws a line, or asks you to take a step back, you do so, even when it hurts. You do not want to pressure someone or ruin a close friendship, so you respect any boundaries that they set.
Having a platonic friend can come with all sorts of implicit and explicit boundaries. Being platonic with someone often means you do not cuddle in bed together, or kiss on the lips, or otherwise act like boyfriend and girlfriend. Especially if you have been drinking together, or if you both feel curious and alone, there might be times when it’s tempting to cross those boundaries. However, a platonic friendship built on respect can create and maintain appropriate lines which are not to be crossed.
The key to any major move in your platonic friendship often comes down to communication. If you think things are moving toward friends with benefits, or toward a relationship, it can be imperative that you ask the right questions and listen with patience and openness. Before making any drastic moves, consider asking your friend about their boundaries and ensure they are comfortable. Find out what this will mean for your friendship. It may seem awkward or stunted in the moment, but it’s likely you’ll be happy you asked those questions later, when you are still able to maintain your healthy friendship.
Platonic friendships offer all the benefits of a normal friendship, and even more in some cases. A platonic friend can be your confidant, your support system, and your greatest critic, all wrapped into one person you love.
Still, it can be important to maintain boundaries with your platonic friend, especially if you are in a monogamous relationship with someone else. If your platonic relationship starts to move into romantic relationship territory and you find yourself flirting with a friend, it may be acceptable, so long as you have respect, communication, and consent from both people involved.
Online Counseling With ReGain
Platonic friendships can be deeply fulfilling, but they don’t always come without concerns. If you’re experiencing relational troubles with your friends, speaking with a counselor could help you sort your thoughts out. ReGain is an online therapy platform that provides services to individuals and couples. Whether you’d like to seek therapy alone or with a friend or romantic partner, the choice is yours. You can meet with your therapist using phone calls, video chats, or in-app messaging and meet at a time that is most convenient for you.
The Efficacy Of Online Counseling
Online therapy can be beneficial for helping individuals cope with symptoms of depression and anxiety, which may take a toll on their friendships. One study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that participants of an online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) showed improved mental health outcomes. Those who made it through the intervention experienced significant “recovery from depression and anxiety and an increased satisfaction with life. CBT is a therapeutic method that helps people reframe their unhelpful thought patterns that may lead to harmful behaviors in their friendships.
Friendships can greatly add to your life when they’re healthy and reciprocal. Having just one close friend in your corner can help you feel less alone in the world. Besides the many positive mental health effects friendships can have, they can also have physical benefits, such as lowered blood pressure. Ensuring you have healthy friendships in your life can take time, and it can be important to be patient as you wait for your circle to grow. If you’d like to improve your social skills or get advice about friendship, it could help to speak with an online therapist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the three types of friendship?
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, named three types of friendships:
Friendships of utility
Friendships of pleasure
Friendships of the good
Friendships of utility are when there’s an ulterior motive - a person is useful to you for one reason or another, and you’re useful to them. Maybe they’re the person who comes to the gym or a class with you, for example. Work-based friendships might also constitute this kind of friendship.
Friendships of pleasure are similar, but the benefit is pleasure, or fun. Maybe this is the friend you play sports with or go for drinks with on the weekend. It’s light-hearted and fun, rather than deep and serious.
Friendships of the good are like the ‘perfect friendship.’ You choose to be friends because you value and respect each other and want what’s best for the other person. You’re not in it because you want something out of it; you simply appreciate each other.
Interpersonal relationships come in different forms. We’ll come across many people in our lives, and they will be acquaintances, friends, clients, employers/employees, business partners, romantic partners, etc. We may become friends with lots of people, but our friendships will be different according to what we want and how we know these individuals.
What are the levels of friendship?
As we meet people and get to know them, they may pass through different levels of friendship. Our interpersonal relationships can change over time. Some people will stay at low levels of friendship, and others will become very close friends.
The levels are as follows:
Before we meet someone, they’re a stranger, because we don’t know them. They are at the lowest level. Very quickly, people become acquaintances, and many people stay acquaintances, especially in professional relationships. If we spend time with people and get to know them, it’s likely they will become casual friends, and they could become close friends or intimate friends after some time. Most people will be able to think of someone who fits into each of the lower categories, and many people will have close friends and intimate friends too. The intimate level is often reached over a long period of time and when people have vulnerability with each other. This is when someone feels comfortable with the other person knowing all about them.
What is a platonic friendship?
The definition of platonic is two-fold:
1: Relating to or characteristic of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (in this case, Platonic would be capitalized).
2: Relating to or characteristic of a relationship marked by the absence of sexual desire or romance.
A platonic friendship is a non-sexual relationship between two people who have the potential to be romantically or sexually attracted to each other.
Is platonic friendship possible?
Yes. Platonic friendship is possible and can be very beneficial. The definition of platonic is an intimate, close friendship without sex. Usually, the term ‘platonic friendship’ is used to talk about a friendship between representatives of the opposite sex, but it can also be used to talk about same-sex friendships too.
Can platonic friends fall in love?
Yes. However, when platonic friends fall in love, it changes the relationship from a platonic friendship to a romantic relationship. It may be that the relationship started as a platonic relationship and feelings heightened over time. Interpersonal relationships often change over time, and it can be normal for feelings to arise after spending a lot of time with someone and getting to know them. If platonic friends fall in love, in the romantic sense, then it’s no longer a platonic friendship.
What is a platonic love relationship?
A platonic love relationship is a platonic relationship with strong feelings of gratitude and fondness for each other. The two friends respect each other and look out for each other, but there is no sexual attraction or activity. A platonic love relationship can occur between members of any gender.
Is kissing platonic?
Different types of kisses can carry various meanings. Kissing can be platonic in some senses, such as a kiss on the cheek. For many people, kissing on the lips is more intimate and avoided in a platonic friendship or relationship. The definition of platonic is a friendship with no romance or sex. When we talk about platonic friendships, we don’t expect to be talking about kissing, as kissing is usually restricted to romantic or sexual relationships. More intimate kissing can lead to the relationship changing dynamics. If you want the relationship to change, you might work up the courage to kiss a platonic friend.
What is platonic flirting?
Platonic flirting is flirting with a platonic friend, with no intention of romance, and no desire for sex. You might find yourself giving your platonic friend compliments, touching their arm, or giggling with them. This can be natural and harmless, as long as both parties feel comfortable. Try to stay aware of your friend’s body language and pay attention to any cues that they want you to stop. Avoid taking it too far and be open with your friend about your feelings - if you are flirting with your platonic friend too much, it can lead to sexual tension, which can mean the end of the platonic friendship. It can also be important for those in the friendship to be open and honest with their partners (if they have one) about their platonic friendship. However, if someone is hiding their flirty friendship from their partner, they may consider whether it’s really just a platonic friendship or something more.
Can platonic friends cuddle?
Cuddling can look different for everyone. Platonic friends might cuddle with one another after setting boundaries about what that looks like. It could mean sitting close on the couch, giving long hugs, or putting your arms around one another to show care. If both people are comfortable with it and there are no romantic feelings involved, it is possible to remain platonic friends. When cuddling leads to sexual tension or attraction, it may signal the end of the platonic friendship.
Try to be communicative with your friend, then keep to the boundaries you’ve set with them. If you’re in a relationship with someone and worried about them cuddling with someone else, have a serious conversation with them about it. Don’t be afraid to be open about what you are comfortable or not comfortable with. Be open and firm, but polite with your thoughts and feelings, even if that means saying something like, “It makes me uncomfortable when you cuddle with your friends,” or “I don’t want to cuddle with you because I would like to keep our relationship platonic.”
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