What Are Platonic Relationships?
Many people think of romance when they hear the word “relationship,” but there are many ways to connect with other people that have nothing to do with romantic love or sex. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato theorized that people could transform the erotic impulses they would typically feel for someone of the opposite sex (or a potential mate of any gender) into desexualized motivations that serve a higher purpose and allow you to build a network of important people in your life. Read on to learn more about platonic love, how it can benefit your life, and how therapy can help you build strong, healthy relationships—platonic or otherwise.
What Is Platonic Love?
Professionals in the mental health field typically define platonic love as a non-romantic and non-sexual connection between two people who could see each other as attractive and viable potential partners.
“A platonic relationship is one with no romantic or sexual features, but it means more than ‘just friends.’ According to the ancient philosopher Plato, for whom the concept is named, this bond is a type of love experienced when we identify positive qualities we feel complete us, within another person.” — This Is Platonic Love
Comparing Platonic And Romantic Relationships
- Deep Friendship
- Complex Emotional Intimacy
- Meets Some Emotional Needs
- No sex or sexual physical intimacy
- Generally no desire for sex or physical intimacy on either side
- Deep Friendship
- Complex Emotional Intimacy
- Meets Some Emotional Needs
- Typically includes sex and intimacy
- Both partners usually have a desire for sex and physical intimacy
Platonic Vs. Unrequited Love: What’s The Difference?
Despite what the media says about the so-called “Friend Zone,” there’s a big difference between platonic and unrequited love. Unrequited love involves one person maintaining a friendship as they pine for the other person (with or without expressing their feelings). Platonic love transforms potential romantic love for someone into a productive non-sexual connection that adds value to your life or helps complete you in some way. Platonic relationships are often friends who understand you without explanation.
Some people who feel they’ve been “friend zoned” can develop anger, resentment, or hurt feelings if they aren't seen in a romantic light. It may never have even occurred to the other person to change the relationship dynamic because it is platonic for them.
Characteristics Of Platonic Love
- Respected Boundaries
- Lack of Romantic or Sexual Attraction
Benefits Of Platonic Relationships
Explore some of the ways platonic relationships exert a positive influence on your life.
Stress can have many detrimental physical, mental, and emotional effects on you. Still, studies show that supportive platonic relationships can help you cope with stressful situations more effectively and reduce your overall stress level.
Platonic relationships are often a reliable source of emotional support and a sympathetic ear to actively listen when you need to talk through your problems. Robust emotional support can be a massive benefit to your life.
When you have people who love and understand you to lean upon in times of trouble, it can make you a more resilient person who overcomes obstacles easier and with fewer adverse emotional reactions.
Decreased Mental Health Issues
Platonic love can help you feel like a complete person. It’s not healthy to receive everything you need from one person. You may love your partner, but they should not be your only source of love, friendship, companionship, emotional support, comfort, advice, etc. When you have platonic relationships to lean on—especially during troubles with your partner—being able to talk constructively about problems can reduce your risk of developing a mental health condition.
Better Immune System And Health
Studies show that positive relationships that make you feel supported, accepted, and understood can benefit your overall health in surprising ways, such as boosting the strength of your immune system. Good friends can lower your risk of disease.
Examples Of Platonic Relationships
- Work Wife/Work Husband
- Best Friend
- Workout Friend
- Cousin or Other Relative
Tips For Maintaining Platonic Relationships
Given the numerous positive ways they can affect your life, it makes sense that maintaining your platonic relationships would be a priority for you. Keep those connections strong with these tips.
Remember That Both Sides Should Make An Effort
It can be essential to remember that you both have your own lives, and genuine relationships require effort on both sides. If they are always the one who has to initiate contact, make the trip to see you, or ensure you are included in events, you may be placing an unfair burden on them by not taking your fair share of responsibility to maintain the bond.
Stay In Touch
Life is chaotic, and people get busy. Your platonic friends understand that, but they may appreciate a simple text or email to say, “I was thinking of you. How’s your day going?” If you have a few minutes free, try calling them and see if they have time to catch up. You may see something funny scrolling on social media and feel an impulse to share it with them—do it! They will likely appreciate proof that you care, and it may feel like you pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it's been.
Be There When They Need You
If they've been there for you when things were terrible and helped you work through it, make sure you show up for them, too. Reciprocate the platonic love, emotional support, understanding, and unconditional acceptance they offer.
Can Platonic Relationships Become Something More?
Some platonic relationships progress to something more, typically after an event that makes one or both partners realize their feelings have evolved. Human beings grow and change as we experience new things, and you may notice different qualities about your friend that inspire a different set of feelings in you. Recent research indicates as much as two-thirds of romantic couples started as friends, though not necessarily as the more profound emotional intimacy of platonic love.
For some people, their shared history and emotional intimacy can lead to romantic feelings. A close platonic friend likely knows about all your past relationships, how you were treated—and how you acted. However, you also already know nearly everything about each other and are motivated to make each other happy.
Questions To Answer Before Changing A Platonic Relationship
- Do you both have the same relationship goals?
- Can you see the relationship becoming marriage and forever? If not, it may not be worth risking such a meaningful friendship.
- Do you have a plan to rebuild the friendship if things don’t end well?
- Are you interested in a romantic relationship with your platonic friend because you love and want to be with them, or because they are a convenient or “safe” choice who makes you happy enough?
- Do you have practical ideas about how the nature of the relationship will change?
- Are you ready to talk about romantic and sexual expectations?
- Do you actually have sexual chemistry, or was it a passing idea?
- How will it affect your shared friends if the romance goes poorly?
- Are you prepared to risk the friendship for the chance at romance?
How Therapy Can Help You Build Healthy Relationships
Many people have trouble forming and maintaining healthy relationships for various reasons. Whether you tend to fall for people who don't feel the same way, struggle to keep friends, or don't know how to relate to people, consider working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual relationship teletherapy platform like Regain. Therapy can help you learn coping skills to manage your stress and emotional reactions, communication strategies to relate to and comprehend the people in your life, and teach you the emotional intelligence, awareness, and literacy to recognize, understand, and express your feelings. Parents or guardians seeking online therapy for kids 12 to 19 can contact TeenCounseling for assistance.
Recent studies have examined the efficiency of psychotherapy in different formats and discovered that online and in-person therapy offer similar outcomes. However, many patients reported lower costs and shorter wait times with virtual treatments. Additionally, digital therapy platforms provide access to a comprehensive network of mental health professionals, making it far more likely that you'll connect with a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and works well with your needs, personality, and situation.
Platonic relationships can bring many benefits to your life. This article offers insight into how to define platonic love, what it looks like, how it helps you, and how therapy can help you build healthier, stronger friendships and relationships.
Can a romantic relationship turn platonic?
Yes, a romantic relationship can transition platonically due to various factors or reasons. Most relationships go through their seasons of rough patches and challenges. Some of these issues are easy to solve, while sometimes, it seems your relationship keeps taking a downward turn and it can be difficult to tell if your relationship is just going through a rough time or the relationship is truly coming to an end. People in relationships may get to a point where they no longer feel an emotional connection or sexual desire towards their significant other, and this may make their romantic love and relationship gradually grow platonically. For the relationship to truly reach this state, though, all parties need to be on the same page.
Additionally, in some situations in which a romantic relationship did not successfully work out, the individuals may decide to move on romantically but still keep in touch and remain friends. They may only exhibit platonic love to one another, and after breaking up they might say, “we love each other, but as friends” or “we were better off as friends.”
What does it mean to have a platonic friendship?
Having platonic love and friendship with someone simply means a healthy and deep friendship with no sexual desires attached. Platonic love or friendship was named after the Greek philosopher Plato, who says that love is the impulse or motivation that makes us discover, understand, and experience true beauty. The platonic love relationship can be deep and intense and can form some of life's longest and best relationships. Platonic love can help to increase a sense of belonging and promote better health outcomes. It can improve our self-confidence and can also boost our mental health because it helps to reduce anxiety and stress. The different types of love we have in our lives and how well we maximize them can help us live life to the fullest.
Can a marriage be platonic?
This is very possible. Although the common thing is to see a marriage between two people who are in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together, marriage platonically with platonic love also exists. The choice to get married is solely on the people going into it; the law doesn't exactly care if you both are in love or not. Marriage platonically is generally between people who are just friends with no romantic love or emotional attachment involved. The reason people do this may vary – for some, it is because they want a family at the time and haven't found someone they are in love with yet, so the easier option was their close friend. For some, it could be that the two of them are both aromantic, and although they both lack the desire for romantic relationships, they decide to get married to each other.
In other instances, a marriage that began romantically may evolve platonically over time. This type of marriage platonically can work, but only if both partners are on the same page with being platonic and still feel content in the marriage.
Does platonic mean just friends?
What is an example of a platonic relationship?
What is a platonic boyfriend?
Can you kiss in a platonic relationship?
Can you fall in love platonically?
Is a platonic relationship cheating?
Can you cuddle in a platonic relationship?
Is love romantic or platonic?
Are platonic relationships healthy?
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