What Is Platonic Love & Why You Need It

Updated November 11, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Karen Devlin, LPC

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Platonic love is something we hear little about, but it plays an important role in our lives. Do you know what it is and what it can do for you? It is time to change everything you thought you knew about relationships. Discover what is platonic love and why you need it as well as what it is not, and what you should do if someone you love, loves someone else.

What Is Platonic Love?

The term, "platonic love" is an idea that comes from ancient Greek philosophy. The great writer and thinker Plato (c. 428 BCE-c. 348 BCE) touched on the idea in his famous dialogue, "Symposium," (although he never actually used the term itself).

Written as a series of speeches which explore the various concepts of love, the reader is left with an understanding that love goes far beyond physical attraction. In fact, love exists in intellectual and spiritual forms too.

Today, we have simplified Plato's point of view. Love based on sexual attraction and physical intimacy is referred to as romantic love. While love, that has no romantic intent or sexual attraction is understood as platonic love.

Platonic love can come from anywhere, but most generally it is used to describe strong friendships. In platonic love, there is no sex, no attraction, and no romantic involvement. The relationships often occur within the same gender, but heterosexual platonic love is common too. This type of love transcends gender, age, race, and sexual orientation to bring two people together.

In platonic love, both parties feel overwhelming gratitude, fondness, and interest for one another. These relationships, which often grow from typical friendships, turn into deeper and stronger bonds. Individuals who say they are in a platonic relationship talk frequently about their intense longing to be with one another, and their unique ability to stay emotionally and mentally connected despite living in opposite areas of the globe, or through temporary separations.

Why Do You Need Platonic Love?

Think of platonic love like having a best friend who is just as close to you as a spouse or beloved family member. Sometimes, the connection is even greater. There are many benefits to having a relationship like this. Here are just a few to consider:

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It Is Comfortable

Platonic friendships, unlike romantic relationships which often need a lot of work, tend to flow naturally. They are open and honest, and both parties feel comfortable sharing themselves with each other. In platonic friendships, you can speak your mind, be yourself, and have a safe space. You can take comfort in knowing the person you are sharing yourself with will never push physical intimacy on you, and they will respect your boundaries no matter what.

It Is Easy

Platonic love is effortless. Just as two close friends can spend hours talking with one another, or get lost on an adventure of their own, platonic friendship is capable of the same. Such interactions just tend to happen more often in this type of relationship. A true platonic friend fully accepts you no matter who you are too, meaning you will never be forced to put on a mask or be someone you are not when you are with them.

It Is Powerful

Very few words accurately describe just how intense platonic love is. Think of it as having a soulmate, but in a non-romantic sense. Individuals in platonic relationships are often very vocal about how important it is to spend time together and how much they need the other person around. This type of behavior is not the same as a lover who is too clingy. The connection in a platonic friendship is a spiritual love, one where the presence of one another is central to each person's well-being.

No Pressure

Because there is a lack of romantic interest in platonic relationships, many challenging situations do not happen. There will never be pressure to get married, have kids, be physically intimate, or take part in any other behavior that happens in typical relationships.

No Obligations

Sexual relationships come with a lot of unique insecurities. Moving the relationship at the right pace, the pressure to be intimate, and suspicions of infidelity are just a few, but in a platonic friendship, none of the above will matter. Because there is no end-goal to this type of relationship, the bond can form naturally and freely. Being there for one another is all that is important.

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Deep Connection

Have you ever thought about someone, and then they immediately called? Some would argue it is because you are deeply connected. Platonic love, while not always as supernatural, does have its fair share of personal moments because of deep connections. With the ability to openly speak any thought, feeling, or idea with one another, a strong foundation of trust forms. The more trust two people have for one another, the closer they are.

More Love

It is a proven fact that the more support you have, the happier you will be. While you likely have a romantic partner or family members who care deeply for you, there is no harm in opening your arms to others who will appreciate you. Even a spouse cannot meet your every need all the time. In these cases, a platonic friend is there.

Someone Sees The Real You

Platonic friendships need a strong intellectual and spiritual connection to exist. This means opening yourself up in ways that many other people would judge. If someone accepts everything about you and loves you just the same, their friendship becomes a safe place where you can just be you. Having a place with zero judgment is hard to come by in today's world. Being able to share that with someone is truly unique in our society.

But Keep In Mind…

No matter how powerful and secure platonic love can be, it is also important to understand what it is not. Violating the trust of someone who is only looking for a platonic relationship can have a devastating impact on them. Before you decide if this type of love is right for you, make sure you are not in it for the following reasons:

A Door In

You might think that a platonic relationship is a great way to get to know someone better, especially if you are physically attracted to them but do not have the confidence to let them know. Part of the appeal of a platonic relationship is that there is no pressure for romance, but if you think you might be able to change their mind in the future, you are already breaking your potential partner's trust.

Platonic relationships are not a way to test the waters, nor should they be used as an opportunity to show someone what you can offer them. If someone agrees to build a platonic relationship with you, they have no interest in taking things further physically. Respect their boundaries and avoid a bait and switch.

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To "Help" Them

Maybe the person you want to connect with is in a bad romantic relationship. Maybe they are making poor financial or career decisions. No matter what your opinion of how they live their life is, do not try to befriend them to help them navigate their challenges.

Friends are supposed to be there for one another, and in platonic love even more so. But even in the shallowest of friendships, it takes time to build up to that kind of trust. Do not try to come in to save the day. Express your genuine concern about their choices when the time is right.

You Need Someone To Talk To

A platonic relationship needs commitment. This commitment needs to come from a place of sincere love for this person. Do not try to connect with someone simply because you're bored or need someone to talk to. A friend is not your personal form of entertainment. If you are not truly invested in growing a deep relationship with someone, stay far from platonic love.

"Is It Okay If My Partner Is In Platonic Love"?

On a final note, partners of people who are in a platonic relationship might be wondering if their loved one's behavior is normal. Feelings of jealousy, concern, and loneliness might come up from time to time as you watch the person you give your heart to bond with someone else.

There is no right or wrong way to feel when your partner has a platonic relationship. But, take confidence in knowing that in true platonic love, there is no threat to your relationship. The reason the connection is so deep is that the person you love is having a need fulfilled that otherwise would stay unmet.

You might think you should be the person meeting all the needs of your lover, but people are incredibly complex. Sometimes what brings complete contentment is not romantic love. If you want to learn new ways to be there for your significant other, simply ask them what they need or speak with a licensed professional at ReGain. There is a way your partner can nurture their relationship with you, and keep their platonic love.

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Platonic love is complex, and hard to understand. This is because we are so used to understanding love in a physical sense. If you open your mind to what love can be, you can enjoy all the benefits of a relationship that speaks to you intellectually and spiritually. Remember, a platonic relationship is special and requires care. Trust is the foundation. If your partner's platonic friendship is bothering you, share your thoughts with them, and work toward understanding a broader definition of the word love.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the meaning of platonic love?

When we hear the word love, usually, we think of romantic love. However, romantic love is not the only kind of love there is. Platonic love is a type of love that is not sexual or romantic. Likely, you've said "I love you" to a very close friend more than once. A close friendship is an example of a modern interpretation of what we know or refer to as platonic love. Platonic love generally exists in long-lasting friendships or connections. The idea of platonic love is nothing new and has been around for a long time. 

The word "platonic" stems from the well known Greek philosopher Plato. Although greek philosopher Plato did not coin the term "platonic," he did share philosophies about love. In Plato's symposium, he wrote, "The truth is that we isolate a particular kind of love and appropriate it for the name of love, which really belongs to a wider whole." Another famous quote from Plato's symposium reads, "Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature."

Also in plato's symposium, Greek philosopher Plato described different types of love by talking about a "ladder of love." The ladder of love in Plato's symposium consisted of six steps or types of love. When talking about the ladder of love in Plato's symposium, he ordered the steps from physical attraction to deep soul connections. Since the time of Plato's symposium, which dates back to 385-370 BC, our knowledge about love and different types of love has grown immensely, but the work is still used and referred to often when talking about love. 

Can you be platonically in love with someone?

You can love someone platonically, but it won't look the same as a relationship with a romantic subject of love. Platonic lovers are connected deeply and have a special understanding of one another. Platonic relationships, platonic friends, and platonic lovers are often sacred. This is a soulful bond where two human beings care for each other deeply, which is something we all need in our lives. When two human beings love each other platonically, they will be very close, possibly to the point that others think that they could be in a romantic relationship despite the fact that that's not the case. The characteristics of platonic love outlined in this article show why it is important and why it isn't the same as falling in love with someone the way that people who are in romantic partnership would. 

Is kissing platonic?

Technically, kissing can very well be platonic. For example, a close friend or family member might kiss someone on the cheek. That's not necessarily romantic. That said, kissing is most certainly not always platonic. If you are dating someone and kiss someone outside of the relationship on the lips, for example, it would mean that you're stepping outside in the relationship in most cases. Of course, normalities related to kissing vary from culture to culture, which is an important thing to recognize when you meet other people.

Are platonic relationships healthy?

Having platonic relationships is both healthy and necessary. Social relationships are crucial to our emotional and physical well-being, so having people in our lives that we love but aren't necessarily romantically or sexually attracted to is incredibly valuable. There are many types of love that we might experience with other human beings, including platonic love romantic love, unrequited love or love where someone doesn't love you back, and familial love, for example. In the Middle Ages, there were rules and ideas affiliated with a type of love called courtly love, which has since passed. Greek philosophers had names for the different types of love, such as "eros" and "storge" love. Most people have multiple types of love in their lives, or at least the potential to have multiple types of love in their lives. For example, there are many people who love or have love for family members, friends, and a romantic partner or partners. It is beneficial to have a variety of loving relationships in your world, and unless the bond is toxic in and of itself, platonic relationships are there to enhance your life. 

What is a platonic girlfriend?

When the word "girlfriend" is used platonically, it is usually just referring to a friend that is a girl. For example, if someone says that they are going to "go hang out with their girlfriends," it may very well refer to a group of that person's friends that are female. These platonic friendships can be extremely close and should be celebrated. Love can light a fire in us, but it doesn't always mean that you're more than friends. Some people even celebrate platonic love on Valentine's Day by giving their friends a valentine. Though Valentine's Day is something that human beings once thought of as being strictly for romantic love, the modern interpretation allows people to celebrate it however they want. If you hear someone referred to a group of people as their girlfriends, it is likely just slang, unless someone has multiple romantic partners that are female. 

Is platonic love cheating?

Platonic love is not cheating. If there's platonic love between two friends, it doesn't mean that either person is cheating on their partner if they have one. The modern interpretation of platonic love refers to types of love that have nothing to do with your sex life or sexual interest and aren't a replacement for a romantic love relationship. If your significant other has purely platonic relationships with someone of the gender or genders they're attracted to, unless more is going on, there's nothing to worry about in terms of what that means for your relationship or trust. Despite common assumption or belief, people of any gender can be friends, and in many of those friendships, romance never crosses either person's mind. 

What does platonic love feel like?

The meaning of platonic love describes what it feels like pretty well. Platonic love is one of the types of love that is close, but not interchangeable with the love that exists in a romantic partnership. When you experience this type of love, you will experience it by caring about a person very deeply. You will have a desire to have them in your life for a long time, and you will value their time and connection with you greatly. Platonic love is something that you might have for a lifelong friend. It's not something you would have for an acquaintance. Think of a person in your life who just "gets" you. Someone that you appreciate, feel is special, and are enormously grateful for. That's likely someone that you have a platonic type of love for. 

Characteristics of platonic love include a sense of appreciation for the other person, the ability to be honest and candid with the other person, the ability to be yourself around the person, and mutual fondness. These traits are part of why purely platonic love has an essential place in our lives. Having someone you love, even platonically, typically means that you have someone in your life who makes you happy and who supports you, which is invaluable. Of course, unhealthy interpersonal relationships are also possible. If you're struggling with toxic connections of any kind and aren't sure what to do, talking with a counselor or therapist can help.

Can platonic friends fall in love?

Platonic friends can fall in love. Often, we hear stories of childhood friends growing up to date each other, or even get married. That said, this can occur at any point in life. Two people who were previously just friends and proceeded to date, get engaged, or marry one another may not have always had the desire to be in a romantic love relationship with that person. Instead, feelings may have grown over time and evolved into classic romantic love. 

Can your soulmate be platonic?

Many people certainly believe in platonic soulmates. Have you ever met a friend and felt like you've known them for your entire life even though you'd just met? Did you grow closer over time and develop a best friendship that feels strong, supportive, healthy, and unshakable? Do you feel like you were meant to be friends and feel like your connection is unlike your connections with most other friends? If so, that might be a friend that you can refer to as a platonic soulmate. Platonic relationships provide emotional support, stress-reduction, trust, encouragement, love, and other people to share life accomplishments, struggles, good times, and bad times with, all of which are important. 

Can cuddling be platonic?

People can cuddle platonically. Sometimes, people cuddle friends or other people in their life. Nowadays, there are even professional cuddling services that allow you to pay to cuddle another person. Cuddling isn't something that's just reserved for those involved in your sex life. However, if you have a partner you should absolutely ask them how they feel before utilizing cuddling services, just so that you're both clear on what using a cuddling service means and what you're both okay with. If you and your partner have any communication difficulties or disparities related to platonic connections in your life, couples counseling can help. Search the online network of providers at ReGain or look for a mental health professional in your local area and find the best fit for you. 

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