What Is Platonic Love & Why You Need It
Updated November 29, 2019
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.