A platonic relationship is one in which people share a close bond but do not have a sexual relationship. Platonic bonding is a purely emotional connection with no sexual intimacy. It involves honesty, loyalty, and a deep connection without the heat of sexual tension. While the term is sometimes thought to apply only to opposite-sex friends, it can also apply to same-sex friendships. The idea of platonic love has its roots in ancient Greek philosophy. The word “platonic” comes from the famous philosopher, writer, and speaker Plato, who outlined specific categories of love in his famous work “Symposium”, although Plato didn’t use the word “platonic” in his work he did define what we would now consider purely platonic relationships.
In “Symposium,” he said that love based on physical attraction and sexual intimacy is romantic love while the love that’s more intellectually or spiritually-based with no romantic feelings is what we call platonic love today.
Signs Your Relationship Is Platonic
Several characteristics distinguish a platonic relationship from some other types of relationships. In addition to the lack of a sexual facet, this type of relationship also tends to be marked by:
- Closeness: Both people in the relationship feel a closeness to each other and feel that they share things in common.
- Freedom: Both Individuals can think about and also do whatever it is they want to do without the fear of being judged.
- Honesty: Both individuals feel that they can share what they think and feel with the other person.
- Acceptance: These relationships tend to feel easy and comfortable. Both people feel that they are safe and free to be themselves.
- Understanding: People who share a platonic relationship have a connection, but they also recognize and respect each other’s personal space. They don’t try to force the other person to do things they don’t want to do or be something that they are not.
These types of relationships are often friendships. And while the lack of a sexual relationship is what characterizes this type of connection, it does not necessarily mean that the individuals in the relationship are not attracted to each other or could not start to feel attracted to one another.
Types of Platonic Relationships
A few different terms have emerged to describe some different types of platonic relationships. These include:
- Bromance: This is a term used to describe a close, affectionate, non-sexual relationship between two men.
- Womance: This term is used to describe an emotional, non-sexual, non-romantic bond between two women.
- Work spouse: This term is used to describe coworkers or colleagues who are super close, to the point that they might rely on each other the way they would a romantic partner, just without the romance. They might run errands for each other, attend events and conferences as each other’s plus one and hang out together socially outside of the office. They also stick up for each other (and cover for each other, as needed) in the office setting.
Benefits of platonic relationships
Having a platonic relationship means that you have someone in your corner who you can trust, who has your back, who supports you and who brings you joy, but who isn’t necessarily engaged with you in a sexual relationship. Here are some of the benefits of fostering this kind of bond:
- Feeling of closeness without the pressure:
In a platonic relationship, you don’t need to worry about where things are going or if the other person is on the same page as you. You can maintain closeness with each other in a non-committal way. You’re not thinking about the next step or where your relationship will be in a year. You’re getting the perks of a romantic relationship as far as emotional intimacy goes and none of the drawbacks.
- Getting a unique perspective:
If your platonic friend is of different sex, gender, or gender identity than you are, you’re able to reap the benefits of looking at the world from their point of view. This can be helpful mentally when navigating a tough situation at work, when you’re dating and trying to pinpoint red flags or whenever you just need another set of eyes and ears on your current life circumstances.
- Having someone to confide in:
A platonic relationship comes with the major benefit of being able to spill your secrets, deepest fears, and unpopular opinions without worrying about judgment, retribution, or word getting out. Having a confidant is one of the most significant perks of a deep, trusting friendship.
- Maintaining a relationship with boundaries:
Practicing setting and respecting boundaries is an essential life skill. Luckily, a platonic relationship allows you to do this all the time. Since you and your friend are committed to remaining friends, you both uphold the boundary of no romance or sex, giving each other the freedom to just be with each other without wondering what if. This is also good practice for setting boundaries with other people, from family members to acquaintances.
- Not having to keep up appearances or impress the person:
When you’re in a romantic relationship, there’s usually a tendency, especially in the beginning, to try to impress the other person. In a platonic relationship, you can just be you because the stakes just aren’t as high. And, in just being yourself, you will eventually feel so secure that you may not even be tempted to try to impress others. By using your platonic relationship as practice for showing off the real you, you could find more authentic connections with potential romantic partners as a result.
- Being able to have an honest connection:
Platonic love isn’t about setting your feelings aside and putting your friend’s feelings first. It’s not about putting up a facade. These friendships thrive on honesty and clear communication. While you never want to be so brutally honest that you come off as mean or thoughtless, not having to hold back your feelings can be a relief for many people.
- Fighting without drama:
In a romantic relationship, conflict can be scary. In a platonic relationship, you’re going to get annoyed with each other or have words about a given topic or situation. You get mad, maybe you stop talking for a few days and then you work things out. It’s just not that big of a deal.
- Never having to wonder about the status of your relationship:
With platonic love, your relationship is steady. Yes, you can get closer or drift apart here and there but your bond is not on some kind of trajectory with the endpoint being either marriage or breaking up. You don’t have to stress over the direction of the relationship.
it is important to note that platonic relationships are not the same as unrequited love. Where an unrequited relationship is essentially a crush that involves one person being romantically or sexually interested in someone who does not return their feelings, true healthy, platonic relationships do not involve an unequal balance of emotions.
This does not mean that a platonic relationship can’t or won’t develop into something romantic or sexual. This can be a problem if preserving a platonic friendship is important. While such a relationship can potentially turn into strong romantic relationships, you also run the risk of losing the friendship if you end up breaking up. If maintaining a platonic relationship is important to you, focus on establishing and maintaining clear boundaries.