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What Is Platonic Love?

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6 min

What Is Platonic Love?

Have you ever felt a deep connection without romantic feelings? You trust them entirely, and always support each other. Definitely not about grand gestures like Valentine’s Day cards or moonlit confessions.

So, what is it? Friendship?

Plato, millennia ago, explored this very concept. He called it platonic love, a powerful connection that transcends the physical. But is it truly love or something entirely different?

In this article, we will explore the meaning of a platonic relationship and the signs you have one, as well as discuss the key boundaries of platonic love. 

Grab a coffee (or whatever you like) and set out on this beautiful and mystical adventure. 

Platonic love: what is it?

Generally, love is the foundation of many strong bonds we share. It’s about respect, care, and a deep connection without the complexities of romance.

Okay, but what’s the meaning of platonic love? As discussed earlier, this term comes from the ancient Greek thinker Plato, who explored love in his writings. 

“Platonic love” is named after Plato due to his discussions about love in his work Symposium. In his work, he talked about how to love someone as a perfect form of beauty, not just physical attraction.

A licensed psychotherapist and sex therapist, Jesse Kahn, says that “Platonic love denotes a deep level of closeness, love, understanding, communication, honesty and transparency, and intimacy…Not all friendships have all of those qualities, nor all of those qualities to the depth of platonic love.”

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Cool, now we can understand the difference between platonic love and romantic relationships. The first one doesn’t involve the desire for physical intimacy, though physical touch as a love language can play a role in both romantic and platonic relationships. 

What does a platonic relationship mean? 

You might ask, “Wait, isn’t it the same thing?” No, because platonic love is a feeling that can be a foundation for relationships. What does a platonic relationship mean? 

It’s a close friendship in which one enjoys being close to someone without the whole romance rollercoaster. It’s like having a friend you can totally be yourself with, share your dreams and worries, and know they’ve got your back. 

But isn’t platonic love just friendship, then? To be honest, not really, and here is why.

Platonic relationship vs. friendship

They’re definitely close cousins, but there are some nuances to consider:

  • Depth and Intensity: While not always the case, platonic intimacy can be seen as a specific subtype of friendship that underlines a deeper, more intellectual, or spiritual connection.
  • Clarifying the Terms: “Platonic love” is often explicitly called relationships without a sexual component, especially in contexts where such interest might be taken or typical. 

“Friendship” is a more general term that covers a broader range of connections without specifically excluding the potential for romantic feelings. 

In most cases, it also suggests a non-romantic relationship. These strong connections are essential for our well-being and can contribute to happiness and overall health.

Now, are you wondering if you have a platonic love? Let’s explore that in the next section.

4 signs your relationship is platonic

In everyday conversation, the lines might get fuzzy. However, while platonic love can often be a friendship, not every friendship can be a platonic one.

So, how to define if you have a platonic relationship in your life? Here are some common signs:

  • Vulnerability: You can share your true self, knowing they’ll listen without judgment. This honesty builds a foundation of trust that lets the friendship grow deeper. 
  • Understanding: You respect each other’s boundaries and space. For example, your platonic soulmate might be introverted and need some alone time after a social event, and you understand completely. 
  • Connection: You find common ground, whether it’s shared interests or just a feeling of mutual understanding. Maybe you both love discussing philosophy over coffee or have a shared sense of humor that makes you laugh over the most mundane things.
  • Acceptance: You appreciate each other for who you are, flaws and all. This creates a safe space to be yourself without fear of rejection. For example, you might only sometimes agree with your friend’s taste in music, but you still enjoy going to concerts together because you appreciate their enthusiasm. 

A platonic relationship isn’t about grand gestures but the quiet comfort and strength of having someone who truly sees you in your corner. 

signs of platonic love

3 examples of platonic relationships

Did you know platonic love also has its types? Here are a few terms that describe various platonic bounds.

1. Close Companions: These describe solid and affectionate bonds between people (sometimes called “womance” or “bromance“). These are friendships where two people are incredibly close, like sisters or brothers, but you know, without being related.

For example, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Merideth and Christina.

2. Office BFFs: Have you ever had a colleague you trust completely? Someone you bounce ideas off of and who cheers you on? That’s a work spouse. It’s a purely platonic relationship. You can rely on your work spouse for anything, like doing errands or attending events together without any romantic things.

3. Learning partners: Mentors and mentees can develop strong bonds based on mutual respect and a shared passion for learning. Think Yoda and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, though with a less extreme age gap. While the mentor shares experience, the mentee gains wisdom.

Why platonic relationships may not work

In fact, platonic love is a cornerstone of a healthy social life. However, there are definitely challenges that can arise in platonic friendships:

  • Unrequited feelings: Sometimes feelings change, which can be awkward, especially if one person wants more than friendship but eventually finds themselves in a friend zone. Talking things out honestly can help.
  • Mismatched expectations: We all have different needs in friendships. If someone wants more support than you can offer, or vice versa, it can lead to hurt feelings. Open communication is key here.
  • Friends can get jealous: Just like in any relationship, a little jealousy can pop up, especially if our friend spends much time with someone new.

If you want to keep it healthy, prioritize the boundaries of platonic friendship (or rules) for a strong connection. This could include things like:

  • Friends & partners: respect both. No gossiping or complaining about your partner.
  • Keep it friendly with friends. Kissing or hand-holding would already mean something else.
  • Prioritize commitments, but friends get it (plans).
  • Partners should know about close friends, so don’t try to hide your platonic relationship from your partner. Be open.
  • Space should be healthy. Give each other room.
  • Time for all. Find time for your partner as well as for your platonic relationship.
Jayme Sampler, LCMHC-A, adds on platonic love from her practice As a therapist, I frequently engage in discussions with my clients about the different types of relationships we form throughout our lives, platonic friendships being the most common subject. It’s important to remember that boundaries and open communication are key to healthy and mutually beneficial relationships.

4 reasons to engage in platonic love

Eventually, every good thing that happens to us offers some benefits. 

So, what can you get out of a platonic relationship? There’s actually a lot to discover.

  1. Healthier mentally and physically: Researchers found that platonic relationships can actually improve your health. They may help you to boost your immunity, lower your risk of disease, and even fight depression and anxiety.

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  1. Emotional support: Your platonic soulmates are your emotional safety net. They listen without judgment, cheer you up, and help you navigate life’s ups and downs. Whether it’s a romantic breakup, family drama, or a work nightmare, platonic partners are there to pick you up when you fall. This support system is crucial for managing stress.
  1. Friendship: The Missing Piece? Romantic partners can’t be everything, and that’s perfectly okay. Platonic relationships can fill the gaps, offering shared interests, a patient ear for work frustrations, or simply a different perspective. 
  1. Personal growth: Platonic relationships can help you grow as a person. Friends can challenge, inspire, and help you see the world differently.

Did you know there’s even a growing trend in TikTok of platonic dating? People choose to share their lives without the romantic element, similar to romantic partnerships but focus on a deep friendship instead of romance. 

They may get platonic marriages, share a home and expenses, and raise kids together as close friends. Therefore, platonic crushes enrich our lives in countless ways. Let’s not take them for granted!

Jayme Sampler, LCMHC-A photo

Reviewed by Jayme Sampler, LCMHC-A

Jayme obtained my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Appalachian State University and is a proud Mountaineer. She loves wo...