Platonic love, or the love between friends, can be nourishing, fulfilling, and a source of support as we go through life. Research over the years has overwhelmingly indicated the importance of having strong social connections, and platonic friendships are typically a significant part of these networks. Read on to learn more about what characterizes platonic love relationships, how you can benefit from having a platonic love in your life, and how to build more of these types of connections.
Platonic Love Definition
Benefits Of Platonic Relationships
The existence of relationships in your life that are characterized by platonic love isn’t just a nice-to-have; research indicates that this type of platonic intimacy may be crucial for mental and even physical health. Below are some of the key benefits that platonic relationships can offer.
One of the key benefits of a platonic love is the emotional support you can get from a close friend. These types of relationships are usually characterized by mutual acceptance and care, meaning that you can lean on these people in your life when you’re facing a problem, feeling sad, or otherwise need support. Friends can also help each other heal and grow by modeling and encouraging honesty, compassion, boundaries, calm conflict resolution, and other important elements of healthy interpersonal relationships.
Decreased Risk Of Physical Health Problems
Having strong, platonic love in your life may also decrease health risks and even increase life expectancy. Part of the reason may be that friends can check in on each other and encourage one another to adopt healthy habits, but another part may be that feelings of loneliness can cause psychological processes that may be detrimental to health as a result of the mind-body connection. For example, one study that included over 300,000 participants found that those who had “stronger social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over the studies' given periods than those with weaker connections—a risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and one double that of obesity”. Close friendships have also been associated with a decreased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, and anxiety.
Being around loving friends can simply make us feel better emotionally as well. Spending time with those we share platonic love with can increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which is known as the “feel-good” chemical. It can also help decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. As one study puts it, “successful social interaction can provide one of the most rewarding stimuli for humans”. When we share laughter and engage in activities we love with our platonic lovers (friends) these effects can be increased even more.
Having true platonic love friends you can rely on can even help you be better prepared to face life’s inevitable challenges. They can provide support, advice, and encouragement and may help you see difficult circumstances from a new perspective. According to one study, having a close group of supportive, platonic friends is one of the top predictors of an individual’s ability to recover after stressful life experiences.
Building Platonic Relationships
Having strong, supportive platonic friendships can be enriching and even have health benefits. If you're looking to make or maintain platonic-love connections or experience genuine platonic love, the following tips may help.
Find People You Have Something In Common With
If you’re looking to expand your circle, it might help to start by seeking out people you have something in common with. For example, you could join a club where people get together to play a sport or board game you like. You could look for others with a similar cultural background or life experiences as you, or those who are trying to learn a new skill you’ve always been interested in. You could also volunteer for a cause or organization you’re passionate about to meet others who are as well.
Be Proactive About Forming Loving, Platonic Friendships
It’s important to remember that, just like romantic relationships, relationships of virtually every kind are two-way streets. If only one person is reaching out, checking in, making plans, and providing emotional support, they may start to feel uncared for or taken for granted. In general, both friends should aim to contribute roughly the same amount of time and emotional energy in order for a platonic love to thrive. If your friend is great about asking how you’re doing, texting or calling you, and setting up times to hang out, it may be wise to make sure you’re doing the same for them.
Address Unhealthy Dynamics Within Your Platonic Relationship
As with any other type of relationship, you should monitor your friendships to make sure they continue to be healthy and fulfilling. If a conflict or something that makes you uncomfortable arises, it’s generally best to calmly address it with your friend so you can work through it together. Setting boundaries to safeguard your feelings and energy as needed is important, even if you are just friends, because it can make your connection even stronger, and it can also help you learn how to do this in other types of relationships in your life.
Speak With A Therapist
Speaking with a therapist may be helpful for those who are facing challenges with the platonic relationships in their lives. If you’re looking to find more friendships, they can help you develop social skills or build self-esteem. If you’re facing a conflict with or are having confusing feelings, like feeling romantic love about a friend in your life, they can provide you with a safe, nonjudgmental space to work through these issues. For those who have difficulties socializing because of depression, social anxiety disorder, or another mental health condition, a therapist can offer treatment suggestions and healthy coping strategies.
Those who are interested in meeting with a therapist can generally choose between online and in-person therapy, since research suggests the two can offer similar benefits in most cases. If you’re having trouble locating an in-person provider in your area or find it difficult to travel to and from appointments, online therapy may represent a more convenient alternative. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat from the comfort of home to address the challenges you may be facing. See client reviews of BetterHelp therapists below.
“Dr. Perez had helped me build up my communication skills with friends and family while also drawing healthy boundaries and working through my hectic emotions. I feel like I can set goals and actually stick to them now, and the bad days are easier for me to manage.”
“I started therapy with John in one of the most difficult moments of my life. At my lowest, John pulled me back up with his patience, kindness, and wise advice. I can’t even picture what my life would have looked like have I not met him. John counseled me through a tough breakup, family issues, setting boundaries, self-esteem issues, crippling paranoia and anxiety, friendship issues, dealing with events from my past and addressing questions regarding my faith that I’ve been too afraid to ask. John is very responsive, and always there to provide advice. I find him to be an excellent listener, a person who does not judge people but takes them as they are and tries to help them mend themselves. I find John to be very intelligent, well-read and a person who can see beyond cultural differences. He is a superb life-coach, and a very supportive person all around. After working with him for 6 months, I see changes in my life I never thought possible. I find myself having more moments of gratefulness and heart-warming laughs, I am getting so much better at saying “no” whenever I feel my limits being pushed, and I’m surprised at how I learned to enjoy my own company and like the things I do. I wholeheartedly believe John has been a blessing in my life. I would recommend him to anyone who needs guidance in their life. As I learned from John, things can get better, no matter how impossible it seems, and it is in our power to make them so.”
Platonic love describes close friendship connections that are generally not characterized by sexual attraction or physical intimacy. These dynamics can provide us with emotional support, increased resilience, and even health benefits over the long term. If you’re looking for support with the platonic relationships or romantic partners in your life, speaking with a therapist may help.
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