The Benefits And Risks Of A Platonic Love Relationship

Updated December 20, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Platonic Relationships Can Be Hard To Maintain

Platonic love relationships are rare, although they are beginning to be more common in today's society. Platonic friendship can be beneficial to both parties in ways that romantic love cannot be. For one thing, when two people are in a platonic friendship, they tend to be more open and honest with one another, because a romantic relationship isn't even considered.

Platonic love can lead to a very strong bond between two people that can serve them well throughout their lives. Such friendships can help become the compass by which they judge all their relationships. And they can give support to one another during times of crisis, especially during romantic relationships that they each may have.

However, platonic love comes with its pitfalls. It can be difficult to maintain a platonic relationship over time, especially if the two people are in any way attracted to one another. It is important to note that while platonic relationships have many benefits, it is not possible to show platonic love while having a relationship that is sexual.

What Is Platonic Love?

The modern definition of platonic love is that it is a love between two people that does not include physical intimacy. Usually, it refers to non-sexual relationships between two people of the opposite sex. However, it could also be a non-sexual relationship between two people of the same sex, if one or both of those people are not heterosexual.

For love to be platonic, the resulting relationship must be a deep bond between two people that does not lead to sexual intimacy. When sexual intimacy or attraction enters the relationship, it is no longer platonic. At that point, the relationship must either end or become romantic.

Health Benefits Of Platonic Love

There are many benefits to love in general, and these benefits are prominent in platonic love. When someone does not wish to be in a romantic relationship, platonic love can provide the many health benefits of both giving and receiving love. Allowing platonic love to fulfill these needs can be a way to keep yourself from entering unhealthy romantic relationships simply because you are craving love.

Decreased Health Risks

Having love in your life, whether giving or receiving, decreases your health risks considerably. Studies have shown that when people are loved, they are much less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, or anxiety. Being without love has been linked to a similar increase in the health risk for stroke or heart attack caused by smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.

Loving and being loved in return is also shown to lower the risk of disease and accelerate disease recovery. Studies are still being conducted to discover the health benefits of love and the health risks of social isolation. Still, the research has already shown that love in particular, even platonic love, can have some great benefits to your physical health.

Increased Dopamine

Being loved and giving love to others increases your dopamine levels when you are with a significant other, or even just thinking of that person. When your dopamine levels are increased in the brain, it makes you feel happier. It may also provide you with a sense of well-being and a motivation for self-care.

Increased dopamine is also responsible for good sleep hygiene, which can come with health benefits of its own. Also, dopamine is responsible for lowering the risk of stress, depression, and anxiety. If you experience these mental health disorders, love can decrease or eliminate your symptoms as surely as medication and therapy.

Increased Oxytocin

Another chemical in the brain that is affected by the presence of love is oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone or the bonding hormone. This chemical is released in the brain when you are forming or have formed a solid bond with someone else, such as in a platonic relationship.

Oxytocin has benefits for your health. Primarily, it decreases stress and all the health problems that come with it. When higher levels of oxytocin are present, it lowers your levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress chemicals and hormones released by the brain. Cortisol can lead to weight gain and obesity, while adrenaline can lead to high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Oxytocin decreases levels of these hormones in the body, so that you can be stress-free and healthier.

Psychological Benefits Of Platonic Love

Platonic Relationships Can Be Hard To Maintain

Platonic love relationships have many psychological benefits that romantic relationships don't frequently have. Because of their very nature, platonic relationships are often based on unconditional platonic love, meaning that it is about loving the person for who they are rather than what you want from them.

Also, platonic love relationships allow for a much deeper bond and an openness that many romantic relationships do not enjoy. When you are in a romantic relationship, you may be worried that your partner is going to decide not to continue the relationship, so you watch your every step and word. In a platonic relationship, that fear may not be as prevalent, allowing you to be more yourself with the other person.

Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is a rare thing in romantic relationships. Most commonly, unconditional love is found in familial relationships such as with parents or siblings. However, in platonic love relationships, unconditional love is also common.

This is because, in platonic relationships, the two people are friends above all else. They support one another and love each other exactly for who they are, and nothing more. 

How To Keep It Platonic

There have been many studies regarding platonic relationships and whether it is possible to maintain one for a long period of time. Many of these studies have concluded that two people of different genders cannot maintain a platonic relationship without it eventually ending or becoming romantic. However, some psychologists have advice on how to keep relationships platonic so that you can enjoy their benefits.

If feelings of sexual attraction begin to invade a platonic relationship, it may be best to be honest about it. Let the other person know how you are feeling, and discuss some boundaries to keep those feelings in check. It may also helpful to refrain from physical contact other than the occasional hug upon greeting or leaving.

If you know that you are having feelings of wanting more from your platonic relationship, but you don't want to lose the friendship you have, you may need to make the additional effort to keep sex out of your conversations entirely. This includes jokes and talking about other people in your lives.

Finally, you can be mindful of what you say and do when you are together. While you want to maintain the openness and honesty of your platonic relationship, you may also want to make sure that you are not doing or saying anything misleading. If you know the other person in the relationship is attracted to you, but you want to keep it platonic, you may want to be mindful of sending mixed signals.

Platonic Relationships Can Be Hard To Maintain

Risks Of Platonic Relationships

There are many risks of platonic relationships, the primary one being that they can easily turn sexual. Most psychologists discourage sex between platonic friends because such a bond is difficult to find, and sex will change the nature of that bond. In some cases, it can completely ruin the relationship rather quickly. If you are in a platonic relationship and you are thinking about broaching the subject of sex with the other person, consider talking to a therapist first to see if you can salvage the relationship as it is.

If you are uncertain about traditional therapy because of the sensitive nature of your relationship, you’re not alone. Many people in platonic friendships feel hesitant to talk about their feelings in a traditional in-person therapy setting. This may be because of the intensity of their feelings or fear that an escalation in the relationship may be exposed to a romantic partner. If this sounds familiar, you should know that online therapy is another option. 

Therapy may not be the first thing you think about when looking at how to manage platonic relationships, but it can be a helpful tool. Licensed therapists, such as the ones at BetterHelp, can aid in relationship counseling. Plus, studies have shown that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy. According to the American Psychological Association, couples counseling is 75% effective, and long-term participation has been linked to positive results. Platonic friends may be able to achieve similar results in therapy.

Takeaway

Online counseling can be a great first step to effectively managing platonic relationships, as well as addressing other concerns in your life. At online platforms such as BetterHelp, you can reach out to licensed and trained mental health professionals through phone calls, video conferences, and chat rooms. There’s no need to go to an office in person or wait in line for an appointment. You can schedule sessions around your busy schedule, and there’s no restrictions on when you can stop sessions.

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“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.”

Other Commonly Asked Questions

What does having a platonic love mean?

Is platonic love the same as friendship?

How do you act in a platonic relationship?

Can you kiss in a platonic relationship?

Can you cuddle in a platonic relationship?

What does platonic attraction feel like?

What is platonic intimacy?

Is platonic love cheating?

Can you flirt in a platonic relationship?

Can you hold hands in a platonic relationship?

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