Why Showing Platonic Love Is Important
By: Sarah Fader
Updated February 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers
Platonic love relationships are a rare thing, although they are beginning to be more common in today's society. Platonic relationships can be very 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 of 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 into 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 greatly present 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 great way to protect yourself from entering into unhealthy romantic relationships simply because you are craving the love that is necessary for all humans.
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 increased health risk for stroke or heart attack as much as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.
Loving and being loved in return is also shown to lower risk for disease, as well as accelerate disease recovery. Studies are still being done to discover the health benefits of love and the health risks of social isolation. But it has become clear with the research that has been done so far that love in particular, even platonic love, can have some great benefits to your physical health.
Being loved and giving love to others increases your dopamine levels when you are with or even just thinking of that person. When your dopamine levels are increased in the brain, it makes you feel happier. It will also help you feel a sense of well-being, and you will be more likely to care for yourself daily.
Increased dopamine is also responsible for good sleep hygiene, which can come with health benefits all of its own. Also, dopamine is responsible for lowering the risk of stress, depression, and anxiety. If you have problems with these mental health disorders, love can decrease or eliminate your symptoms as surely as medication and therapy.
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 will do some things for your health. Primarily, it eliminates stress and all of 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 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 love relationships have many psychological benefits that romantic relationships simply 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 are getting from them.
Also, platonic love relationships allow for a much deeper bond and an openness that most 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, and so you watch your every step and word. But in a platonic relationship that fear is not there, allowing you to be more of yourself with the other person.
Unconditional love is a rare thing and is not typically present 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 much more 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. They don't expect to get anything out of the relationship other than the friendship and mutual love that they share. This allows platonic relationships to be much more unconditional than romantic relationships.
Openness And Honesty
Platonic relationships tend more toward openness and honesty that can be hard to find in other relationships. Even with familial relationships, you may feel more concerned about what others think of you, your actions, thoughts, and feelings. However, in platonic relationships, this is typically not a concern.
Most platonic relationships can allow for a much more open and honest approach. Most people in platonic love relationships feel that they can tell their platonic friends anything and they will remain friends. They can share thoughts and feelings that they would normally keep to themselves.
The ability to be open and honest with someone else has great psychological benefits. In general, it can make you feel like a much happier person. Specifically, it can decrease stress and feelings of loneliness because you will be able to express yourself more fully to another person.
How To Keep It Platonic
There have been many studies into platonic relationships and whether or not it is possible to maintain one for a long period. Many of these studies have concluded that two people of the opposite sex cannot maintain a platonic relationship without it eventually ending or becoming romantic. However, some psychologists have some advice on how to keep relationships platonic so that you can enjoy their benefits.
If feelings of sexual attraction begin to enter into a platonic relationship, the best thing you can do is be honest about it. Let the other person know how you are feeling, and discuss with them some boundaries to keep those feelings in check. It is also helpful to refrain from physical contact other than the occasional hug upon greeting or leaving.
You should also refrain from sexual conversations, even if they are not meant to lead to sexual conduct. If you know that you are having feelings of wanting more from your platonic relationship but you know you don't want to lose what you have, you 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, 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 also want to make sure that you are not going to be 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, making sure you don't send mixed signals is vitally important.
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. It can completely ruin the relationship and end it rather quickly. If you are in a platonic relationship and you are thinking about broaching the subject of sex with the other person, talk to a therapist first to see if you can salvage the relationship as it is.
Therapy may not be the first thing you think about when looking at how to manage platonic relationships, but therapy can be a helpful tool. Licensed therapists, such as the ones at BetterHelp, can aid in relationship counseling. Relationship counseling is not just for married couples who are going through difficult times. Platonic friends can also attend counseling to seek professional advice and guidance from someone who is trained to aid in such concerns. If you are uncertain about traditional therapy, know that 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. This trend also applies to friends attending counseling, as platonic friendship is just as valid and important as romantic relationships.
Online counseling can be a great first step to healthily 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 requirement on when you can stop sessions.
Read below for a couple of testimonials from those who have used BetterHelp to find ways to enhance their quality of life:
“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.”
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