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What Is Platonic Friendship and Why Is It So Important?

A guy and a girl in a platonic friendship smiling as they sit at a table together.

Platonic friendship. It sounds so clinical. And yet it is perhaps one of, if not the, most important types of love that we can have in our lives.

Think about your partner. Odds are you’re thinking good and lovely thoughts, but dig a little deeper. Every relationship has its problems and its ups and downs. Your relationship, though happy, has likely caused you a little pain over the years.

Now think about your best friend. When was the last time you really fought? Is it as easy to find a fault in the friendship as it is to find one in your relationship?

Most likely the answer is no. While it can be hard to make friends sometimes, it’s a little easier to maintain a friendship than a relationship. There’s less riding on it, less expectations, and less pain when those expectations aren’t met. They still take work and you should never take your friends for granted. But your friends aren’t expecting you to be their other half. They’re expecting you to be a shoulder to cry on, a person to party with, and someone to talk to.

All friendships are different and friends can have different needs, but, when you find a friend with common interests and similar needs, it can be pretty easy to develop a connection fast.

When you get down to the bare bones of it, the dictionary definition of a platonic friendship is a relationship that is marked by the lack of physical intimacy. But what the major focus should be on is not what it lacks but what it has in spades. That’s a spiritual intimacy.

There’s a reason why your best friend probably knows a few things that your partner doesn’t about you. Who knows you better than your best friend? Likely, you can’t really think of many people, if any. That form of spiritual intimacy creates a bond that’s very hard to break. It creates a level of trust that is hard to replicate. And the more we indulge in that trust, feeling free and open to talk and be who we truly are with a person, the deeper that trust gets.

Having a platonic friend teaches us to be better communicators. We learn to feel more comfortable speaking and sharing our thoughts. We also become more confident when sharing our thoughts. No one builds you up quite like your best friend does. Relying on your platonic friends can help you see more success in every facet of your life.

Believe it or not, that includes your relationship. Sometimes we think of it as boyfriend vs best friend. Who should get more time? Should you ever cancel plans on one for the other? What if one of them gets cut out? It’s important to have a balance between your friendship and your relationship, for all three of you. You need that spiritual intimacy, that emotional honesty, that your friend can bring without the complication of physical intimacy. Without having that friend, you may rely too strongly on your partner to be that outlet of spiritual intimacy, which doesn’t quite work the same way and may result in some complications.

What if the thing you need to talk about is connected to your partner? You won’t talk about it then. Instead, you’ll bottle it up which is unhealthy and can lead to a bigger issue and a big fight down the road. Talking it out with your friend allows you to get everything off your chest and get an outside perspective of the relationship.

Even if you don’t have an issue that you want to discuss with your friend, spending all your time with your partner as your main source of any form of love can lead to burnout in your relationship, as well as feelings of smothering. It’s a lot of pressure to put on one person to be your only source of love.

It’s important to note reiterate that your platonic friend can never be a substitute for physical love. Platonic relates to a spiritual intimacy, never a physical one. Always be careful when crossing that line. A platonic friend is not a friend with benefits. They have many benefits but not that one benefit. Whether we like it or not, physical intimacy changes the dynamic of a relationship. Your brain makes sure that happens.

But you should have platonic friends who aren’t just girl friends or guy friends. Yes, a guy and a girl can be friends. Those friendships do indeed exist. In fact, they help each other thrive. They allow each other to learn about and from the opposite sex. They can help each other defeat stereotypes. Sometimes, for instance, with male friends, they may perpetuate certain stereotypes that society tells them too, like that it’s not okay to be emotional. A man who is friends with female friends may learn more about their own emotions. On the other side, a woman who is only friends with female friends may find their own issues with societal expectations reflected in their friend group. Having a male friend may help break down those expectations.

Having friends that are different genders can also have break down some trust issues that you may have developed from past relationships. I’ve heard women say, “All men suck,” and I’ve heard men say, “Women are always so difficult.” These generalizations hurt and having them constantly reflected back in your friend group will only help build up the idea that they are somehow true. Of course, they are not. And having a friend that breaks the mold of “sucking” or “being difficult” can help you learn not to lump them together and learn to trust again. Because at the deepest core, that’s what a platonic friendship is built on and what it builds in you: trust.

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