Love. As the old saying goes, it makes the world go ‘round. There are entire movie, book and music genres built upon the concept of love, complete with relationships gone awry and the happily-ever-after endings. Valentine’s Day itself is considered a holiday to celebrate love. However, all of these refer to romantic love, when there is in fact different kinds of love that can exist between two people. Platonic love is one of them.
Platonic love is defined as the kind of love that is nonsexual. The name comes from the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who believed that “Love is neither wise nor beautiful, but is rather the desire for wisdom and beauty,” implying that there’s a spiritual side to love. In modern times, it’s commonly associated with the bond between a male and female and the age-old question of whether or not they can be “just friends.” But platonic love can also refer to the friendships we have with people of the same sex. After all, it’s possible to “love” your friends, but it’s not the same kind of love that you have with your significant other.
Whether it be with a man or woman, platonic friendships can play an important role in one’s life, affecting us emotionally, socially and physically.
Emotional development and well-being. Platonic friendships are usually the first kind of relationship we have outside of family ones. Whether it be with your next door neighbor or classmate, relationships like these help with emotional development. They teach us how to care for another person who is not part of the family, serve as a connection to the outside world and give us a sense of belonging and purpose. This in turn helps our mental health and self-confidence, decreasing the likeliness of depression and loneliness.
A different perspective. Asking a friend for advice is a common tactic when dealing with a difficult decision or situation. We all see the world in a certain way, but hearing how someone else sees it can introduce a completely new point of view. A friend can offer an unbiased opinion of the issue, especially if the friend is of the opposite sex, as there are several life situations that are viewed differently by female and males.
Motivation. We all set goals that we want to achieve, but can sometimes have trouble along the way. Friends provide a support system during these tough times and can help with encouragement. Several studies say that we are more likely to participate in something if doing so with a friend. Friends can also introduce us to new ideas and activities. How many times have you been scrolling through your social media feed and have seen an activity your friend is doing and want to do it? It doesn’t hurt to ask. The same can apply in professional development: friends can provide tips for job hunting or help refine your résumé or cover letter.
Longevity. Romantic love can come and go over the years, depending on the person. Platonic love can always be there, like the childhood bestie you’ve known your entire life. Even if you grow apart and go your separate ways, growing up together created an irreplaceable bond.
A precursor to romantic relationships. Tying back into romantic love, studies suggest platonic love can help us develop healthy romantic relationships. Platonic friendships can teach communication, compromising and boundaries, all important aspects of a romantic relationship. Not to mention the common stories of people marrying their best friends.
Lastly, if you’re wondering whether there is a day to celebrate friendships and platonic love, there is. National Friendship Day, usually celebrated the first Sunday of August, recognizes friendships both near and far.