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OPINION: Understanding platonic love can help us build lasting relationships

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Platonic love is named after the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who described this type of love in his work “Symposium.” He described platonic love as a feeling that strays away from the physical attraction of bodies and concentrates on the spiritual attraction of souls. One that is asexual in nature and involves forming deep connections. It is often described as being close to romantic love without the desire to have a sexual relationship. Sometimes, it is used to describe bonds in close friendships too.  

Platonic friendships deserve a special place in your life. There is no external expectation other than the fact that you both want the best for each other and are each other’s hype person. You may call them your “bestie” or “partner-in-crime.” These are the people who believed in you when nobody else did. And no matter what life threw at you they decided to stay by your side. 

Last week, my childhood friend visited me. We were calculating how long we had known each other and realized that it had been a whopping 15 years. With friendships that span a long time, you tend to forget the details.  

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We tried to remember at exactly what point we started fitting into the jagged parts of each other’s life, but we couldn’t really point to it. In fact, we initially hated each other. So, while there is no secret formula on how or why some relationships last longer than others, there may be some hint of it in understanding platonic love.  

I’ve come to realize that platonic relationships blossom over time. It focuses on emotional intimacy, intellectual compatibility and mutual respect. The trifecta is important in building the bond between two people and sets a strong foundation of trust, honesty and understanding. Such friendships where we share a deep connection and can provide each other with a sense of belonging and acceptance are especially important during difficult times. 

Acceptance is paramount as it lacks any kind of judgment. Whenever I was going through a tough time and shared my negative experience with my friend, she would always sit and listen to me, instead of jumping straight into problem solving which is a common trait I have seen in my romantic partners. She always believed in me to find my way through and never made me feel small. This can be a good reason why communication is more open and honest in platonic relationships. Without judgment, a person can feel comfortable opening up, being goofy, weird and vulnerable around you. It allows the person to be their truest version and feel loved for exactly who they are.  

Platonic relationships are also mindful of boundaries and expectations. You learn to not cross certain lines and are respectful of another person’s need for space. There are no unsaid expectations as you can clearly ask your friend what you need from them.  

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In romantic relationships, asking for space and setting boundaries could be misunderstood as your partner losing interest in you. Furthermore, in romantic relationships it is misconstrued that your partner is supposed to fulfill all your emotional needs. But with a friend, you understand and know that they cannot meet all your needs, nor can they be available all the time for you. So, you check up on each other and make sure you are okay from time to time.  

As this famous quote by Aristotle goes, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” People are also like that. In true platonic friendships, you are better together than when you are apart. You make each other better.  

Platonic friendships build lasting relationships. 
 
Sanjana Jairam (she/her) is a first-year graduate student studying data science. 

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