Can you think of any pop-culture reference of what healthy male-female friendships and platonic relationships look like? I find it difficult to recall extraordinary female friendships that were not limited to being decked-up bridesmaids. Modernity has brought tremendous changes in the way men and women relate to each other. Live-in relationships have the legal sanction and hook-up culture normalised at least in highly urban centres. Yet, we lag when it comes to forging healthy non-romantic. Both popular culture and societal norms prioritise and reward mating centric relationships over any other form of connection between two individuals, particularly of the opposite sex.
What are platonic relationships?
Strictly speaking, these relationships are not romantic. That is the other party may not desire you sexually but feels emotionally or intellectually close to you. Usually, a platonic relationship is used to describe non-sexual male-female relationships but same-sex non-sexual intimate relationships can also fall under the ambit of platonic relationships. According to Meriem Webster’s word history: “The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships.”
These relationships are often based on common hobbies, intellectual compatibility, and a deep sense of organic trust built over time. Well, all these could also be attributes of a romantic relationship but there are only a limited number of people you can settle with as your better half. So, does that mean all the other brilliant people with commonalities with us have to be sacrificed because we chose one person of certain sex to be married to or settle with? When we say variety is the essence of life, we also mean people. For our intellectual and emotional well being it is necessary that we interact and share close bonds with quite a few people outside of our family.
It is extremely difficult to forge and protect platonic relationships especially when you are single. Once we hit it off with a person of the opposite sex on some common interest, it is very easy to confuse it with something more than friends. And that’s where we often drag people into unnecessary romantic drama in our life. People who are perfect as friends, may not be emotionally or sexually compatible as long-term partners. If you are enjoying the friendship, then let that friendship bloom by itself. It is not uncommon for people who start as friends to become romantically interested in each other. But there is no need to hurry into it just because you share common interests and enjoy each other’s company.
ALSO READThe Millennial Pilgrim: You are NOT your friend’s therapist...Here’s how to stop acting like one...
So, it is very important that one has strong boundaries in a platonic relationship. It makes it easy to navigate the cultural conditioning of looking at the opposite sex only as a prospective sexual partner.
How to find platonic friends?
Platonic friends are different from your same-sex childhood besties and college homies. They fill a very specific void in your life. Take for example someone who is struggling to find a job, or is going through a break-up. Or something very unique — someone who is going through a difficult family dispute over property. These are very specific events in our life. Sometimes, we need people who have endured similar situations and can guide us with strategies or simply listen to us with empathy.
ALSO READThe Millennial Pilgrim: For living a better adult life, here's why it's important to heal your...
Also, you could have very unique hobbies that none of your existing friends understand. I have a few friends, mostly men, with whom I have weekly calls to discuss philosophy and spirituality. I take care not to unburden other emotional content on them because these topics in and of themselves are sacrosanct. Similarly, You could bond with someone over being vegan because no one in your family or friend group understands your choice or worse ridicules you for it. The best way to find these deep meaningful companionships is to join communities that facilitate conversations around your concerns and hobbies.
Do platonic relationships affect our primary romantic relationship?
There have to be better reasons to marry someone than the fact that they enjoy reading the same author or watching similar kinds of movies. The edifice of a marriage or long-term committed partnership cannot just be common interests. Financial stability, similar value systems, sexual attraction come into play. However, if reading or watching and discussing movies and books is fundamental to your being — and it is an interest your partner doesn’t share, you will certainly need company outside of the relationship. When lovers can’t agree on what cuisine to order on a date, how can we expect them to have similar spiritual and intellectual pursuits like us? Believe it or not, you need intense relationships outside the one that you share with your spouse or partner to maintain the health of your primary romantic relationship. The over-romanticized idea of a soul-mate puts extreme pressure on one individual to satisfy all our needs — emotional, intellectual, sexual and spiritual. Having healthy platonic relationships goes a long way in taking off a load of a single individual and enhancing the overall quality of your emotional and intellectual life.
(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found as @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter.)