When someone says they have a platonic relationship, it’s sex — not intimacy that’s missing.
Platonic relationships have — like many things — been pigeonholed in media. They’re often portrayed as situations where one person longs for the other, but there’s no mutual romance, so they get “friend-zoned.”
While the absence of romantic love is what sets a platonic relationship apart, these bonds can be some of the most powerful you develop throughout your life.
A platonic relationship is one with no romantic or sexual features, but it means more than “just friends.”
According to the ancient philosopher Plato, for whom the concept is named, this bond is a type of love experienced when we identify positive qualities we feel complete us, within another person.
In other words, your platonic relationships are those close friends in life with whom you feel aligned and who have your trust, confidence, and loyalty.
You can be “just friends” with many people, but a platonic relationship is like finding your nonromantic soul mate.
How platonic differs from other types of relationships
Friendships can occur on many different levels, but platonic friendships are deeper and may be made up of traits related to intimacy, such as those that encourage emotional support, caring, and empathy. Many similar analyses note additional traits including:
- Acceptance. Appreciation for one another’s genuine traits.
- Loyalty. A sense of camaraderie and protectiveness.
- Understanding. Knowing simply through your bond what the other person might need or expect.
- Trust. Being able to confide in that person without doubt.
- Acceptance. Feeling able to be yourself around that person.
- Companionship. A sense of comfort and security around one another.
- Enjoyment. Being together is a positive, happy, and enriching experience.
- Growth. Encouraging and helping one another toward positive life outcomes.
- Gratitude. A sense of appreciation for that person’s presence in your life.
- Closeness. Considering someone as if they were a member of your family.
Intimacy is not reserved for sex, though sex is often an expression of intimacy.
Intimacy in a relationship is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable with another person, and it encompasses traits such as trust, security, and closeness.
Intimacy, beyond physical, can be:
It’s sharing your deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Platonic intimacy simply means you have all of these things, minus the sexual or romantic expression.
Signs that your partnered relationship is platonic
Sometimes romantic relationships lose their aspects of sexual attraction. Your partnered relationship may be moving toward platonic if you:
- feel emotionally close but not sexually attracted to your partner
- enjoy spending time together but feel no need to express physical intimacy
Finding a platonic relationship — a friendship with someone you can bare your soul to — isn’t something that happens every day.
You can, however, give yourself a fighting chance at building these relationships by focusing on aligning with people through things in life that are important to you.
Look toward people with similar interests
If your platonic friends are the ones who make you feel whole, it makes sense that you might find them in areas you’re passionate about.
If you’re an avid reader, for example, you may find like-minded friends in book clubs. Love martial arts? Chances are you share more than that similarity with other people in the training group.
The more interests you share with a friend, the more likely you may be to have a long-term friendship.
Activities aren’t the only area you can sync with someone. Having deep conversations can be a great way to gain insights into someone’s broader viewpoints.
You may find you both have a passion for theoretical physics, or maybe you both enjoy ancient alien controversies.
Deep conversations can be a way to find meaningful connections, as this 2021 research details. You’re trusting your deeper opinions with someone for contemplation, just as they’re trusting you with theirs.
Platonic relationships are often those friendships where you can speak once a year and still pick up where you left off.
While this type of lower-maintenance friendship can be comforting, even these types of ties need attention.
You can keep platonic friendships thriving through little acts of courtesy, like:
- sharing equal responsibility for friend invites to plans or events
- checking in just to see how they are
- making an effort to be there as support if they express they’re going through a hard time
- showing small acts of kindness
- letting them know you’re grateful for their input and efforts
Prune the platonic ties that are no longer serving you
It’s possible to have close friendships that fade or friends who treat you poorly.
Someone may have gone through a life change, for example, or maybe they aren’t who they were when you were both growing up.
But abusive behaviors in any relationship don’t have to be tolerated, even if you’ve considered someone a longtime platonic friend.
Social exchange theory in psychology suggests as long as the benefits outweigh the cons in a relationship, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Patterns of negative behaviors that stack up over time or big fallouts, however, can be friendship-enders no matter how close you’ve felt to someone.
Possible hurdles for platonic friendships include:
- Ghosting habits. Conversation and friendship responsibility falls solely on your shoulders.
- Boundary breaches. A lack of care or concern toward boundaries can be a challenge.
- Fanaticism. Hot-topic moral debates where no outside opinion is considered.
- Friends with benefits. Introducing sexual aspects into a friendship with no intention of romantic attachment.
- Vulnerable friendships. Feeling close to someone, like a therapist, who knows you intimately but doesn’t return the same platonic transparency.
Just because you feel drawn to someone doesn’t mean they share your sentiments or intentions.
Someone may suggest a “friends with benefits” scenario, for example, because they’re looking for sexual satisfaction and may not be interested in any other types of intimacy that you might be.
A true platonic friend would sincerely have your best interests in mind, and respect and respond to what you communicate.
Platonic relationships are close friendships without romantic or sexual features.
Your platonic friends are those within your inner circle. They are the people you trust the most, and the ones you know care about you for who you are.
Platonic love is real. It’s the love you grow for someone who compliments you in a nonromantic way.