What Is a Platonic Relationship?

Benefits of platonic relationships

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

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A platonic relationship is one in which two people share a close bond but do not have a sexual relationship. They may even feel love for each other, referred to as platonic love. This concept originates in the ideas of the ancient philosopher Plato, from whose name the term is derived.

Plato believed that platonic love could bring people closer to a divine ideal. However, the modern use of 'platonic relationship' or 'platonic love' is focused on the idea of people being close friends. This term can apply to both opposite-sex and same-sex friendships. 

Platonic Love

Merriam-Webster defines platonic love as "a close relationship between two persons in which sexual desire is nonexistent or has been suppressed or sublimated."

Platonic Relationship vs. Romantic Relationship

A platonic relationship is different from a romantic relationship. While both types of relationships often involve having a deep friendship and sometimes even love, people in a romantic relationship are typically physically intimate whereas there is no sex or physical intimacy in a platonic relationship.

It is possible to desire physical intimacy (such as hugging, kissing, or touching) or sex with the other person but not be engaged in these activities. If no physical intimacy or sex exists between you and the other person, it is a platonic relationship—even if the desire is there.

Platonic Relationship
  • Involves deep friendship

  • People involved may or may not have a desire for physical intimacy

  • No physical intimacy or sex occurs

Romantic Relationship
  • Involves deep friendship

  • Generally involves both people having a desire for physical intimacy

  • Often involves physical intimacy and/or sex

Signs Your Relationship Is Platonic

There are a number of characteristics that distinguish a platonic relationship from other relationship types. In addition to the lack of a sexual aspect, a platonic relationship also tends to be marked by:

  • Closeness: Both people in the relationship feel a closeness to each other and feel that they share things in common. 
  • Honesty: Both individuals feel that they can share what they really think and feel with the other person.
  • Acceptance: These relationships tend to feel easy and comfortable. Both people feel that they are safe and free to be themselves. 
  • Understanding: People who share a platonic relationship have a connection, but they also recognize and respect each other's personal space. They don't try to force the other person to do things they don't want to do or be something that they are not.

Platonic relationships are often friendships. And while the lack of a sexual relationship is what characterizes this type of connection, it does not necessarily mean that the individuals in the relationship are not attracted to each other or could not start to feel attracted to one another.

Types of Platonic Relationships

A few terms have emerged to describe different types of platonic relationships. These include:

  • Bromance: This is a term used to describe a close, affectionate, non-sexual relationship between two men.
  • Womance: This term is used to describe an emotional, non-sexual, non-romantic bond between two women.
  • Work spouse: This phrase is sometimes used to describe a close but non-sexual connection between colleagues or co-workers that involves bonds and sometimes even roles similar to that of a marriage.

How to Form a Platonic Relationship

Platonic relationships can be important for psychological well-being. Research has found that having social support plays a vital role in mental health, so building a network that includes family, platonic friends, and other loved ones can be important for your overall wellness.

Some things that you can do to help foster platonic relationships include:

  • Join social networking groups where you can meet people
  • Sign up for workshops or classes on topics that interest you
  • Participate in online communities
  • Volunteer for causes you care about in your community

In addition to developing new platonic relationships, it is also important to understand how to keep the ones you have now healthy and strong. Some ways to do this include being supportive, maintaining boundaries, and practicing honesty.

Benefits of Platonic Relationships

There are several reasons why having platonic relationships is important for your health and well-being. Some of the positive effects that these relationships may bring to your life include:

Improved Health

Research suggests that having love and support from people in your life can have important health benefits. Physically, this type of platonic love and support can lower your risk for disease, improve your immunity, and decrease your risk for depression and anxiety.

Your platonic support system can help provide emotional support as well. They do this by listening to what you have to say, providing validation, and helping you when you are in need.

Lower Stress

Stress can take a serious toll on both your physical and mental health. Chronic or prolonged stress can contribute to health problems such as cardiac disease, high blood pressure, digestive issues, and decreased immunity. It can also play a role in mood problems such as anxiety or depression

Having strong platonic relationships outside of immediate family and romantic partnerships has been found to help people better cope with sources of stress. Not only that, but having supportive platonic friendships also lowers the stress that people face.

Increased Resilience

Platonic relationships can play a role in helping you become more resilient in the face of life's challenges. Whether you have troubles in your romantic relationships, problems in your family, work struggles, or health challenges, your platonic relationships can support you as you weather these storms. 

One study found that one of the biggest predictors of a person's ability to recover after a traumatic or stressful event was the presence of strong friendships.

Tips for a Healthy Platonic Relationship

Platonic relationships are not always easy to find. When you do establish a strong platonic bond, it is important to continue to nurture and strengthen that connection. Some things that you can do to help keep these relationships healthy include:

  • Don't make the other person do all the work: Don't rely on the other person to make all the plans or initiate all the contact. Reach out to them regularly to invite them to participate in activities.
  • Stay in touch: Call, text, or email the other person from time to time just to keep the lines of communication open. Let them know you are thinking of them, reach out to share a funny joke you know they'll enjoy, or just ask them how they are.
  • Show up for them: Other people can be an important source of emotional support, but it's just as important for you to reciprocate that support. Be there when they need you, even if it is just to lend an open and supportive ear.

It is also important to know when to let go of a platonic relationship. Unhealthy relationships can create stress, so don't be afraid to end your association if the other person is unkind, manipulative, hurtful, or doesn't support you the way you need.

Potential Challenges of a Platonic Relationship

It is important to note that platonic relationships are not the same as unrequited love. An unrequited relationship is essentially a crush that involves one person being romantically or sexually interested in someone who does not return their feelings. True platonic relationships do not involve an unequal balance of emotions.

This does not mean that a platonic relationship can’t or won’t develop into something romantic or sexual. While such a relationship can potentially turn into a strong romantic relationship, you also run the risk of losing the friendship if you end up breaking up

If maintaining a platonic relationship is important to you, focus on establishing and maintaining clear boundaries. For example, set limits on things such as time spent together, amount of contact, and physical intimacy.

Platonic Boundaries

Some boundaries to maintain in a platonic relationship include:

  • Don't gossip or complain about your partners to each other
  • Don't engage in physical contact beyond casual intimacy (i.e., avoid things like handholding, kissing, or "friends-with-benefits" situations)
  • Don't ditch your partner to spend time with your platonic friend
  • Don't hide your platonic relationship from your partner
  • Give each other plenty of space
  • Make time for your other relationships

If You Want Something More

If you want to extend a platonic relationship or platonic love into a sexual or romantic relationship, it is important to be open and honest with the other person. Express your interest without pressuring them.

Discuss what it might mean to the relationship and how it might ultimately affect your friendship. Platonic relationships can serve as a great foundation for a romantic relationship, but it is important to be honest and communicate openly.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Psychological Association. Manage stress: strengthen your support network.

  3. Miller A. Friends wanted. Monitor on Psychology. 2014;45(1):54.

  4. Amati V, Meggiolaro S, Rivellini G, Zaccarin S. Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friendsGenus. 2018;74(1):7. doi:10.1186/s41118-018-0032-z

  5. Harmelen A-L van, Kievit RA, Ioannidis K, et al. Adolescent friendships predict later resilient functioning across psychosocial domains in a healthy community cohortPsycholog Med. 2017;47(13):2312-2322.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.