When we think about meaningful relationships, the thought generally focuses on something romantic. But there are actually many different types of relationships that are just as important, such as the love and consideration for one’s parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, children, and grandchildren, as well as the connection between two friends. These platonic relationships provide valuable emotional bonds between two people that are rooted in shared interests, beliefs, and world-views. Although there is no romantic or sexual element to the relationships, the impact can be just as meaningful and beneficial for your health.
The Health Benefits of Platonic Relationships
There are many benefits to experiencing love, and platonic love is no exception. For a relationship to be considered platonic, two people must experience a deep connection that does not in any way lead to sexual intimacy. It often involves two people of the opposite sex, but can also take shape for those of the same gender if both individuals are not heterosexual. In any case, you do not need to be romantically involved to enjoy the rich benefits of being in a healthy relationship. Some of these life-changing benefits include:
- Increases life expectancy: Research finds that people engaged in healthy social relationships typically live longer, as they help lower your risk of a heart attack and can help prevent the development of certain types of cancer.
- Keeps the doctor away: When a person feels loved and cared for, it boosts their immune system and reduces the chance of them catching a cold or other viral infection, as well as help them recover more quickly from contracting an illness.
- Promotes happiness: When people maintain healthy relationships, it helps cut back on feelings of isolation and can increase the sense of belonging, and ultimately, happiness.
- Maintains a healthy heart: Numerous studies find that those who are involved in strong, happy relationships have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those in more stressful situations. Additionally, they are shown to have the best blood pressure values.
- Decreases anxiety: When you experience a healthy and stable relationship, your brain activates the pleasure response part of your brain, dopamine. This release reduces anxiety.
- Reduces stress levels: When you have a close friend by your side, a feeling of support and security permeates during difficult situations or emotions.
- Better sleep: Because loving relationships result in less stress, you will be better able to sleep well and feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning. It is easier to ease tension when a feeling of support is happiness surrounds you.
How to Maintain a Platonic Relationship
Some psychologists believe any relationship where two people enjoy each other’s company, whether personal or professional, will contain some type of sexual tension. Even if no physical action is taken on the sexual desire, the desire is suppressed in some way. For instance, platonic friends may decide to keep things simple and not become romantic, as lines and boundaries can become blurred when sex enters the picture. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy the benefits of platonic relationships without ever getting romantic.
In instances where sexual attraction starts to seep into a platonic relationship, start by acknowledging it. Let the other individual know about your feelings and be honest about your desire to keep certain romantic boundaries and feelings in check. Make sure to avoid any uncomfortable physical contact beyond a casual greeting, and refrain from starting discussions where romantic or sexual topics are the subject. This can include jokes or discussions of the other person’s sex life.
Whenever possible, be mindful of what is said and done when you are together to maintain the openness of a platonic relationship. Be sure to avoid saying anything that could be misconstrued or be perceived as a mixed signal, especially if you know the other person in the platonic relationship has romantic feelings for you. By setting clear boundaries, being upfront and honest about any romantic feelings and keeping your words and actions completely neutral, you can better stave off any romantic feelings within a non-sexual relationship.
What to Do If Your Platonic Relationship Becomes Romantic
If both individuals decide to move forward sexually, then there are a few things that may occur. If the expressed intimacy is a positive experience, it can possibly make the relationship stronger and even promote and strengthen new type of bonds. On the other hand, if it is not a positive experience, this added intimacy can be detrimental to a platonic relationship. There may be instances where one of the individuals feels a romantic urge, while the other does not, making it difficult to keep the non-sexual relationship intact.
If you are in a platonic relationship and are thinking about bringing up the subject of sex, there is an opportunity to talk to your therapist to see how you can preserve the relationship as purely platonic. After all, the physical and emotional benefits of building and maintaining healthy platonic relationships can be life-changing, offering a significant impact on your happiness and quality of life.
Celebrating relationships where you have a deep love for one another is an important connection built on shared interests and world-views — one that is worth preserving.