What is a Platonic Relationship? (and How to Make it Work)

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Friendship with a member of the opposite sex can be something great to have. In fact, psychologists call it the “jackpot of friendship.”

There's the freedom to discover things about another male or female, without the obligations of a romantic relationship. With that said, you're either in a platonic relationship or you're not. There's no getting the best of both worlds

However, there's a thin line that can easily become blurred. You might agree that things can get complicated if you're already in a romantic relationship. I've had to remind male friends that I cared for them, but there was no sexual attraction or intention to give them romantic partner status.

Getting the 411 on what a platonic relationship enables you to follow the code of conduct for enjoying a happy and rewarding non-intimate friendship.

What Is a Platonic Relationship?

A platonic relationship is one where you share a close bond without romance or sex. It can be just as deep and intense as one shared with a close friend of the same gender.

The relationship remains an emotional and spiritual one between people who love, care for, and respect each other.

Purely platonic love is open and honest, respects boundaries, and has no romantic expectations or conditions.

Is It Really Possible for a Man and Woman to Just be Friends?

Yes. Platonic friendships between heterosexual friends can and do work as long as everyone is respecting the ground rules.

In their truest sense, these relationships have a clear and distinguishing line. It shouldn't be confused with the “friends-with-benefits” (FWB) relationship, trending in recent times.

I recently broke off a connection with a guy who claimed he wanted us to “just be friends.” Yet, he was treating me like a girlfriend with his clingy attitude and expectations that aligned with romance. He got upset when I tried to clarify the “relationship” and made it clear that I won't be his FWB. The experience was quite unsettling.

Having a platonic friend doesn't mean there won't be sexual attraction or tension… but it is your ability to stay within the boundaries of friendship that what will preserve the relationship.

The relationship will instantly lose its innocence when sexual intimacy becomes a part of it and will cease to be platonic. You'll be faced with a decision to end the friendship or transition into an intimate relationship.

Can a Platonic Friendship Affect my Romantic Relationship?

A platonic friendship has a certain innocence. In it, you should feel safe and secure knowing that no one has ulterior motives that can compromise the integrity of what you share. Still, there are times when things may get iffy.

Chances are, agreeing to be friends only may not work for you if there's any level of sexual attraction from either of you… or it conflicts with your romantic relationship. Your husband or wife may have their own insecurities or trust issues about you spending time with someone of the opposite sex. 

So, you need to make it very clear to both parties that your romantic partner comes first, and if there is any pushback on their part, you’ll likely need to end the platonic relationship.

What are the Benefits of a Platonic Relationship?

Clearly, there are no intimate or romantic benefits in a relationship that is truly platonic. But there are definite advantages to this type of relationship, especially when it comes to gaining perspective into the opposite sex. You can enjoy mutual benefits that you may not experience with a romantic love.

You can be yourself: We all need at least one friend who accepts us as we are. You can tell them just about anything without judgment or fear of abandonment. They listen, respect our views and decisions, offer fresh perspectives, and give advice if they notice we're going astray.

Having a trusted someone to bare your soul to is good for your mental health. It's similar to talk therapy, which has been proven to decrease stress and anxiety and improve mood.

There's mutual openness: This kind of relationship is genuine and built on honesty and trust. You and your friend feel safe opening up about personal matters that you may hesitate to tell your partner.

The deep bond, openness, trust, and love that exist enables you to feel seen, heard, and validated in ways you may not with your intimate partner. Getting all these needs met in a non-judgmental environment can enhance the mental well-being of both parties within the friendship.

There's no hidden agenda: It's a special feeling to be able to hang out with a man or woman who's not in it with ulterior motives. No expectations of erotic love. They just simply enjoy your company.

The connection is a stable one and you can lean on each other for moral or emotional support. You don't feel like you owe each other romance in return for the support received. Jealousy doesn't raise its ugly head and you won't feel the threat of a romantic breakup.

7 Ways to Make a Platonic Relationship Work

There's a unique vibe platonic friends enjoy from non-sexual intimacy and the freedom to be completely vulnerable.

However, relationship experts are divided on whether people of the opposite sex can maintain a long-term platonic relationship. According to some psychologists, it can work if you know these secrets or ground rules for cultivating a relationship that is purely platonic.

1. Be Honest About Your Feelings

You and your friend should have an open and honest conversation about why you want to be or remain just friends. Common reasons include deep respect, admiration, or shared interests. Stating intentions in the early stages of your friendship lets you see if everyone is on the same page.

Continuing with the relationship can be risky if one party expresses sexual attraction. Physical chemistry can be difficult to manage and can interfere with moving ahead when there's an overhanging threat of intimacy.

If flirtations or sexual attraction arise after the relationship is well-established, share them. You may also need to discuss how to keep feelings in check.

2. Set Healthy Boundaries Together

All relationships need to have healthy boundaries to guide how everyone conducts themselves with each other. A boundary is a rule you express to others to guide them on how to communicate with and treat you.

It must be clearly stated since it's not reasonable to expect others to know what things please you or turn you off.

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All relationships need to have healthy boundaries to guide how everyone conducts themselves with each other.

In a platonic relationship setting, drawing those invisible lines allows you to set the tone on how emotionally close you want your friend to get to you. Set rules on communication, how you'll greet each other, subjects that are taboo, and respect for each other's romantic partners.

The line between friendship and romance can become blurred and platonic friends can easily become sexually intimate without established boundaries.

3. Refrain from Physical Affection

Avoiding physical types of touching reserved for romantic relationships is an important rule for a healthy bond between platonic friends. That's because hugging or holding hands involves touching and close physical contact that can spark chemistry.

Whenever a male friend complains about my famous church hug, I instantly know they want more than they're leading on. If you're a woman, “church hugs,” or side hugs, are a friendly and less intimate way of greeting male friends.

If you agree on greeting each other with hugs, keep them light, quick, and short. Resist engulfing yourselves in long, lingering embraces. Otherwise, you risk implying there's attraction somewhere there. While you're at it, extend the ban on showing physical affection to kissing, even on the cheeks, hand, or forehead.

4. Give Each Other Personal Space

The need to always be mindful plays a role in how you shape your relationship with a male or female who isn't your girlfriend or boyfriend.

Refrain from acting anxious or clingy so you don't come across as if you're in a relationship. Pay attention to how you interact when you speak or are in the same space.

Your body language and proximity must also align with the meaning of platonic. Maintain personal space when you hang out at the coffee shop or the library. Spending time alone at each other's home should be avoided at all costs.

Socializing behind closed doors can send the wrong message or ignite intimate desires.

5. Avoid Sex Talks

Another way to keep your platonic relationship drama-free is to keep sex talks off the table. It's natural for sexual tension to arise between a man and woman who share a heterosexual friendship. With boundaries set earlier on, both of you will know not to act on those feelings with words or actions.

Introducing anything sexually suggestive can create inappropriate sexual urges. The reality is, you're walking a thin line in this close but non-romantic relationship that can become intimate unintentionally.

The nature of your bond will automatically change with sexual intimacy and can ruin the relationship rather quickly. If sex happens, recovering from it can be challenging, especially if the romantic feelings aren't mutual. Ask yourself if it's worth losing this bond over a moment of pleasure.

6. Tell Your Partner About Your Friend

You might be tempted to avoid a conflict with your partner by keeping your platonic friendship a secret. Perhaps they're jealous, have difficulty trusting, or are struggling with insecurities about themselves.

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You owe it to your spouse to be open and honest about relationships with the opposite gender. Keeping them informed can minimize conflict later on. Make them feel included and respected by letting them know when and where you're hanging out with your friend.

A supportive husband should understand and respect your need for friendship outside your marriage, even if it's with a man. Putting your husband first and even introducing them to your friend can also reduce insecurities or any fear of abandonment they may have.

7. Don’t Go on “Dates”

Another ground rule is to engage in activities that aren't suggestive of a romance. Strike these types of engagements off the list: dates in a romantic setting, nightly hangouts, weekend trips without your partner, and at-home Netflix-and-chill.

These meetings are typically a part of romantic dating and can send mixed signals. It doesn't matter if you've been friends for a long time or you believe everyone has their feelings in check.

Certain environments can spark romantic interest or desires more easily than if you were meeting for lunch in a public place. Reserve dating activities, romantic gestures, and cozy settings for your partner or wife instead.

Final Thoughts on Platonic Relationships

You can enjoy a happy, thriving relationship with a man or woman minus the romance… once you get past the teething phase and everyone knows where they stand. It will take work, especially in the beginning, to satisfy each other's needs within the friendship without crossing a line.

Defining the relationship at the outset, setting healthy boundaries, and abiding by the rules will allow you to form a strong and lasting connection… cemented in mutual respect and honesty.

If your partner is having issues with the idea of you enjoying a platonic relationship, have him or her read our article on 10 Ways to Be Less Needy and Clingy in a Relationship and then talk about it together.

For more helpful resources on healthy relationships, be sure to check out these articles:

Finally, if you want to increase your happiness and life satisfaction, then watch this free video that details the 7-minute habit for planning your day to focus on what's important.

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