March 27, 2023

Love comes in many forms, it is said, but it also has several modalities, including platonic relationships. With this expression, you might be led to think about romances that never blossomed into anything concrete in the first place.

Again, you could define or hear platonic relationships those relationships born online (born on social networks or dating apps) and which after some time have still remained in the virtual dimension (i.e. you have never seen each other live). Both of these definitions could suggest something, but they are not exhaustive. Here’s what platonic relationships really are and what they mean today.

What is a platonic relationship

It may seem like a relationship from other times, like the one between Dante and Beatrice, made up only of feelings, looks and the idealization of love. In reality, those who experience unrequited love today, but also long-distance love, experience a platonic relationship, precisely because physical and sensual contact is missing. “It is a deep bond that we feel for someone, but which for various reasons must be confined only to the idea of ​​love”, explains the expert. “We often feel this intense connection with the strong mental attunement, in the charisma of a person or in the fact that he is able to make us feel important, going beyond gender, distance and age difference.

Celebrated by poets and writers, platonic love is the feeling that binds two people beyond physical contact. Whether it’s a kind of love to be rediscovered in times of social distancing? Often the expression “platonic love” is used to define a relationship unrelated to reality: a pure and perfect love that lives in the mind and among dreams, therefore in a perfection that hides a fundamental incompleteness.

According to psychology, the tendency to cultivate platonic relationships can hide the need to take refuge in a fantasy world and the fear of facing reality, which is more difficult and less perfect, but concrete, tangible, authentic. However, Platonic love is not just a relationship between lovers.

Halfway between mental attraction and utopian desire, this relationship lives on an ideal level, drags the soul, turns into admiration and sharing of ideas, inspiration. Because, after all, « Passion is not blind, it is visionary » wrote Stendhal.

Desire helps us grow and build our ideas about love. As the Lebanese poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran reminds us «Desire is half of life, indifference is half of death». Through the absence a movement of the soul is generated.

From Plato’s work, because it is to him that we have to go back, the idea of ​​a profound commonality emerges, the energy that is able to unite two people through esteem so as to involve the mind and occupy the thoughts.

Platonic relationship definition

The definition of platonic love is that of a love that goes beyond the sexual and physical component, remaining purely spiritual. Over time, the expression has also become synonymous with a pure and chaste love, even if we want to be detached from reality, which remains mental and does not turn into action. Platonic love, in some cases, can also become a psychological condition, which tends to idealize the relationship and the person in front of us. Regardless of the pathological aspect, however, throughout history the term has been the fulcrum of the conception of love of some literary movements, at the basis of romantic love or even courtly love, made only of feeling and not of sex act.

In these cases, the figure of the woman was idealized and love was not conceived as physical love, but remained relegated to the spiritual and potential sphere. In the modern era, it has also taken on a figurative meaning, to mean something that one loves or wants very much, but that one has no intention of taking or cannot obtain.

Platonic love: origin and why it is said so

The origin of the term, however, is not modern, but dates back to ancient Greece and to the thought of Plato, one of the most important philosophers in history, famous for example for Plato’s myth of the cave.

Plato theorizes about Platonic love in the Symposium, another of his most famous works and among his best-known dialogues.

In this work Plato, through the mouth of Socrates, expresses his thoughts on Eros, the god of love indeed.

According to what is stated in the work Eros would be a demon son of Pòros (expedient, ingenuity) and Penìa (poverty): during the celebrations for the birth of Aphrodite, in fact, Pòros gets drunk and falls asleep in the gardens of Zeus.

Penìa, in the hope of begetting a son, takes advantage of Poros’ moment of drunkenness and lies down with him. From their union, in fact, Eros is born , love, which takes on both a positive and a negative connotation: on the one hand, in fact, it is the child of need and passion, taking life from the absence and from what we don’t possess.

At this point, love is no longer just a physical fact, but a drive of the soul and starting from this speech Plato comes to talk about the love of knowledge .

Modern languages ​​take up the expression from Marsilio Ficino who used the term “amor platonicus” in the fifteenth century to indicate a love directed towards the intellectual and moral aspects , instead of the physical ones.

This expression is used by the author as a synonym for “amor socraticus” which in the Symposium indicates the emotional bond between Socrates and his pupils: that affection which develops between the master and his disciples.

Signs of platonic relationship

Beyond the theoretical definitions, platonic relationships are characterized by a feeling of deep familiarity with the other person. It almost feels like love at first sight, because you will feel like you already know the other person and there isn’t the initial embarrassment of knowing each other. The connection can be very deep, intense, and even life-altering.

Simply put, the typical signs of platonic relationships are:

  • A strong emotional bond
  • A connection through which you discover yourself
  • There are no expectations
  • You are always yourself and you completely like the other person

Platonic relationship vs romantic relationship

On platonic relationships, things can get complicated if the two people involved are heterosexual or, when of the same sex, homosexual. In these cases, according to some there will also be a sexual component, that is, a tension that is not expressed. In this situation, it could be that sexual desire is suppressed, at least on the part of one of the two people.

Even if there is some sexual tension between platonic friends, you may decide to keep it friendship friendly and not get into the sexual dimension. Typically, however, in platonic relationships, caring, concern, and love are displayed through words and body language. Physical attraction, on the other hand, doesn’t exist, at least by definition.

What to do if the sexual drive takes over

In some cases, however, in platonic relationships it could happen that one of the two also feels sexual attraction. Many mental health professionals discourage sexual intimacy between platonic friends, primarily due to the rarity of finding this type of connection. If you both also feel attraction, you could talk about it and decide together whether to try to take the relationship to an erotic level as well. This, however, could turn you into a couple and potentially end your platonic friendship.

If however, only one of you feels a sexual urge and the other doesn’t, here are some helpful tips to safeguard platonic relationships (from sex):
Discuss your feelings with the other person

  • Discuss your feelings with the other person
  • Set boundaries together
  • Refrain from touching the other person, even as a greeting
  • Refrain from sexual conversations.
  • Be aware, at least for a while, of all that you might say and do when you’re together

Can they coexist with romantic ties?

There are endless discussions about platonic love and romantic love. For many people, platonic relationships cannot coexist if one or both platonic partners have romantic ties. Indeed, even in the presence of pure platonic relationships (that is, totally devoid of sexual impulses), it could be complicated… for everyone involved.

In reality, however, it’s not entirely impossible. There are many testimonies of stable platonic relationships, which for a long time have not affected the love life of the partners. In order for everything to work well and with respect for everyone involved, communication and honesty are key.

Platonic love in the age of Tinder

Virtually born couples are no longer the exception, but rather the rule. There are many relationships born thanks to Tinder or other dating apps. But if many of the people who know each other in this way within a short time meet live and live a completely normal relationship, some tend to leave the relationship in the “virtual” without ever meeting in real life. Can these loves be defined as platonic? It can happen when you tend to idealize the other person, avoiding confrontation with life beyond the screen.

In 2015, 32% of men out of a sample of 1,215 admitted a general decline in desire. According to experts, the scarcity or absence of sexual relations is a phenomenon that affects more and more couples : the lifestyle of Western society leads to sublimate desire by transferring the sexual drive to a career level.

Work, social performance, leisure time passions replace the physicality of the relationship.

In this sense, the web can amplify the tendency to detach. We can chat, meet new people and even start a relationship without ever having met and touched each other. However, platonic love is not only that.

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