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What’s a Platonic Relationship? (And How to Form One)

Wondering what a platonic relationship is? We’ll trace the origins from ancient Greece to the present day.
Grindr
&
Editorial team
October 22, 2023
June 22, 2024
7
min. read
Table of Contents

Athenian philosopher and bearded zaddy Plato had a lot to say about love. In his philosophical text Symposium, Plato records getting together for brunch with his besties — Socrates, Aristophanes, Pausanias, Alcibiades, and more — to discuss its meaning, which pretty much makes him the Carrie Bradshaw of ancient Greece.

Fast forward a couple millennia, and a platonic relationship — a term based on his thoughts above love — refers to a deeply affectionate friendship free from romantic desire. You’ll respect, admire, and be loyal to one another. Hugging and cuddling may enter the equation, but everyone’s bits stay inside their pants.

But actually, that’s not quite what Plato intended: His definition was, in fact, way gay. So, exactly what is a platonic relationship? We’ll explore the term’s history, its modern usage, and ways to form platonic bonds of your own.

A brief history of platonic love

The classical Platonic definition of love, aka Eros, referred to a progressive Ladder of Love climbing from purely sexual desire to an appreciation of the inherent beauty of being. In ancient Greece, men would marry and have children with women but often share romantic and sexual relationships with other men, such as their teachers, friends, and fellow soldiers. These bonds supposedly could not be shared with the opposite sex.

And you can take Plato’s word on it. “Plato” was actually his wrestling nickname, meaning “broad,” in reference to his massive chest and shoulders (yum!), which (we’d like to think, at least) made him quite popular with all his naked, oiled-up sparring mates.

Where were we? Oh, right. Philosophy.

Suffice it to say, ancient Greek ideas on sexuality and gender were… complicated. As this work was translated during the Renaissance, pearl-clutching homophobes needed a way to approach all that same-sex action, so the idea shifted to become asexual and aromantic. So yeah, Plato got straight-washed.

Even today, the definition depends on whom you’re talking to. Some believe you can even jump into the sack with one another in a platonic relationship as long as no romantic feelings are involved. But before we get ahead of ourselves and start referring to our friends with benefits as platonic soulmates, let’s take a look at the more generally acknowledged definition.  

Platonic relationships vs. romantic relationships

In modern parlance, a platonic relationship might be a bromance, womance, or friendship with a colleague or family member. Here are some contrasting elements to help you distinguish it from romance:

Platonic relationships

  • Your ride-or-die, your BFF, your brother from another mother, or your sister from another mister. Some say it’s a deep, intense friendship of mutual respect where you bring out the best in each other. Others say it’s any connection where you keep your clothes on.
  • Not just for hunky ancient Greek men drinking goblets of wine and slapping each other’s thighs, platonic friendships can be between anyone of any gender.
  • People are much more likely to have several platonic relationships which last much longer than romantic ones.
  • You fulfill some of each other’s emotional needs, but the relationship is (hopefully) less demanding than a romantic one, as it’s solely based on friendship.
  • That pesky “no sex” rule. Perhaps a platonic relationship might be the foundation for something erotic later on, but that’s a whole other can of worms (that we open up further down).

Romantic relationships

  • Arguably, a romantic relationship is a greater commitment than a platonic one. When you’re a couple (or polycule), the stakes are higher, and the relationship probably needs to be treated with extra care and attention. This isn’t to say that a platonic relationship requires no effort, but there isn’t the same expectation.
  • A great romance can last a lifetime, but it can also burn bright and fade fast. Romantic relationships are built on passion and emotion, so they tend to come and go more often than slow-burning friendships.

The benefits of a platonic relationship

Look, we love a good fuck buddy as much as the next guy. But sometimes, you can lose the “fuck” and have a plain old buddy. Gays who slay together stay together; serving C.U.N.T. is always better with company.

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Health

Friendships outside your romantic relationship or immediate family have been shown to improve your health. These relationships are based on love and respect, which can do wonders for depression, anxiety, and even your lifespan. Not bad for a pal showing up with a family-sized lasagna and a tub of ice cream to watch The Real Housewives when the chips are down.

Stress

Life can be stressful, subjecting us to cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and digestive problems. Having a good circle of amigos is a proven coping mechanism for regulating your mood and reducing your risk of hypertension.

Emotional support

If you’ve ever been through a tough time, you know having a squad to rally around you is vital. These people will stick by you when shit’s hitting the fan at work, your relationship is on the rocks, or your health takes a turn for the worse.

Three steps to form and maintain a healthy platonic relationship

Of course, making friends for life is easier said than done. Perhaps you’re an introvert who finds it difficult to branch out, or you’re adjusting to life in a new city. Maybe you’ve disguised yourself as a nun to escape vicious gangs in Reno, and you’re struggling as a social outcast in a repressive convent.

Whatever your situation, most people need a healthy platonic relationship to depend on; even Whoopi would never have made it without her habit-clad gal pals. Here’s a basic guide to finding more friends to get you started:

1) Get out there

The online world has connected us in so many ways, but no one will know how awesome you are if they can’t meet you face to face. Think of what interests you and sign up for relevant courses or activities outside of work. That way, you already have something in common before you’ve even met. The same goes for volunteering and communities devoted to a specific hobby or subculture. Finding your tribe is the very first step.

2) Keep nurturing it

A friendship is like a flower: Once you’ve sowed the seeds of friendship, you need to start watering so it germinates into a beautiful rosebud. Try to be open about yourself and don’t fear vulnerability. That’s how a genuine platonic friendship blossoms.

And when we say “rosebud,” we’re talking about friendship, not fisting. If your priority is a long-lasting and stable platonic relationship, it’s wise to avoid sexual intimacy. That’s not to say you can’t develop a friendship after sleeping together, of course. It’s just not the easiest route.

3) Lay the groundwork for a lifetime bond

We said romantic relationships require more effort, but you can’t phone it in for a platonic one, either. Stay in touch with your friends, support them as much as they support you, and ensure the relationship is 50-50. Even if you find an irresistible new romantic partner, don’t forget to make time for platonic love, as you don’t want those relationships to suffer.

Can platonic relationships become romantic relationships?

Absolutely. Not that we recommend basing real-life decisions on fictional television programs with unrealistic depictions of Greenwich Village apartments, but we all saw what a good thing Monica and Chandler had going in Friends. They were friends for years before they took each other to pound town in London for the first time.

And it very much happens IRL, too. Just don’t hold your breath; it’s just as likely to end in heartbreak. Still, if the sexual chemistry is there and your romantic expectations are aligned, it could become something more. Unless your name is Plato, because then, technically, all of your relationships would be Platonic. There’s no getting out of that one.

Let’s be besties

Whether it’s friends, lovers, or something in between, find new relationships among the 10 million monthly users on the Grindr app. Download the Grindr app, or browse hands-free with Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.

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