Platonic love is a type of love that is chaste and non-sexual. The term is named after Plato, who philosophized about the nature of love. Platonic love in this original sense of the term is examined in Plato’s dialogue the Symposium, which has as its topic the subject of love or Eros generally. It explains the possibilities of how the feeling of love began and how it has evolved—both sexually and non-sexually. -Plato
But does it work?
In my experience, yes.. with some dedication and no… when one or the other parties is unwilling to work for it. Platonic relationships between men and women, women and women or men and men (Because this is 2013 folks and I’m not exactly the close minded type!) are often fraught with hidden feelings, agendas, guilt, jealousy and other complicated emotions. They can also be huge sources of joy if both parties are of a mind to work for them.
I have more female friends then male friends. I grew up in an all female house and I’m extremely in touch with my feminine side (I can also hunt you down and make you cry if you make fun of me for it!). While I do not relate better to women over men, or understand them any better then anyone else, there are just common female personality traits that I gravitate toward. In the same arena, the males I consider close are usually of like mind in that they are strong but compassionate which incidently are two traits I adore in women.
Below I’ll cite some personal examples from my own life that will cover successes, failures and everything in between concerning platonic relationships.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent… or guilty…
Ann deals with a damaged friendship due to a one way (mine) attraction. When I met Ann I was immediately taken with her physical beauty especially her eyes and quaint smile. I knew nothing else of her but as I got to know her, I was attracted to her personality, both the strength she outwardly showed and the confusion, insecurity and delicacy she revealed as we grew close. I was there for Ann during a rough time in her life and my motives were those of someone trying to get a person they loved through a tumultuous patch. Ann and I spoke daily, we hung out sometimes every night. Time moved on and Ann let loose, finally enjoying life. On one of these occasions we ended up in an intimate situation. I could lie and blame it on the alcohol but I knew that I was and had been attracted to her for as long as we had known each other. Ann wasn’t incredible in bed, I wasn’t seduced by her sexuality, I just simply enjoyed her in every way, intellectually, physically, emotionally. Post intimacy, I became attached and she built walls. We went quite some time without talking but eventually broke down some of the walls. We would talk, but not nearly on the level we had. What had been daily talks now were weekly or monthly. Only when Ann had imbibed too much and happened to be in my presence would she say something that lead me to believe that some part of her wanted to be with me but was afraid to act on it. Otherwise, once the haze lifted she would all but run at my mention of giving dating a shot. Later in our friendship, I believe Ann began to resent me or even take me for granted and only called me when she needed something. More recently Ann and I have only spoken a few times a year. While no rift currently separates us, the damage of my constant attraction and little mentions of “what we could be” simply drove her to the point of lessening communication. Ann also has an extremely difficult time communicating openly about personal things. In the time since, I realize that we would be a terrible match for each other and have no interest in dating her, but, the damage has been done and she will always wonder if I’m harboring a desire for her. Painful as it might be to have lost someone who I care worlds for, I have no one to blame but myself. I leaned an encyclopedia’s amount about platonic relationships from Ann.
Danielle. What can I say. Danielle is by far the most complicated yet simple story in this post. Anyone who knows me will know exactly who I’m talking about name change or not. Danielle and I have been “something or another” for going on half our lives. We “sort-of-but-not-really-dated” in our teens. Became friends after many years of silence and then support systems while both of us were going through hell in our lives. Danielle is an example of a truly platonic relationship that has been built on a foundation of love, anger, mis-communication, adoration, history, understanding and many things in between. A simpler way to say this would be “we just get it”. Danielle and I don’t always communicate well, we’ve hurt each other, we’ve used each-other, but we have also unconditionally loved each other; we have been there for the worst and the best. Many platonic relationships burn hot and fade fast but Danielle and I did it differently. We burned hot, doused all flame until the cinders were cold, started another fire, stamped it out and from those old coals a simmering flame rose up to what we are now which is true platonic friends. I don’t usually have trouble finding the words but I do when it comes to explaining the friendship between Danielle and I. As I mentioned earlier, we “just get it”. For all intensive purposes we shouldn’t be friends. Our views on many things are completely misalligned. Danielle is a devout Christian and I side with a nature based religion. On some of the biggest topics, we disagree. We have had endless debates on everything you can think of, been through ten times the attraction confusion mentioned in “Ann” above, fought, argued, nitpicked, snapped and yet she still invited me to her marriage to a man to whom when she began dating, took the time to explain that our friendship was important to her and that it wouldn’t go away. Danielle and I may not always agree, but we do have an enormous amount of mutual respect. We may not always communicate well but when the big things hit, we tackle them. When the big hurts enter our lives, we know we can turn to one another for support or a shoulder or just someone to say “do you believe this @#$#%!?” At the end of the day, Danielle and I fought for this friendship because we both discovered how precious it is. That was all it took.
Michelle deals with a long platonic relationship that has been everything from “friends with benefits” to “curl up in a ball and cry your eyes out”. Michelle and I have known each other for longer than either of us care to admit. One thing we (mostly) do well is open communication. We have fought, yelled, laughed, been through hell in our lives and depended on one another for spiritual support. We have hurt each other and loved each other. What has saved us in each instance, be it the awkwardness of the morning after while in our teens or the fight brought on because of jealous lovers was communication. Maybe it took a day or a week or even months but we always came back to the table to hash it out. For this reason, this open communication, Michelle is still part of my life and I am part of hers.
Finally there’s Noelle. Noelle and I started off dating and when that ended became close friends. I live by a rule when it comes to dating. “There was attraction to begin with, why ignore that if the dating part doesn’t work out”. In a few less words, I try to stay friends with those I have dated. This is not easy for a lot of people because jealousy can set in. Thankfully, I truly believe that unless something terrible tore you apart, there is no reason not to give friendship a try. I’ve been mostly successful at it. Noelle and I are “buddies”, we share some of the same group of friends. This group of friends is one I feel most connected to. They are honest and caring folks, smart and hip. Noelle and I went almost directly from dating to friendship. There was no “take-a-break” space. She actually met another guy due to us dating. They’ve been happily married awhile now and I am great friends with both of them. This is the way it should be in my book. After our initial End Of Dating, there was some pain, there were some sad moments but we came through it quickly. We are so comfortable (or well, ok, I am), that we can joke about our past as dating partners which is fun (for me at least) when we get together with people who have known us awhile but didn’t know we dated. We got along well when we dated and we get along well as friends. The only difference between our dating relationship and our friendship is the now non-existent intimacy… Except when she and her husband group attack me on their couch.
The few examples above are just a sampling of the amount of platonic friendships I have had. Most started out as friends and continue as friends. I have not posted an example of those above because those are more common and you probably have a few yourself. The hard ones, the ones where you have to fight for it are worth talking about. At the end of the day, I believe both people have to want to remain friends through thick and thin. It’s an investment and sometimes it will only be a one-way investment; Ann is an example of this. She doesn’t invest much in our friendship whereas I invest quite a bit. You have to be ok with that completely. You can’t come back later and say “she uses me” unless you end it with “and I allow it because I want to”. You also cannot hope they will come around and realize how great a friend you are. Some people will and some won’t and that is just how it goes. If you are strong enough and willing enough to continue a platonic friendship through some of the more complicated obstacles, it can be quite a rewarding relationship.