Although it has long been said that love is one of the universal feelings that are ingrained into humanity, defining love has never been easy. One of the reasons might be that there are many types of love, and as many ways to show love as there are people on this planet. However, there are ways to differentiate between the kind of love we feel. So what is the difference between platonic and romantic love?
Platonic love got its name from the Greek philosopher Plato who in his famous Symposium wrote about the meaning of love from different viewpoints. Originally, Plato’s view was directed towards same-sex relationships (sexual or not), but as time passed, our definition of platonic love has shifted.
Nowadays the term means as much as saying “we’re just friends” and implies that no sexual attraction is present, including not only same-sex relationships but also ringing true for every combination of sexuality and gender. Even though the concept behind the words may have changed, some of their original meaning still remains. And no, unrequited romantic love is not one of its prerequisites.
Although platonic love does not rest on carnal desire or lust, it still can be deep and extremely meaningful, creating beautiful and life-long friendships that endure even the toughest of circumstances. It encourages extreme honesty, respects boundaries, and asks for nothing in return. It is the “if I need to hide a body, you will be the one I call”-kind of friendship that we all wish for.
Most would say that their partners are their best friends, yet there is a definite difference between platonic love in friendships and romantic love between partners. Starting with the most obvious difference, physical intimacy is for many exclusively reserved for romantic relationships, as it is said that romantic love is based on sexual attraction as well as mutual interests. With time, the relationship transforms from a passionate into a more stable and longer-lasting one, with the possibility of a deep and meaningful bond that lasts a lifetime.
While in platonic relationships between friends brutal honesty often is one of its pillars, in romantic relationships honesty is still present, but softer and more compassionate. The stakes are a lot higher and therefore romantic partners tend to tread more carefully around touchy themes than they would when talking with their best friends.
Higher stakes also mean higher expectations in romantic relationships. Is this really the person to spend an entire lifetime with? People are usually much more careful starting romantic relationships than with their platonic ones because with a romantic partner the expectations (and therefore the pressure) of the relationship being successful and fulfilling are much higher. This means that romantic partners are much more guarded, especially at the beginning, until they sync up and find a way to successfully nurture their relationship.
Love is love
To experience love is one of the most human desires we can have, and giving it might be the most gratifying and rewarding we can do with our time on Earth. And one thing is sure to be remarked: every type of love is worth the same as the next, whether it be platonic or romantic, as long as it is mutually beneficial and healthily expressed. The mainstream focus usually lies on romantic love and relationships, but loving our friends and being loved by them is equally as fulfilling and important as loving and being loved by our romantic partners!