What is a platonic Relationship?
Are you struggling to know whether it’s right or wrong to have a platonic relationship when you are married? You are not alone! So many couples struggle to figure out what is and is not okay when it comes to having friends of opposite sexes. On the one hand, they are just a friend, but on the other hand, you would never want to put your marriage in jeopardy.
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Before we can dive into advice on whether two people of opposite sexes can be “just a friend” to each other, we need to answer important questions. What does platonic mean, and what is a platonic relationship?
So first, what does platonic mean? The word platonic comes from the writings of Plato, who philosophized on the subject of love. However, our modern interpretation of platonic love differs quite a bit from Plato’s philosophies.
Let’s turn to a more current definition of platonic in the dictionary.
Platonic Love: A close relationship between two persons in which sexual desire is nonexistent or has been suppressed or sublimatedMerriam-Webster Dictionary
By this definition, you likely have many platonic relationships. However, whether these types of relationships are okay when you are married becomes more complicated when considering a platonic relationship between people of opposite sexes.
Is it Okay to have a Platonic Friendship?
If you are married, you may wonder if keeping close relationships with friends of opposite sexes is acceptable. This can be a complicated topic for many people. On the one hand, close relationships help people remain happy throughout their lives. But on the other hand, we all know someone whose relationship suffered from infidelity. Studies on cheating show that it is extremely common within marriage.
Shirley Glass, Ph.D., states in her book Not “Just Friends”: “The new infidelity is between people who unwittingly form deep, passionate connections before realizing that they’ve crossed the line from platonic friendship into romantic love. Eighty-two percent of the 210 unfaithful partners I’ve treated have had an affair with someone who was, at first, ‘just a friend.'”
So is it okay to have a platonic friendship? The answer is yes IF you set very clear boundaries. When setting boundaries, you need to acknowledge the risks involved when you have a close relationship with someone of the opposite sex. If you cannot recognize the danger and take proper precautions, in that case, it is not okay to have a platonic relationship, because it can lead to romantic feelings.
How to Have Healthy Platonic Relationships
How do you maintain healthy platonic relationships and a healthy marriage? In short, prioritize your spouse’s happiness first. Keep tabs on the current health and status of your marriage. As your relationship ebbs and flows, invest time remaining close to your spouse above all else.
If you are struggling to connect with your spouse, arguing a lot, or struggling to spend quality time together, factoring in time for a platonic friendship may be a bad idea. Instead, you should invest your time, attention, and effort into your romantic relationship before considering spending time with someone who is just a friend. Cheating often comes when a person consciously or subconsciously starts seeking something they aren’t getting from their marriage. So address your relationship issues before investing in any of your platonic relationships.
One of the best ways to maintain great platonic friendships and a great marriage is to socialize together as a group. Not only will no one feel excluded, but it is also very positive for your spouse to get to know your platonic friend and develop their own friendship. Getting your friend and spouse together allows everyone to be more comfortable. In addition, your spouse can observe the dynamic between you and your friend, and your friend can see you happy in your relationship.
Acknowledging the risk is another important step toward a platonic relationship that works for you, your spouse, and your friend. People tend to go overboard defending their friendship to their spouse. Conversations where one partner will say, “You’re crazy for thinking I would ever be interested in her! We are just friends; I would never see her as more than that,” are a big misstep. Just because an attraction is not currently present doesn’t mean it can’t develop. ALL platonic relationships should be treated the same. From coworkers to lifelong friends, the boundaries should remain the identical.
5 Boundaries to Protect Your Marriage
Unfortunately, more than a few people have innocently claimed someone to be “just a friend,” which eventually developed into more. No matter how good your intentions are, when attraction meets opportunity, infidelity can occur. So to shield your marriage from harm but allow partners constructive platonic friendships with opposite sexes, put these protective precautions in place.
Your marriage is your top priority. So the best thing you can do to have healthy platonic friendships AND a healthy marriage is to set clear boundaries. Sit down and have a conversation so you can be on the same page. That way, when a precarious situation arises, you will already know how to handle it.
- Avoid touching beyond greetings. A great precaution to ward off any potential problems is to keep any touching to a minimum. It could be appropriate to hug and greet your platonic friend hello, but touching beyond that can blur lines. Physical touch significantly affects our thoughts and behavior without us being consciously aware of it. So if you feel it’s harmless to grab onto, wrap your arms around your friend, or touch them playfully, think again. This is an essential boundary for any relationship with the opposite sex.
- Don’t speak negatively about your spouse to your friend. One of the best things about a close friend is the ability to let it all out and vent! Annoyances and hard days are better when you can express your feelings to someone. However, there should never be a time that you talk badly about your spouse to your friend. This is a recipe for disaster and distrust.
- Share login information for all accounts. No emails, texts, or other accounts should be kept hidden. Knowing that your spouse could log in to your accounts at any time will make your interactions more professional and less flirtatious. Platonic relationships are much more likely to stay safe, despite being with opposite sexes if you are constantly aware that your conversations and correspondence can be viewed at any time.
- Maintain an openness with your partner about your platonic friendships. Your spouse should be kept in the loop of your work and other outside relationships. Talk to your partner about your platonic relationships, and be open with what you talk about and how you interact. Your spouse should be allowed to meet and hang out with your coworkers and platonic friends. Being open about your interactions quickly clues you in when a line is crossed. For example, when speaking to your spouse, if you feel the need to leave out certain parts of your conversations with someone who is “just a friend,” that should be a red flag to you.
- Avoid spending time alone with those of opposite sexes. Alone time with platonic friends of opposite sexes can seem harmless on the surface. However, being alone together creates space for secrecy. You may feel more comfortable sharing things you wouldn’t in a group setting.
Friends or Too Friendly?
Your marriage is so important. It is worth putting protections in place before they are even necessary. When you are on the same page as your spouse about interactions with people of opposite sexes, jealousy and deceit won’t seep in and destroy your relationship.
Use the boundaries listed above as a guide for a conversation with your spouse. You may need to tweak or add to the list, but it can help begin the conversation and set your marriage on the right track.