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Platonic Intimacy: Master the Art of Loving Your Friends

Most people who meet me assume that I am not a hugger. I am aloof and profoundly introverted, and even in busy social settings I tend to seem caught up in a world of my own creation. I don’t mean to be, and I understand this makes it hard for people to get close. Even my dearest friends apologize when they hug me or touch me. In truth, I do not hate close physical contact with my friends, in fact I feel quite the opposite, but it is apparent that something along the way has given them that impression. In a moment of self-reflection, I tried to examine the way I interact with people to see what I am doing that gives them the notion that they should not touch me. I am receptive when people do work up the courage to hug me, so it is not the way I react in the moment, but it hardly ever comes to that point, so it must be something else. Then I realized that I am never the one to initiate a hug or even a handshake, and that might be the root of the problem. In fact, I am never the first to open myself up to other people at all. They must always take the initial step or make the opening move. In short, I am awful at platonic intimacy. My friends who apologize for showing me they care about me are starving for the same recognition and I withhold it from them at every turn. Platonic intimacy is defined as the act of making yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically vulnerable to your friends. I never do this for any of my friends, I did not even realize it, and I bet I am not alone. Interpersonal relationships are suffering in this hypersexualized and digitally overconnected environment of ours and it could be the reason why love in the world seems to be in short supply. I cannot claim to be an expert on how to engage in more effective platonic intimacy at this point, but I recognize that I need to try harder, and there are a few things I am going to do to see if it works.

Mental vulnerability: share your thoughts with your friends without fear of being judged and listen to theirs without judging. We are offended by everything nowadays and by focusing only on our own reactions to the thoughts and opinions of others we have lost countless opportunities to connect with people simply by listening to what they think.

Emotional vulnerability: if it is sad and heavy on your heart or happy and bursting with joy from within you, share it with a friend. We seem to bottle things up because we do not want to bother anyone but by doing so we miss out on the opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship through shared experiences. Likewise, if your friend wants to share their emotions with you, make time for that.

Physical vulnerability: get close to your friends! I mean literally! The physical distance we put between ourselves and our friends seems to grow each year. Did you know that hugging the people you care about can improve your health? It boosts the mutual feelings of trust and safety on a chemical level, too. Next time you are trying to express to a friend that you care about them, don’t underestimate the power of touch. Likewise, don’t be weird when a friend goes in for a hug. It’s their way of saying they care.

Loving your friends and forging better connections is a skill that requires patience and practice. You cannot become an expert at meaningful platonic intimacy overnight, but with baby steps in the right direction you might just change the world one friend at a time.

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