Every phone call that ends with my friends is sealed by an, “I love you.”
I do not know if we will ever speak again. My friend may get in an accident and forget who I am. A friend may be having the hardest day of their lives and hearing these three words brings some light to the tunnel. Or, maybe a friend is feeling insecure about their position in my life and these words offer comfort and security.
Whatever the reasoning may be for each individual call, I do not waiver in my effort to show up and provide this small reassurance to my friends. Ultimately, I end calls and conversations with love for one reason: I feel it. I truly care so deeply for these humans that I need them to know how I feel.
Societal norms see us showing immense love and affection to our romantic partners only. Friends get one-sided hugs and “I care about you so much.” How do we deepen these platonic partnerships and also provide a platform for the societal norm to be challenged?
Our Needs Are Vast and Deserve to Be Met
When we tend to think of love, it is in the romantic sense. Sure, we show love to our family and our friends but, do we show deep love to these non-romantic partners? Do you hug your friends, kiss your friend's cheek, cuddle with your friends while watching a movie, or after a bad day, sleep next to a friend playing platonic silverware?
Chances are as I listed off these scenario’s you felt a bit uncomfortable. Kiss your friends? Why would I show that type of affection to someone I am not pursuing in a romantic manner? Better yet, if I do show affection in these ways in a platonic relationship, won’t that give the other individual the wrong idea?
The bigger question is WHY do these shows of affection make us uncomfortable? One answer could be that we are taught romantic partnerships are supposed to fill all of our intimacy needs.
While a romantic nature of love and affection exists, so does a platonic show of these niceties. One person should not have to be the giver of all your emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs. You should also not have to sacrifice these platonic intimacies for the sake of a romantic partnership.
Our friendships can be deep and meaningful without sacrificing space in our universe for a potential romantic partner. It is not too far-fetched to think, though, that a partner can’t fulfill our every need. This is the validation I hope to provide. Platonic closeness and intimacy are there to give you the things you may need in life and enjoy, on a friendly level.
When you are feeling sad and need a hug, your friends are there. If a scary movie is causing you to look away more than not, a friend can be there to hold you close in their own fear-driven arms. To the friend you haven’t seen in years and stumbled upon today for brunch, that kiss on the cheek and long embrace is warranted. With so much love inside us to give, platonic intimacy is a no-brainer.
Toxic Masculinity and Platonic Male Intimacy
The acceptance of platonic intimacy is especially scarce in men. The idea of toxic masculinity leads to a very standoffish approach in male friendships. Men can sometimes suffer from touch isolation. This is starvation of non-sexual physical touch, something that women give each other in platonic relationships more often.
It is a struggle in males to make lasting platonic ties due to the societal norm of males not discussing their feelings or emotions. This leads to surface-level connections or no connections at all. A volunteer counselor at Canada’s Citizens Counseling Center states he speaks to many males experiencing depression and isolation or loneliness. The counselor believes lack of friendships and the ability to build these friendships play a large role in males feeling these symptoms.
We sexualize male platonic intimacy just as we do with females. Men are conditioned by society to assume any sort of touch or empathy from another male is signaling a homosexual attraction. The term “no-homo” is thrown around often and we leave no space for two males to connect on an emotional level in a platonic surrounding. Men need more than just romantic partners to have their needs met as well.
Platonic Intimacy is Good for Your Physical Health
Many of us are not fully swayed towards the goodness of something without scientific evidence that it is actually good. The same goes for platonic intimacy. I can scream the benefits of physical touch and romance amongst friends but I am no scientist.
In 2011, scientists performed a study involving 2,000 women in China who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This study, published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology, found that in the first six months women who have strong social supports and familial ties fared better in the long run physically.
Does this say if you cuddle your friends you will live forever? No. This shares with us the importance of platonic relationships in our physical well-being.
How about the promotion of oxytocin and dopamine?
Giving and receiving love increases your levels of dopamine. Increased dopamine levels cause us to feel happy and content. Have you and a friend ever laughed so hard you snorted and the wave of happiness can be felt washing over you? What about when you see a long-distance friend and embrace, does this not give you feelings of happiness? This platonic love and shows of affection
Oxytocin is also known as the cuddle hormone. This hormone is produced when you form strong bonds with someone, such as a platonic friendship that is nurturing. Oxytocin helps lower cortisol and adrenaline levels in your body as well. Cortisol tends to lead to weight gain and obesity while excess adrenaline can lead to higher blood pressure and heart rates. Forming deep platonic bonds and showing platonic intimacy can literally prolong your life and improve your day-to-day health.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” -Henri Nouwen
Whether it is a friendly embrace or snuggles on the couch, let us embrace our platonic intimacy. Normalizing the affectionate nature of friendships begins with smalls acts of platonic intimacy in your daily life. Society may sexualize intimacy but we know it is only human to crave affection and intimacy from more than our romantic partners.
Have you told your friends you love them today? No better time than the present to allow our platonic friendships to hold more intimate space in our lives.
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