Platonic physical intimacy may deepen connection among friends


**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

My daughter and her best friend hug and cuddle all the time. They lay in bed together, spooning and talking. They put their arms around each other when they watch TV. They fall asleep in each other’s arms on the couch.

This level of physical intimacy is often seen as a sign of romantic love. But my daughter and her friend are platonic soulmates. Since their first year of high school, they’ve been the best of friends, and their physical affection is a natural extension of their deep emotional bond.

The physical closeness that my daughter and her best friend display is so unusual that people often assume they are a couple. They’re not, and they never will be. Each of them prioritizes their friendship the way they would a romantic relationship.

Platonic love between friends is not just rare; it’s also precious. Most of us long to have a person. That special someone who can finish our sentences and share inside jokes. We want someone who understands our quirks and gets what we mean without explaining. Those qualities can be hard to find in a romantic relationship. But they often come naturally among close friends.

A friend like that is hard to come by, and when you find one, it’s important to cherish and nurture that relationship. Physical intimacy should be a natural component in friendship, just as in romantic relationships.

What is platonic physical intimacy?

Platonic physical intimacy can be defined as “non-sexual touching or close contact between friends.” This type of intimacy can be expressed in many ways, such as hugging, holding hands, cuddling, or simply sitting close to one another.

Platonic physical intimacy is like having a friend with benefits (FWB) without the benefits. In other words, it’s a close, physically affectionate relationship without the sexual component.

“Platonic love is a special emotional and spiritual relationship between two people who love and admire one another because of common interests, a spiritual connection, and similar worldviews. It does not involve any type of sexual involvement.” — Diana Raab Ph.D.

While platonic physical intimacy may be seen as “weird” or “awkward,” it’s pretty normal and healthy. There are many benefits to platonic physical intimacy between close friends.

1. It can help deepen your connection.

Friendships often allow us to be ourselves more than any other type of relationship. We can share our deepest secrets and fears with our friends, and we know that they will still love and accept us.

And friends that include physical intimacy in their relationship often feel even more connected to each other. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and physically close to our friends, it can deepen the connection we feel.

2. It can make you feel more supported.

In our fast-paced, modern lives, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. We may have hundreds of “friends” on social media, but often we don’t feel like we can truly rely on anyone.

But having friends that you can physically connect with can help you feel more supported. When we share intimate moments with our friends, it reminds us that we are not alone. We have people who care about us and want to be close to us.

3. It can increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Physical intimacy has been shown to increase levels of oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin is associated with feelings of happiness, stress relief, and bonding. When your body is relaxed, your mind can feel more at ease. In other words, more physical intimacy will also reduce your stress levels.

4. It can make you feel more attractive and confident.

In a world that often tells us that we need to be thin, beautiful, and perfect, it’s easy to feel bad about ourselves. But interacting in a physically intimate way with our friends can help us feel more confident and attractive.

When we allow ourselves to be close to others, we are essentially saying that we are comfortable with who we are. We are accepting ourselves, flaws and all. And this can be a compelling message to send to ourselves. And platonic intimacy can help that message sink in.

5. It can help you get your needs met.

Society tends to prioritize romantic relationships, and so many of us have unconsciously decided that friendship is less important. But all relationships require active participation, communication, and attention. Why? Because those things help us thrive as individuals.

Platonic love can take the pressure off your romantic pursuits. Imagine how much more ease you’d have in your life if you could cuddle with your friends without feeling like you had to have sex with them, especially when you’re going through a single season. And if you have a partner, adding more physical intimacy in other parts of your life may take some pressure off your relationship.

In other words, you can get more of your needs met, without relying on one person to be your everything.

“Friendships can occur on many different levels, but platonic friendships are deeper and may be made up of traits related to intimacy, such as those that encourage emotional support, caring, and empathy.” — Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to add more platonic physical intimacy to your life, but these are just a few of the benefits. So go ahead and hug your friends, hold their hand, or cuddle with them today. It might make your friendship even stronger and your life so much better.

Do you have any platonic physical intimate friends? What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced from this type of friendship? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Intimacy & Relationship coach, writer, and creator of The Sensuality Project. I specialize in Relationship-ing (it's a verb).

Los Angeles County, CA

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