Search icon


27th Mar 2024

Is platonic love just as fulfilling as romantic?

Anna Martin

love romantic or plantonic

Love is in the air…or is that just the dose that’s been going around?

Either way, two of the most common types of love people will experience are platonic and romantic but is one better than the other?

Anyone who’s tried dating this century will tell you it’s a bit of a nightmare.

Dating apps, being set up with a friend of a friend who you have nothing in common with, being asked by your family why you’re still single. Thanks, Auntie Jane, I know I’m a catch.

With all this pressure to settle down, do we really need romantic love to feel complete in life or can we be fully content with our close friends and family?

What’s the difference between platonic and romantic love?

Credit: Unsplash

Romantic love is exactly what you think it is, the love between romantic partners, which involves a mix of passion, sexual attraction, attachment, and commitment.

Platonic love, on the other hand, takes the sex and romance out of the equation, while still involving similar levels of closeness, commitment, and care.

This doesn’t mean that it’s any less important than romantic, just different.

Psychologist and friendship expert Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D, describes the relationship between the two in her New York Times bestseller Platonic:

“These days, we typically see platonic love as somehow lacking—like romantic love with the screws of sex and passion missing. But this interpretation strays from the term’s original meaning.

“When Italian scholar Marsilio Ficino coined the term ‘platonic love’ in the 15th century, the word reflected Plato’s vision of a love so powerful it transcended the physical. Platonic love was not romantic love undergoing subtraction,” she penned.

“It was a purer form of love, one for someone’s soul, as Ficino writes, ‘For it does not desire this or that body, but desires the splendour of the divine light shining through bodies.’ Platonic love was viewed as superior to romance.”

So is one better than the other?

The answer is, not really, each can be fulfilling in different ways and each has benefits for your mental health but that doesn’t mean you need both in your life if you don’t want them.

Platonic love can:

  • Reduce stress levels: A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that being accompanied by friends can significantly reduce stress levels. The experiment tested a person’s perception of a hill while alone versus standing beside a friend. Those standing beside a friend estimated that the hill was less challenging than those on their own. We tend to worry less when going through life with someone we trust.
  • It’s good for your self-esteem: According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, healthy friendships can increase your levels of self-esteem. High levels of self-esteem can also lead to healthier friendships. Having high self-esteem can help you have the confidence to overcome life’s challenges.
  • Supportive friendships are critical: Research shows that strong friendships are important for both emotional and physical health. In an interview with Medical News Today, Dr. Scott Kaiser, director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, said that poor social connections and isolation can be as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and could increase your chances of dementia by 50%.
Credit: Unsplash

Romantic love can:

  • Reduce anxiety: Research from the University of Texas at Austin found that, long-term romantic relationships can decrease one’s levels of anxiety. UT Austin reports that in a study conducted using MRI technology, stable couples had higher levels of activity in the part of their brain that causes feelings of reward/pleasure and lower levels of activity in the region that causes symptoms of anxiety.
  • Affection has benefits: A study published by Communication Monographs found that words of affection between romantic spouses can lower partners’ stress hormone levels. Similarly,  a study published by Psychological Science found that couples in loving marriages report the most stress relief from hand-holding compared to other pairs of people with varying relationship dynamics.