Platonic love <<<3
Finding ‘the one’- it’s the premise of every dizzyingly happy Hollywood hit, yet despite our relationships extending far beyond that of romantic love, friendships and the importance of a rock solid inner circle are rarely given the same attention. Today’s submission is about the magic of finding ‘your people’- the ones that have your back no matter what and sum up the joy of a cuppa and a catch up …
“In Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail, Day recalls meeting a new friend in New York and falling “deeply, platonically in love”. It was like When Harry Met Sally, she writes, but without the sex. This is a feeling I’m sure we’re all able to relate to in some way, but despite that, how many of us actually refer to our friendships in the same generous way that they deserve? It’s curious that although our first, and often some of our most long-standing relationships are platonic, they often aren’t given as much credit as their more dramatic, Hollywood depicted romantic neighbors. So, as Day herself asks, “why don’t we accord our platonic friendships the same importance as our romantic relationships?”
That question isn’t intended to jealously shove romance out from under its limelight, but rather to suggest that we expand that narrow spotlight onto the equally powerful and impactful platonic connections in our lives, both positive and negative. To take a leaf out of Elizabeth Day’s brilliant writing and look to my past, I can still vividly recall the pain of a particularly unkind and abrupt ending to a teenage friendship that I thought would be a lifelong one. Aside from the reeling shock, I also remember what felt like very real heartbreak — and that’s because it was. It was of a different chord perhaps, but it was still heartbreak nonetheless. I felt the sting of surprise, the burn of embarrassment, and the deeply unnerving recognition that someone I had once relied upon and trusted with my secrets and fears had simply assessed those things, tipped them from palm to palm, and then shaken them away with a shrug. Like any loss, I mourned the end of that friendship, deeply in fact, as most teenagers do. I realized, looking back in later years, that a broken friendship can be just as heartrending, just as deep and profound a loss as a romantic breakup, even if we come to realize that we’re better off without them in the end.
On the flip side of that pain, of course, is the bright happiness that Day refers to as platonic love. The rich affection and comfort that true, sustained friendship can offer is truly chicken soup for the soul, and no matter how corny that might sound, our friendships are deeply and indefinitely important to our identity and wellbeing. Despite that, Millennials are fast becoming one of the loneliest age groups around. YouGov’s 2019 market research found that 3/10 of us report that we often or always feel lonely. 27% report having “no close friends” and 22% admit to having no friends at all. Comparing these responses to Baby Boomers replies, with just 16% and 9% respectively, it’s clear this is becoming a generational issue. It’s a sad outcome for us Millennials, particularly when most of us are now firmly in the turbulent waters of adulthood. Grappling with graduations and job searches, ever-changing romantic relationships, and career pressures, it’s a time when we surely need our chums more than ever.
“Making new friends in adulthood can feel like trying to wade through treacle.”
It’s certainly worrying that in a generation of higher online connectivity than ever our friendship circles are dwindling instead of growing. Despite the many positives of social media, I know I wouldn’t be the first to lament the challenges it can post to both our own wellbeing and to forming and maintaining friendships. From the tiring pressure of always being available, to the ongoing fear of missing out, and finally the deficient feeling that we simply aren’t doing enough fun and sociable things, it’s no wonder we can end up withdrawing from the outside world even further. It’s undeniable that more of us than ever are struggling with our mental health, and not having a reliable network of friends to counterbalance the pressures around us only exacerbates that struggle.
All is not lost though. That same YouGov survey reported that 49% of Millennials do have between one and four close friends. While that number might be small, I’m hopeful that within that group are the potential platonic true loves that we all desperately need. With those figures in mind, it’s more important than ever that we put our friendships back into the limelight again, because they may well be the antidote to our anxieties. Platonic friendships give us the sense of belonging that we crave; they give us a support system that we can reciprocate in return, a welcome soundboard for advice, and good old restorative belly laugh whenever we need it. And, given that YouGov’s research cited another study that found 53% of adults attribute their low friendships to shyness, our current friendships could also become an aid to our insecurities.
Breaking that cycle of shyness can be challenging. Given that most early friendships are formed in school and university, making new friends in adulthood can feel like trying to wade through treacle. I wish I had a step by step guide to offer, but sadly I’ve little beyond this well-seasoned advice: talk to co-workers, meet friends of friend and join clubs to expand your social circles. What I can propose is that we keep those earlier statistics in mind when doing so. Not as a fear mongering omen that all Millennials are doomed to become unsociable hermits if we don’t act fast, but rather to realise that, no matter what it might feel like, we are not alone. There are so many people, more than we might imagine, who feel just as in need of a friend as we do and I think they’d value a new friendship much more than the momentary fear of initiating it. So say yes to the invite, talk to the co-worker who seems lonely, and join the group you’ve been hovering indecisively around for months.
Let’s give lasting and true friendships the same attention we give to dating, because we will always need good friends by our side. Let’s celebrate the friendships we have, put extra effort into the ones we are developing, and keep an eye out for those who look like they might be in need a good friend themselves. Our friends make us better people, happier people, and stick with us through thick and thin- I think that’s just as important as a reliable romantic partner. So if you’re still searching for your romantic true love, then you might find that by cherishing your platonic friendships, you’ve discovered all the other loves of your life along the way too.