Your best friend…who is it? What makes him/her your BEST friend? Perhaps it’s because you’ve known each other forever. Or you have a lot in common as you share similar interests, values and goals. Platonic friendships are held together by intentional attention and nurturing. Friendship is a growing and evolving endeavour. And it will fail if it’s neglected.
Life-long friends are rare, mainly because we outgrow our childhood relationships. They were built around circumstances like living next door, going to the same school, attending the same events. But when we moved past these activities, the friendships faded away because there wasn’t much in common any more.
Platonic friendships take emotional and intellectual connection. True friends really understand each other. They connect on an intimate level, not just superficially. True friends see each other’s faults, but because of caring for each other, they don’t focus on these faults but strive to help each other become better people. It means seeing each other for who you are, not for what you can get from them. It means shifting the focus off of self and looking for the good and valuing them deeply.
Intimacy is not the same as sexuality. Sex is simply one way of displaying intimacy. A person can engage in sex without it being an intimate act. Intimacy is when people openly share themselves, fully exposing their inner being, their thoughts, their emotions, their pains, their desires, and their cherished dreams. And many people have a hard time doing that, because somewhere in their past they’ve been hurt and they haven’t learned to let that go.
Many people are starved from true connection, attunement and deep presence with one another. Some of us bring this drought from childhood where the connections were sparse and scarce. Or we’ve developed the “I don’t want to get involved” attitude because we don’t want to be responsible. Perhaps overtime this has formed from an emotionally sterile home or work environment.
Others find it very challenging to develop intimate friendships outside of their romantic relationships, especially with the opposite sex, for fear of crossing boundaries. So, they’re okay not taking risks and dealing with a deep longing for nourishing connections.
There are a lot of insecurities around forming platonic friendships. Some of the following reasons may resonate with you. As you read them, see which ones you identify with…
I don’t know how to cultivate closeness in a platonic friendship without risking rejection, awkwardness or sexual charge. If there’s intimacy, do I need to be or do anything different? Am I obligated in any way? Cultivating greater emotional intelligence will help you identify your own emotions and those of others so you’ll know what behavior is appropriate.
I am not good enough. If I give people a chance to get close to me, they’re going to find out all my faults and not like me. Everyone has faults. Look for the good in yourself and others.
I don’t trust myself. Being a friend means you can count on me, and I don’t know that I can always be there for you. And if it’s a member of the opposite sex, I know it’s going to become sexual, because I can’t control myself. You can learn to trust and control yourself.
I don’t trust others. I’ve been hurt before and I’d rather be alone that risk that again. Taking risks is what living fully is all about. Stepping into a risk, without having a specific outcome in mind, frees you to experience the moment joyfully and view it as a gift.
I don’t want to be rejected. What if I invest in a person who doesn’t reciprocate? Being rejected is part of life. What about rejection bothers you so much? Not everyone in the world is meant to be your friend.
There may not be as many established protocols that facilitate building emotional intimacy in a non-romantic setting. But you can develop emotional and intellectual skills to cultivate platonic intimacy.
If experiencing intimacy is what you’re looking for, check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my colleague Nando Raynolds (a very intimate friend of mine!) on May 20 and 21. We can work with you on this particular goal. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.