Exploring the free will for platonic intimacy

By Sandeep Kulshrestha

Intimacy is generally associated with couples who have both the emotional and sexual connection. The closeness and the vibe that emanates from people when they are together and close, releases positive hormones like oxytocin which is beneficial for overall health and well-being. Barring few couples who do not lose the shine of intimacy, generally people lose touch with it while sifting through day to day situations, at home or at work and then they figure out if a vacation or a break is necessary to kindle the spark of intimacy once again. In the western world where the divorce rates are very high and the people are busy as well, the seeking of intimacy revolves more around the sexual connection and of course the emotional connection changes with the new partners and so on.

It is a recent phenomena, (I have not done much research in this area honestly) or so to say, an obsevation that more and more people especially in the urban mileau get a certain level of intimacy with the friends with whom they are very close. So much so, they share messages of deep appreciation, love, shared connectedness and many a times share and give hugs, hold hands and that’s about it. They become intimate without necessarily wanting to upgade the relationship and think of becoming partners. In a recent podcast, Leadership guru Simon Sinek talks about such intimate friendships with author Rhaina Cohen where platonic friends are even involved in buying houses and raising kids together. Well, many people would not like to go there but the point is that there is a subtle beauty and deep intimacy in such platonic friendships.

As a Positive Psychology practitioner, I feel that this is also related to one of the elements of creating well-being in our lives, the power of positive relationships, as espoused in the scientifically proven PERMA model of well-being. I am fortunate that I have intimate platonic relationships that enhance my overall positive emotions. I also believe that this is our choice to extract the level of intimacy that we need. In a sense this is a free will provided we not only understand the boundaries, but appreciate them deeply as well.

Enhancement of positive emotions which emerge out of higher oxytocin levels (as it happens because of intimate platonic relationships) has the capability to even bring greater intimacy in romantic partnerships. An intimate platonic friendship makes one grounded and appreciative and thus helps us in understanding life better. Of course, people who are open to be vulnerable and who understand the value of people in their lives would only exercise this free will of seeking intimacy.

In lifestyle medicine, which I study and research, besides heathy diet, exercise and meditation, it is also recommended to “love more” which in nutshell means having better romantic liason as well as deep positive and nurturing relationships with friends for whom you care about. This has the potency to heal you faster and can also help you live a qualitative life.