Love Lessons From a Platonic Friendship

Matt and K have been friends for years, and roommates for nearly as long as they’ve known each other. Though both are heterosexual and “find each other reasonably attractive,” as K puts it, they’ve never even considered hooking up – much to the perplexity of various friends and family members.

Yet when Matt and K sat down to analyze their friendship, they realized that in spite of its strictly platonic nature, it had not only taught them about themselves, but also influenced how they approached romantic relationships with other partners

How it started

Matt: We became good friends at graduate school in a very supportive friend network that was essentially a surrogate family. So we really started out with siblings as the blueprint for our relationship. And I think that our relationship developed along those lines.

K: When we met in graduate school I was very young and in a slightly rocky place, so I think Matt kind of helped me grow up a little bit.  In the beginning I wouldn’t say we were equals in every sense, but now we are.

Why it worked

Matt: As time went on and we got to know each other better, we realized that we were much better suited to be platonic friends and that DC is a tough place to create new friends in some ways, so it’s good that we have one another.

K:  I think we both are good at not to taking things too personally because there is a solid foundation of respect.   We do have the usual roommate squabbles about cleanliness and who is taking up all the freezer space.   However, we were always good at letting the relationship have space.

Why did they never hook up, in spite of the frequent presence of their third roommate, alcohol?

Matt: It would be mutually assured friendship destruction. There’s no way we could be in a relationship together. So we’d be giving up a healthy—if unconventional—ersatz sibling relationship for nothing.  Also, we’re both so attractive to so many other people, you could say we never got around to it.

K:  Despite being excellent co-conspirators and drinking buddies, I think we both knew early on that we didn’t match up in a right enough (or wrong enough) way to be compatible romantic partners.  We became good friends fast enough to recognize some core differences.  Personally, I wouldn’t put my best friend in the same category as a one-night stand just because he happens to be a man. It just wouldn’t be worth it.

How do they explain the relationship to people they date?

Matt: Perhaps I’m being a bit emotionally tone deaf, but I’ve never perceived any jealousy on the part of women I date. I describe K as the sister I never had, and I think we act like that, so it is nonthreatening. In fact, K is fairly good friends with my ex. She said she’d cut her off if I wanted her to because she knew what team she had to be on, which was cool, but I was fine with them keeping in touch.

K:  I understand that it’s not an easy situation to walk into because it’s obvious we are close.   But after people spend some time with us, they get that there is nothing romantic about our relationship.  Almost every guy I’ve dated has been jealous in the beginning but long term it’s rarely been a problem.  I think we’ve both gotten better at making the other person’s new significant other feel welcomed. When we are both single we spend a lot more time together but there was never a sense of possession or jealousy when one or both of us were in a relationship.

But did the friendship affect your romantic relationships?

Matt: Well, she’s the gold standard. I somewhat jokingly said I never want to live with another woman I’m not having sex with again. I think that I want all my friendships—regardless of the other person’s sex or gender—to be nurturing, honest, and fun. And I understand that more deeply than I did before.

K:  I’m more patient now and willing to let minor disagreements go.  I don’t feel the need to resolve everything.  The priority is more about maintaining the relationship in the long-term than being right about every single tiny thing.

And what has the friendship taught you about what you want in a romantic partner?

Matt: K and I have some significant value differences. Our core values about how to treat people are very similar, but our mental images about family and relationships look a lot different. I feel better about my choices—I’m fairly anti-marriage (for me—K can ruin her life if she wants to) and I don’t want kids—because we’re still good friends even though I have these out-of-mainstream choices. It will affect who I settle down with. It might have to be Bill Maher, and I know that. But even if that’s what happens, K will be my friend.

K: I’m a lot pickier about character flaws and more forgiving about habits like leaving clothes all over the floor. I’m better at recognizing when something is an actual problem.  I have a rule that Matt and any potential boyfriend have to approve of each other.

Was there anything that one or the other said in the interviews that made you think? If so, what?

Matt: Per usual, I waited until the last minute and haven’t read her answers yet so as not to muck this up, so no.

K: Per usual, I got mine done first.  So no.


Photo credit: jcolman via the Creative Commons License.

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