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Love without romance: What is platonic love anyway?

This Valentine's Day, we shouldn't forget that platonic love is just as important as its romantic counterpart. – Photo by Ice You

Valentine's Day is a holiday that we await either with dread or excitement. Every year, it’s a little different. We find ourselves in healthy relationships, in complex situationships, in the midst of a painful breakup, or even contemplating exploring a new spark in our lives or reigniting an old flame.

Romantic love is a powerful force in our lives, but we often let it overshadow its counterpart: platonic love. So if this holiday brings up a lot of emotions for you, or maybe you’re just looking for more in your life to appreciate, here are some of the reasons why we should all celebrate the people we love. 

Non-romantic love builds the structure of our lives. It subconsciously influences the decisions we make, the people we choose to let in and the person that we grow into over the years. Some of the earliest relationships include that between a parent and child, between siblings or between friends.

We often don’t even realize that we’re doing this — connecting with others, finding things that we value and appreciate and allowing them to unfold. Despite these connections being the ones we end up learning the most from, we usually take them for granted.

It doesn’t really cross our minds how beautiful it is that we continue to choose each other simply for the people that we are — no romantic attraction is necessary. As we're constantly in pursuit of more, we forget how incredibly fulfilling the relationships that already exist in our lives can be. 

It sounds cliché to say, but it’s absolutely true: Love is all around us. Whether you’re watching a movie with your family, driving around town with your friends or celebrating a personal accomplishment — the list is endless with regard to how we show love!

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. It could be something as small as remembering a funny memory with your friend or listening to your sister’s favorite song.

When it comes to the first interpersonal connections we make with our families, we get so used to their presence, bickering, complicated arguments and day-to-day happenings. This becomes so natural that we rarely think about it.

Every person has different relationships with their family members, but even that kind of nuanced understanding of each other that only you can grasp is a form of love. Nobody else in the world will ever truly know you like a parent or a sibling. It’s both a comforting and unfathomable fact at the same time. 

Friendship is one of the most important forms of platonic connection. Forming genuine and healthy friendships is honestly one of the best things we can do for ourselves in early adulthood. We'll carry the lessons that we learn with us for the rest of our lives.

Making friends when we're young is the first time that we’re exposed to a form of platonic love that isn’t due to the proximity of living together or being blood-related. These people love us because they like us as people, not because they’re attracted to us or because they're forced to.

When you really think about it, it’s such a beautiful and pure thing to have friends in our lives who care about us and give so much even though they’re not obligated to. These relationships take energy and work, and reciprocating this effort is equally a form of love.

When we think of platonic connections, the ones we have with our family and friends are often the first that come to mind. There are other kinds of these connections, though. They may be small and subtle but are still impactful in their own way. This one, in particular, usually isn’t even recognized: non-romantic love with strangers.

You may not think that makes sense, but hear me out. Think about those moments when the person in front of you in line at a coffee shop pays for your order or a girl on the train compliments your outfit. Or when someone comforts you in the bathroom at a party or lets you borrow a hair tie.

These are all small acts of kindness that we carry with us, tell other people about and reminisce on when the days feel long and draining. The kind of love that exists out of empathy and mutual understanding is the kind that makes us want to be better people.

And isn’t that what love is all about? It’s this all-encompassing force in our lives that makes us do beautiful things. Loving and being loved in return is what fulfills us and makes us want to better ourselves and celebrate our lives.

It’s why the most important connection you can have is the one with yourself. Nobody out of the 8 billion people on Earth will know you the way you do, so you should feel comfortable loving yourself the way that you are.

So this Valentine's Day, take a moment to reflect on and celebrate all of the different forms of love in your life. Buy yourself flowers! Go out to dinner with your friends! Call your family! Maybe even make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen to it on the bus! You can find love everywhere, but only if you go out and look for it.

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