What is the difference between platonic and romantic attraction?

Trying to answer the age-old question that tortures many people in their relationships.

This stub was tagged with: Love/Romance

This stub was born on February 21, 2024.

Please note that all of this is my own opinion that is informed by my own experience. Your mileage may vary.

The reason why you are unsure about platonic vs romantic attraction is that you haven’t committed to either option. While attraction is mostly automatic, I believe that you do have a mostly conscious decision on how to channel those feelings. I’m not saying that you have to shove feelings deep down and ignore them, but rather that you can decide how you will continually develop your bond with the other person.

The way in which you channel your feelings is determined by the social roles of platonic vs romantic relationships. In Western culture, I think that the main conception of Love is the Monogamous Hierarchical Conception of Love: You have one person who you dedicate the most of your time, love, and attention to. This idea is at the crux of our modern cishetero-patriarchical society. There is this expectation of having only one romantic partner at a time, while that notion of exclusivity for friendship is not assumed, and would in fact be considered fairly toxic if you expected this person to be your only friend and not have them have any other friends.

Going grocery shopping, cuddling, going on fancy dinners: these are all acts that many people would associate with doing it with romantic/life partners, however there is nothing inherently romantic to these acts. There is nothing stopping you from doing this with any of your friends, the only thing that makes it different is that you are not in or pursuing a romantic union with your friend. If you are, well then it wouldn’t be platonic anymore, even if you say you are just friends.

The litmus test of romantic vs platonic attraction then becomes “Would I want to spend the rest of my life with this person?” Typically the answer to this question is that you have to try it out to see how it goes, but then the question shifts to become, “But do I want to jeopardize this friendship in order to see what it would be like to be in a romantic relationship?” I think this is the actual source of someone’s anguish within the anxiety of figuring out if it is platonic or romantic attraction. It is not trying to determine the “true nature” of the desire, but instead the potential of a successful romantic partnership.

I don’t think that there is much advice that I can give a person to better evaluate whether or not they should try a romantic partnership with a (potential) friend. I think that the best advice is that there are worlds where you date this person and it doesn’t work out but that you also don’t make it weird afterward. There’s nothing inherently wrong with trying something out and it not working.