How to celebrate the platonic loves of your life

4 mins
01 Feb 2023
Will and Mike together in Stranger Things

Find the single life lacklustre? It's time to romanticise your friendships

image Stranger Things / Netflix

words Lucy O'Brien

Welcome to February aka love month. As the Valentine’s Day couple pics, date night photo dumps and rom-com-worthy marriage proposals flood our screens once more, it becomes all too easy to associate happiness with finding your ideal boyfriend/girlfriend/theyfriend.

But, please, don't fall into a Hinge wormhole without seeing what's right in front of you. If you're single, you don't have to tie yourself in knots trying to turn your latest situationship into something more. For plenty of people, it's friendships that are the defining relationships of their lives. If this is you, your pals are probably the source of plenty of affirming, heart-warming love.

But can we still get our emotional needs met? The answer varies from person to person, as some people will crave and prioritise strictly romantic connections while others may devote more time and energy to cultivating friendships. But, in the broadest sense, you can. “Our emotional needs are based around the idea of being safe, having a sense of belonging and connecting, and a feeling of having worth,” says Amanda Macdonald, therapist and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Obviously, there are no rules that this kind of intimacy is exclusive to whoever you're dating.

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Obviously, friends are different to life partners. There are different social expectations around the role that pals play in your life compared to your so-called "one and only". This means that rather than looking to one best friend to meet these needs, it can be wise to cultivate a wider circle who can support you in different ways.

“Unlike a traditional romantic relationship, which expects one partner to be everything for the other, we can find our emotional needs being met by the range of friends we have available to us," says Macdonald. And focussing on the connections you already have, and all the ways they can show up for you and vice versa, is a great way to foster a sense of emotional plenty in your heart.

“Recognising everything that our friends have to offer us, and that we can offer them, can help us to really connect with our life right now, rather than feeling incomplete somehow,” Macdonald adds.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, but waiting around for one single person to swoop in and become your primary source of emotional support will leave you feeling dejected, unfulfilled and pretty lonely. Instead, look for love where you already receive it.

Macdonald gives some tips for levelling up your friendships (and your relationship with yourself) in order to give them the TLC they deserve.

Embrace the little things

“Have a think about what it is that gives you joy,” she insists. And she’s right. Who says that romantic connections are the only way to provide us with those rom-com worthy moments? These can be enjoyed with friends all the same, or even by yourself. “Watch a beautiful sunset, enjoy a cup of tea or a walk in the park. Allow yourself time for this as often as you can – consider it a date with yourself.”

Be open to connections

“With the busy lives we all lead, we may feel alone. And yet, we are often surrounded by people. Connect with people when you can, through a warm thank you when getting a coffee, or by holding the lift door open for someone at work. These small connections can make us more aware of each other. Who knows? You may just develop a new friendship from it,” Macdonald says.

Give to others what you want to receive

Hey, romance is a two-way street. Show your friends that you love them, and they’ll be encouraged to do the same in return. Loving feels just as good when you’re the one giving it. “Take a moment to let your friends know what it is that they have done, or what it is about them that makes them special to you,” she recommends.

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