Ladies and gentlemen, there is a not-so-new expression surrounding the nuances of love and friendship that we’ll talk about today. It’s called “romantic friendship”. Okay, we get it. It’s a pretty confusing term because you are either in a romantic relationship with someone or you are good friends with them. But what does intimate friendships mean? We will answer all your questions by exploring the dynamics of this intense friendship carefully and extensively in this article. 

You couldn’t be more wrong if you think this is a term created by millennials that is thrown around casually in today’s modern times. In fact, such emotionally intimate friendships have existed throughout history. To be more specific, the term “romantic friendship” gained prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period, these relationships were characterized by deep bonds, expressions of love and devotion. An intimate friendship often involved letter writing, poetry, and other forms of communication. 

What Is Romantic Friendship? 

Family and relationship traditions keep evolving with time. So have the definitions of belonging, romance, and love. As mentioned earlier, romantic intense friendships are similar to having affectionate friendships. The union describes intense, emotionally intimate relationships between people of the same sex or of the opposite sex. Such bonds have a long history. They were popular during the 19th century as people were narrow-minded back then especially when it came to homosexuality or same-sex relationships

Their rational values differed from ours. Hence, male and female romantic friendships of sexual or non-sexual nature were often considered a socially acceptable way for individuals, particularly women. While men traditionally catered to material needs and used “muscle values” to demonstrate their superiority, women were left to express deep affection and love for one another. 

While the term itself has been in use for quite some time, its understanding and connotations may have evolved over the years. In the earlier days, the sexual aspect was largely not spoken about in intimate friendships, but the current scenario may have a considerable overlap. Today, you will see such friendships in men and women’s colleges where they spend a lot of time with one another. 

In western civilization, the term “romantic friendship” can encompass a broader range of relationships beyond same-sex friendships and may include both non sexual and sexual relationships between people of any gender and orientation. Even respected writers like Iris Murdoch and Phillippa Foot were romantic friends, an ethical non-monogamy dynamic where these two women showed affection and concern for one another while being in relationships with others.

4 Characteristics Of Romantic Friendships

One of the most famous examples of such a relationship is between the founding fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens. The two kindred spirits exchanged many love letters in the 18th century. Alexander Hamilton, who did a lot toward the nation building process by lending his hand to draft the constitution. In one of the letters, he confesses his deep love. He writes, “I wish, my dear Laurens, that it might be in my power, by action, rather than words, to convince you that I love you.” 

If you don’t know what this bond looks like, then we are here to show you its various characteristics, which can vary depending on the individuals involved and their specific dynamics. Here are some common characteristics often associated with romantic friendships:

1. Emotional intimacy 

A romantic friendship is marked by affection and feelings of love along with fondness and attachment, it’s also important that the individuals involved develop a deep emotional connection and intimacy between them. There should be a sense of trust, vulnerability, and the ability to share personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences with each other. They should often express this emotional depth through various gestures of kindness, empathy, and expressions of love.

One notable example is the genre of renaissance literature, which often depicted idealized relationships and friendships in idyllic rural settings. These works, such as the eclogues of Virgil or the pastoral poetry of renaissance respect writers like Edmund Spenser, often featured shepherds or shepherdesses engaged in deep emotional connections and expressions of affection towards one another. 

2. Companionship and support 

Romantic friendships often provide a strong sense of companionship, where the individuals enjoy spending time together and engaging in shared activities. This doesn’t mean you need to have sexual attraction or a sexual relationship with them. It can be completely platonic and it can also be a friends with benefits scenario as well. It all depends on your comfort level with them.

However, one thing is for sure. You need to offer each other support, understanding, and encouragement through life’s ups and downs.

3. Exclusivity and priority 

Unlike traditional friendships, romantic friendships involve elements of romantic or amorous feelings. This can include experiencing all types of attractions, infatuation, or a desire for deeper emotional involvement with each other. On the contrary, in romantic friendships, the individuals involved should prioritize each other in their lives.

They may hold a special place of importance and may prioritize spending time together, seeking each other’s advice, or sharing significant life events. You can’t treat this person like you treat your other friends. This one person should get an exclusive view of yourself and your life. 

4. Longevity and commitment 

Romantic friendships often exhibit longevity, lasting for extended periods of time irrespective of romantic feelings being present or not. The individuals may maintain a commitment to each other and prioritize their friendship over potential romantic or sexual relationships with others. Your physical closeness should align with your mental closeness with them for a very long time. 

If you don’t know whether you are in a romantic friendship with someone, then our signs that you are in one will help you figure it out better.

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5 Signs You Are In A Romantic Friendship With Someone 

Identifying signs that you are caught up in the concept of romantic friendship with someone can be subjective, as the nature and dynamics of relationships can vary greatly between individuals. However, here are some common signs that may indicate you are in a romantic friendship:

1. You have an intense emotional connection with them 

You experience a deep emotional bond and connection with your friend that goes beyond what is typically found in a platonic friendship. There is a strong sense of understanding, empathy, and emotional intimacy between you. You feel like you can be yourself around them. You have faith in them. You blindly trust them with your secrets, fears, and insecurities. You know you will never be judged by them. 

This intense connection can be seen between two women and men. In the book Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, the author talks about the history of lesbian lovers in twentieth century America. From two women being romantic friends with each other to having a deep emotional connection. This friendship love was considered normal because it didn’t come under the “queer” category. 

2. You have feelings for them 

This is one of the primary differences in platonic romantic love vs friendship. When you are in a romantic love with someone minus the sexual intercourse, you have a heightened level of romantic or amorous feelings, which can include elements of romantic attraction, infatuation, or a desire for deeper emotional involvement. Whereas, in friendship, you just have a non-sexual affectionate bond or friendship with them. 

Some renaissance literary works also contained subtextual or veiled references to same-sex desire and romantic friendships. For example, in Shakespeare’s sonnets, there are poems that express intense affection, feelings, and longing between the speaker and a male friend, commonly referred to as the “Fair Youth” sonnets. While the exact nature of these relationships is subject to interpretation, they have been interpreted by some scholars as indicative of romantic or homoerotic bonds. 

Romantic friendship

3. You engage in romantic gestures 

One of the biggest signs you have found kindred spirits primarily is when you want to engage in romantic activities and gestures with and for them. This can include: 

  • Going on romantic dates 
  • Exchanging romantic gifts even though neither of you have great material passions 
  • Taking part in each other’s shared interests
  • Engaging in romantic rituals together like celebrating special days and moments
  • Going on trips together even if there is no sexual component to the relationship
  • Performing thoughtful acts of service or favors for your partner, such as cooking their favorite meal, doing chores or tasks for them, or surprising them with breakfast in bed 

4. There is jealousy and conditions

You may experience feelings of jealousy or possessiveness when your friend spends time with or shows interest in others. These emotions can be indicative of a deeper emotional attachment and a desire for exclusivity in the relationship. Unlike romantic relationships where unconditional love is practiced, in romantic friendships vs friends with benefits, there won’t be any benefits like physical intimacy.

In a research done around women’s spheres and their non-sexual, passionate relationships with each other, one of them describes meeting her relationship with her best friend as, “In a way, our friendship is better than a marriage or a sexual relationship. You know, there’s no such thing as unconditional love in a marriage as far as I’m concerned, ‘cause let me tell you, there are some conditions. So don’t ask me to give you unconditional love, because there are certain things I won’t tolerate.

“But one thing is for sure with my dear friend, there are no traditional expectations because there isn’t a model for something like this. There isn’t a label, there isn’t a definition of what this is supposed to be. Something about this relationship feels otherworldly to me, like it was designed by a power and a hand greater than my own. Whatever this friendship is, it’s been a very fun ride—and we’ve taken it together.” 

5. Mutual dependency and exclusive language

You rely on each other for emotional support, guidance, and advice in a way that goes beyond regular friendships. There is a strong sense of needing each other’s presence and comfort during difficult times.

Furthermore, you may have unique terms of endearment or special nicknames for each other that are used only within your relationship. These personalized expressions can be indicative of a more intimate connection. 

Are There Any Boundaries In Romantic Friendships? 

Yes, just like any other relationship, romantic friendships can also have boundaries that serve as guidelines for the individuals involved to ensure that their needs, values, and comfort levels are respected and maintained. While the specific boundaries may vary between relationships, here are some common areas where boundaries may be established in romantic friendships:

  • Emotional boundaries: These boundaries define the extent to which individuals share personal information and emotions with each other. It may involve setting limits on discussing certain topics or respecting each other’s privacy in certain areas of their lives
  • Physical boundaries: Physical boundaries encompass the level of physical affection and touch that is comfortable for each person. This can include discussions about personal space, boundaries around intimate physical contact, and respecting each other’s comfort levels
  • Time and availability: Boundaries around time and availability involve establishing expectations and limits on the amount of time spent together or the level of accessibility to one another. It is important to respect each other’s individual needs for personal time, space, and commitments outside of the relationship.
  • Relationship expectations: This isn’t a traditional heterosexual marriage where partners have expectations like household duties and financial aspects of it. So, boundaries regarding relationship expectations clarify what each person desires and expects from the romantic friendship. This may involve discussing and mutually agreeing on the nature and direction of the relationship, including the level of exclusivity, commitment, and future goals
  • Communication boundaries: Establishing boundaries around communication involves determining preferred modes of communication, response times, and respecting each other’s boundaries when it comes to discussing certain topics or using specific communication platforms.
  • Sexual boundaries: In romantic friendships that involve a sexual component, it is essential to establish clear boundaries and consent regarding sexual activities, desires, and comfort levels. This includes open and ongoing communication about sexual preferences, boundaries, and consent
  • Boundaries with others: Romantic friendships can sometimes create tensions or misunderstandings with other people in each individual’s life, such as partners, family, or friends. Establishing boundaries around how the romantic friendship is communicated and navigated with others can help maintain healthy relationships with those outside the friendship

Challenges Of Romantic Friendships And How To Navigate Them 

Romantic friendships, like any type of relationship, can come with their own set of challenges. Navigating these challenges requires open communication, understanding, and mutual respect. Here are some common challenges of romantic friendships and suggestions on how to address them:

1. Ambiguous boundaries 

Romantic friendships can sometimes blur the lines between friendship and romantic involvement. It is important to have open and honest discussions about expectations, desires, and the nature of the relationship. Clarifying boundaries and regularly checking in with each other can help ensure that both individuals are on the same page.

2. External judgments and misunderstandings 

Even when two people are happy in their relationship, the society won’t shut its mouth since such a relationship doesn’t typically fall under societal norms. Hence, it can be challenging to face external judgment or navigate misunderstandings from friends, family units, or society. It is important to prioritize the well-being and happiness of both individuals involved and maintain open communication and support for each other. Ignore the public opinion and avoid harboring resentment against one another. 

3. Managing jealousy and individual needs 

In a romantic friendship between man and woman, jealousy can arise when one person shows interest or spends time with others. So, particular significance must be given to address jealousy openly and honestly, exploring the underlying emotions and concerns. You can do so by being vocal about your feelings and reassuring them. This will help alleviate jealousy and build trust.

Moreover, each person in a romantic friendship has their own needs, desires, and personal lives outside of the relationship. It is important to find a balance between maintaining a platonic romantic friendship and respecting each other’s individuality. 

Is It Possible To Have A Long-Term Romantic Friendship? 

Romantic friendships may encounter challenges once in a while. You may have compatibility issues, misunderstandings, jealousy, communication issues, and whatnot! But it’s all good as long as you and your friend do regular check-ins and conversations about the future. You are not exchanging vows but you have to nurture your relationship like any other.Be open to growth and change and maintain honest communication.

Additionally, a romantic friendship requires effort and attention. Invest time and energy into maintaining the connection. Plan activities, share experiences, and create memories together.

Celebrate milestones and continue to strengthen the emotional bond. Show care and support for each other’s well-being and happiness. Offer a listening ear, lend a helping hand, and provide emotional support during challenging times. Be present and show genuine concern for each other’s happiness and overall fulfillment. 

Key Takeaways

  • Romantic friendship was more common in the early twentieth century and nineteenth century America and is referred to as a deep bond between two individuals that involves a deep emotional connection and affectionate bond, often characterized by love, care, and support
  • Some of the characteristics of a romantic friendship between man and woman include exclusivity, emotional intimacy, and support
  • You can maintain this connection in real life by understanding each other and by prioritizing quality time 

Romantic friendships can involve intense emotional connections, which can lead to complex feelings and potential conflicts. In modern love and relationships, it is essential to practice emotional awareness and communication. Expressing feelings openly and discussing any concerns or conflicts can help navigate emotional challenges in a healthy way.