I have a very dear theory from my early youth that in summary went something like this: if one did not desire to engage in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex that one hoped would culminate in marital bliss, then one must keep the relationship at a minimum civil level. This theory requires that one neither cultivate much personal closeness with that person, nor encourage excessive closeness from the other person. It must be stated that this theory was purely conjectural and based more on instinct than experience. However, a few decades from then, and with the benefit of some experience, I wonder whether this theory still true .
Before attempting to answer that question right away, perhaps a little musing on the subject of human relationships will not be out of order. Relationship amongst humans is very complex; even amongst siblings - each child’s relationship with his/her parent differs, not to mention those amongst the siblings themselves. If relationships amongst family members can be complex, then what reason exists to doubt that relationships amongst complete strangers can be any less complex?
The next logical step would be an attempt to determine the reason for this complexity. Personally, I believe complexity exists in most relationships, if not all, owing to the demands and/or expectations that each person involved in a relationship has from the other. Some expectations are explicit while others are implicit. All relationships have both kinds of expectations. For instance, while most of the expectations in a parent/child relationship are implicit – parent nurtures and cares for the child and the child in turn expects to be provided for and protected by the parent – there are explicit expectations as well – the parent’s explicit desire for the child fare well academically, or to do well in a sport; or the child’s desire, in its teen years, to have the parent “leave me alone”.
Having established that relationships are generally complex in nature, and that the complexity is caused by expectations that the individuals have from a relationship, it is easy to see why relationships can turn sour rather quickly. Certainly, stating expectations explicitly as well tempering those expectations can yield long and lasting relationships, but this is easier said than done. Besides, some expectations are harder to state explicitly when the relationship involves members of the opposite sex. Relationships among members of the same sex are often simpler because the basic natures of the individuals are similar to a large degree and differences are merely superficial at best and ideological at worst. There can be agreements reached, compromises made or, in most case, differences ignored tacitly. However, in cross-gender relationships, disagreements cannot be easily reconciled, and worse still, expectations that one individual has from the relationship often do not concur with that of the other individual. To put it bluntly, and in what may appear to be a throw back to Freudianism, what makes this kind of a relationship difficult is the prevalence of sexual undercurrents. The presence of these undercurrents, consciously or unconsciously, causes a more tumultuous relationship to exist amongst individuals of the opposite sex, than among those of the same sex. Unintended offenses are given and taken, both in words and action, in the latter relationship that causes more unhappiness in such relationships.
The astute reader will quickly surmise that underlying philosophy here: a purely platonic relationship between the members of the opposite sex can never exist. A platonic relationship is defined by the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary as one that is marked by the absence of romance or sex. I would take it a step further and define it as a relationship that is marked by the absence of desire for romance or sex. The latter definition would take into account the implicit desires in addition to the strictly explicit ones implied by the former definition.
In conclusion, I am of the belief that platonic relationships are unnatural, and several decades later, I maintain my conviction in the validity my childhood theory. Further arguments in favor of this theory will be provided in a separate and soon to be presented article titled “The Attractions in Close Associations”.