THE BLOG
02/05/2014 12:53 am ET | Updated Apr 06, 2014

Joan Moran: When Your Best Friend Is Not Your Lover

By Joan Moran

It's lovely to be in love, but sometimes it can be stranger than fiction. Love can often be painful and stifling. When you are in love, life often stands still and it feels like there is no movement or growth. On the other hand, being in love can be inspirational and uplifting as the heart soars and our senses heighten. Love is not always consistent or easy. Love is not always sexual. And possibly, as we get older, the concept of love may even be redefined as life's circumstances change or as married couples realize that their individual needs are not being met.

And then there is platonic love: the pure spiritual affection that releases you from carnal desires and all the craziness that accompanies that sexual roller coaster. Plato, the Greek philosopher, was a big proponent of this kind of spiritual affection. In fact, it is from Plato that we get the word platonic.

For the last 16 years, I have had a best friend who is perfectly heterosexual and married. Peter is not and has never been my lover. He is a perfect fit for me as a companion--with one exception. He is British and considers himself "Lord of the Manor," which doesn't wash well with me at my advanced age of 70.

Nevertheless, all love is an accommodation. We speak to each other every day because of our profound desire to connect and support one another. We have a loving relationship, which includes big hugs, chaste pecks, and quick kisses. Our attraction has a combination of spiritual connection and physical energy that works well for both of us. We have always had clear boundaries with each other and they are never crossed. Peter and I feel amazingly comfortable because our friendship means more to us than sampling carnal knowledge.

I'm lucky and grateful that this fully conscious man cherishes me, respects my abundant energy, and puts up with the crazy quilt of my life. He tempers his fondness for me with self-mastery and compassion.

We handle our platonic relationship by following a few ground rules, which I've shared with my friends over the years. They agree that these boundaries are effective when having plantonic relationships with members of the opposite sex:

1. We have strong, positive, and honest responses to each other. We have agreed to always tell the other the truth.

2. We are never jealous, grasping, cynical or sad about the people whom we choose to spend time with outside our relationship. We are happy for each other's lives, and truly celebrate the other person's successes.

3. Our platonic friendship thrives because we give each other space and time.

4. Since this is a meaningful relationship without physical attachment, we have no expectations or illusions about each other or about what our relationship should be. We simply share respect and devotion as it is manifests itself on a daily basis.

Peter and I have another level to our relationship. I teach Peter Argentine tango once a week. We've danced tango together for well over a decade and I continue to be his teacher because he wants to be a better dancer. Of course, this student/teacher dynamic adds another interesting level to our friendship. It's a time for us to study dance together in a studio (or recently in my shoemakers shop because he was kind enough to put in a dance studio for us) and work out a complex dance accompanied by sublime music. After, we head off for a margarita and talk politics for another hour. This is the gift we give to each other.

If my platonic relationship with Peter sounds a bit boring, it is never so. In fact, it is "rather exciting" as Peter would say. Of course, we flirt and are sassy with each other; sparks fly with outrageous laughter and provocative insight. Platonic relationships are really paradoxes because as intimate it might look to someone outside watching us, it does not possess the carnal energy of couples who are in a sexual relationship.

What I have learned from my relationship with Peter is this: What is truly important in a platonic relationship is that both people agree on the definition of their relationship and then honor those boundaries. The one over-riding truth is that couples perpetuate the idea of consistent respect and love, without giving up their sense of self.

Joan Moran is a keynote speaker, commanding the stage with her delightful humor, raw energy, and wealth of life experiences. She is an expert on wellness and is passionate about addressing the problems of mental inertia. A yoga instructor, Moran is the author is "Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer." Visit her at www.joanfrancesmoran.com.