“Let’s Just Be Friends”: Do Platonic Relationships Work?

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One of the areas where you see a wide diversity of opinion among Orthodox Jewish singles is the question of platonic relationships.  Is it healthy for Orthodox Jewish singles to maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex, or is this a recipe for disaster?

On the one hand, Orthodox singles are for the most part dating for marriage, and having platonic relationships can often create confusion and sexual tension.  Many women also point out that when men suggest friendship as an alternative to a dating relationship, it is often a code word that signifies a fear of commitment.  Being friends with someone is a lot safer than dating someone with the possibility of that relationship leading to marriage.

Further, if singles are focused on getting married, why should they bother investing their time in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex who won’t help them achieve their goal? And there are some Orthodox singles who question whether such relationships are halachically (that is, according to Jewish law) appropriate.

On the other hand, many singles share common interests and values with members of the opposite sex, and deeply value the relationships they have with them (as long as there is agreement up front as to what these relationships mean).  In communities such as Washington Heights and the Upper West Side, where there are a large number of Orthodox singles, getting together with friends of the opposite sex for Shabbat lunches and other activities can offer tremendous support for singles.

Friends of the opposite sex can sometimes suggest to their friends others who might be appropriate for dating and, ultimately, marriage.  And it’s not impossible that a man and woman who start out as “just friends” end up deciding to date and eventually get married – it has happened many times before.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer to the question of whether platonic relationships are advisable or not for Orthodox singles.  Good communication between singles about this issue is essential. Singles must evaluate their own situation, and determine whether these are the kind of friendships they wish to pursue, and whether they are valuable to their own growth as individuals.

Michael Feldstein is the marketing director at Boardroom Inc., a direct marketer of books and newsletters.  He also serves on the Advisory Committee of YUConnects, and is a member of the board of the Halachic Organ Donor Society (HODS). He was the founding chairperson of the Committee to Advance Modern Orthodoxy in Stamford (CAMOS), a community growth initiative that has successfully attracted many young Modern Orthodox couples to relocate to Stamford. You can reach Michael Feldstein at michaelgfeldstein@gmail.com

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.