The Unsung Joy of Falling in Platonic Love

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Every year on February 16th, Carly Krone’s father wishes her a happy birthday and — in the same breath — reminds her that it was also the birthday of Harry Cohn, her best friend since kindergarten.

The two didn’t meet until nine years ago, though, when Ms. Crone’s father died and she called Mr. Cohn to tell him. From the moment she picked up the phone, she felt a connection to him that she still struggles to describe.

“I remember where I was standing when I got the call,” recalled Ms. Crone, 46. I really can’t put it into words.”

From there the pair kept in touch. They would text and chat on the phone several times a week, with conversations that sometimes lasted an hour or more. “We’d talk about everything. I’d talk about my kids. I’d talk about work. He’d tell me stories about my dad,” Ms. Crone said.

Whenever Mr. Cohn drove to Chicago from his home in Connecticut, where Ms. Crone lives, he would go out to dinner — a tradition he maintains today. “When we go to restaurants, the first thing I say to the waiter is, ‘What time does this place close?'” Mr. Cohn, 74, joked.

At times their bond seems almost mesmerizing. Ms Crone said, “I’ll say, ‘Oh, I have to call Harry about something,’ and then he’ll call me right away.” Or Mr. Cohn will think of emailing Ms. Krone and open her inbox to find the message waiting for him.

“My dad would be very happy to know that he gave me the gift of his friend,” Ms. Krone said.

“I always tell Carly that I’m not really spiritual — although she tells me I am — but there’s some connection here,” Mr. Cohn said. “I don’t know, I can’t explain it.”

Their inability to describe their friendship — from the spark they felt during that initial phone call to the kinship they share today — belies a deeper truth, which is that we rarely experience big, intense platonic love. Let’s talk about Romantic partners fall in love at first sight; Parents discuss meeting their children for the first time. But it’s rare for friends to rhyme about the moment they “fell” for each other.

Diane Barth, a psychotherapist and author of “I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives,” said, “We don’t have nuanced words for that kind of deep, deep, deep care and connection. “

Andrea Bonior, a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix,” states that when we talk about friendship, “we take away the magic,” even though many platonic connections begin with a rush that is very Feels an awful lot like falling in love with someone—a belief that “there’s a certain alchemy to this new relationship that brings out something special in you.”

Not every friendship begins with that kind of lightning bolt moment, but Dr. Bonior and others believe that a case should be made for honoring it when it happens, and for doing more to honor and celebrate platonic love in general. Ms. Barth said that by making an intentional effort to do so, we are more likely to put our friendships above all else and prioritize them.

This Valentine’s Day, the Vail team asked friends — like Mr. Cohn and Ms. Krone — to describe the moment they knew they had something special.

Thea Breite, 64, and Martha Hausman, 60, met years ago through their children’s school in suburban Boston. When Ms. Breit and his wife were both diagnosed with cancer in early 2017, Ms. Hausman was one of those who drove them to various appointments and helped with meals.

Still, the women did not become close friends until later that year. Ms. Breit had completed her cancer treatment but had fallen into depression. His wife was very ill, and he had three children. One day, while driving to a destination she can no longer remember, she stopped at an unfamiliar playground, passed out and began to cry.

Ms. Haussmann, who was visiting another friend and was taking a route she didn’t normally take, spotted them. “I don’t know why I decided to go in the other direction that day, but I did and I saw Thea on the playground,” she said. “She was running, but really stopped. I could see she was in distress.

Ms. Haussmann pulled over and the women sat down together on a bench.

“You cried,” Ms. Hausman recalled.

“I cried,” agreed Ms. Breit.

“It was a really intense moment for both of us,” Ms. Haussmann said.

From there they developed a deep affection. Ms. Breit’s wife died in 2020, and although she has been supported by a large and willing group of friends, she has come down particularly heavily on Ms. Hausman, who has accompanied her friend at parent-teacher conferences. stepped in to get involved and help them cope. With the pain of losing your partner. “I really needed a Martha,” Ms. Breit said.

But the friendship doesn’t seem to be one-sided, Ms. Hausman added. When her sciatica flared up, Ms. Breite went home with lidocaine patches and massaged her back. And she loves that she made a new best friend in her late 50s. She said, “It’s nice to have a clean slate with someone and just be who you are right now.”

Shahzad Radbod and Neda Barkhordar, both 36, tied the knot before they knew how to read or tie their shoes. Ms. Radboud and her family were recent refugees from Iran trying to adapt to life in Southern California. “I didn’t know a word of English,” Ms. Radbod said. “My mother enrolled me in kindergarten and made me sit next to the only Persian person in the class.” That person was Ms. Barkhordar.

Ms. Radboud recalls parts of those first days. She remembers the sound of her friend’s voice when he translated for her: Now it’s vacation time. Now it’s time to paint. And she remembers a feeling: someone was beside her, looking out for her.

“My mom says she was kind of shocked that I sat next to Neda and I didn’t turn or cry,” she said.

Ms. Barkhordar immediately remembers how capable Ms. Radboud was, and that she very quickly credits herself for her new environment.

Today, the women are advocates in Los Angeles, and continue to perform for each other in ways big and small. Early in the pandemic, when Ms. Radboud had a breakup and couldn’t sleep, Ms. Barkhordar arrived wearing a surgical mask with a bottle of melatonin. When Ms. Radboud made big life decisions — like when she bought a house, or negotiated her job salary — Ms. Barkhordar was the first person she called.

Ms. Barkhordar calls Ms. Radboud her “moral guide”. Although they sometimes “fight like a married couple,” when he associates with Ms. Radboud, he feels, above all else, a sense of “security.”

And whenever they meet someone new, “Neda always says: ‘It’s Shehzad. He didn’t speak a word of English when I met him. Now look at him!'” laughed Ms. Radboud.

Rafaela Francis, 47, and Renee Kornbluth, 71, have been friends for more than three decades. They met in 1990 at an Outward Bound event in New York City – Ms. Francis was a black high school student from the South Bronx and Ms. Kornbluth was a 39-year-old white volunteer from suburban New Jersey. Within minutes of being introduced, they were attached and extended to the masts and rigging of Peking, a huge merchant ship stationed at the South Street Seaport.

Ms. Francis was wary of investing too much in the relationship with any program’s volunteers, but the trust she felt was immediate.

Ms. Francis recalled the conversation with Ms. Kornbluth, “We were up in the air and I was scared, but you were guiding me and you were calm.” “You were – I don’t know, there was something you gave me that I needed.” After the weekend ended, Ms. Francis sent Ms. Kornbluth a letter saying she wanted to keep in touch.

Ms. Francis’s mother had a substance abuse problem and was living with her older sister at the time, so Ms. Kornbluth invited her to spend the weekend at her home in New Jersey. “I think maybe she needed a little bit like a mother, and I needed a child,” Ms. Kornbluth said. “We were a great fit for each other in that regard.”

Ms. Kornbluth didn’t have a car, so she drove Ms. Francis around on her motorcycle. “I carried her everywhere on the back of my bike.”

As the years passed, they kept in touch, often apart. (Ms. Kornbluth still lives in New Jersey; Ms. Francis is currently in Washington state.) At the start of the pandemic, Ms. Kornbluth was out of work and feeling “very depressed.” Ms. Francis called her landline (Ms. Kornbluth did not have a cell at the time) and said: “There’s a Samsung Galaxy S10 waiting for you at Russell Cellular, I’m putting you on my plan,” Ms. Kornbluth recalled. Did. “I said, ‘I’ll make you pay for this!’ And he said, ‘No way.’

“You know, my friend wasn’t feeling well,” Ms. Francis said. “I wanted to be able to call her and know where she was.”

“I think it’s easier to fall for someone who doesn’t judge you than to be real,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what color they are, what age they are. You can tell when someone is really trying to be nice to you.

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