• The Black Syllabus

Review | Big Friendship

★★★★☆


This was a wonderful book, and very much what I was expecting it to be. It shares a relatable perspective on the platonic relationships we form with people that are more significant than how we traditionally view friendship, modeling many of the same qualities and patterns as romantic relationships. I love that Aminatou and Ann highlight and normalize the idea that friendships are just as important as romantic relationships, requiring the same level of investment and effort to really make it work.


I often question why we’ve been taught that romantic relationships deserve more investment and care than our platonic relationships. I’ve always blurred the line between “friends” and “more than friends,” never really believing that I needed to give my friendships less just because I wasn’t in a “relationship” with them. One area of this book that stood out to me was that Aminatou and Ann went through the history of public opinion on the dynamics between platonic vs. romantic relationships that has led us to value friendships less than relationships. This is often the case even though many of us describe our friendships as just as important to us as our romantic relationships (even more important sometimes). We’re taught that there’s no real use in investing in friendships and wonder why we’re left so devastated when we go through a friendship breakup. Aminatou and Ann call out that to date, there are very few accessible resources for how to maintain healthy friendships, how to deal with conflict, and what to do if a friendship ends, even though these resources are abundant for romantic relationships. Luckily, books like this are normalizing this investment in our platonic relationships.


This book really hit home for me because for a long time I was convinced that I was weird for caring so much about my friendships. I have had a few “big friendships” in my life that were really impactful for me, and I wish that I was taught that it was normal to go hard for those friendships when I saw them starting to crumble. I even considered bringing up therapy with a few of these friends, but never actually recommended it because I assumed the idea wouldn’t be well received. I wish that these conversations were happening when I was younger so that I’d have known better than to walk away from something good just because it got difficult. Conflict doesn’t always have to mean an end to your friendships. The introduction of a romantic partner in your life shouldn’t lead to the demise of your friendships either. We should be more willing to prioritize any relationships that are healthy for us, even if they are strictly platonic. With this and similar resources as a guide, I hope that our society can begin to recognize the value and impact of our friendships on our wellbeing so that we can invest in them the way we do romantic relationships.


This book reminded me a lot of different types of polyamory, particularly relationship anarchy. One of the main principles of relationship anarchy is that it’s non-hierarchical, meaning “they don’t rank their romantic partner[s] as necessarily more important than their friends” (The Cut, 2018). I furthermore read someone describe this as “someone who might decide to buy a house with their best friend instead of their romantic partner.” It’s a relationship structure that challenges the traditional expectations of friends vs. partners, and gives an individual the freedom to define the parameters of their relationships as they see fit. The closeness that one feels for their best friend can often be stronger than the closeness they feel for a romantic partner, but for some reason we’re taught that we have to publicly commit to, buy a house with, raise kids with, and grow old with that romantic partner instead of the best friend. Imagine though, if someone decided to give the “life partner” label to their best friend, while still maintaining a close and committed relationship with their romantic partner? (Also, no one said you have to reserve the “life partner” label for just one person.) Aminatou and Ann have clearly established each other as life partners, even though they are very clear about the platonic boundary. They even went as far as to go to couples therapy when things got really difficult, which I was elated to read! Imagine how healthy our friendships would be, and how much our well being would improve as a result, if we were invested enough in our friendships to consider therapy when things inevitably get difficult?


Overall, this book helped to solidify the importance of valuing any and all relationships that you have deemed healthy and necessary for you, even if they are platonic ones. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a unique perspective on how to approach relationship dynamics.

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