Companionship Vs Relationship – The 10 Basic Differences

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The world we live in is endless, but it gets lonely from time to time. That’s why we need someone to just hold our hand during difficult times. What kind of love are you looking for? Companionship vs relationship vs sexual intimacy? If you’re confused about the kind of connection you seek, then this is the perfect read for you.

We reached out to psychologist Jayant Sundaresan to find out more about companionship vs relationship. He says, “You need to understand Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love if you want to know the difference between companionship, relationship, and other types of love.” As per this theory, there are three major components in love:

  • Intimacy: The emotional closeness two people share which strengthens the bond and binds them together 
  • Passion: Physical attraction and sexual intimacy with partner 
  • Commitment: Acknowledging that you are in love and want to commit to a relationship 

There are 7 types of love born out of these components:

  • Friendship
  • Infatuation
  • Empty Love
  • Romantic Love
  • Companionate Love
  • Fatuous Love
  • Consummate Love 

This theory does oversimplify concepts like love and relationship, but for some, it could set the foundation for what one looks for in a connection. 

What Is Companionship?

And what does companionship mean to a woman, or anyone at all? Jayant says, “Companionship meaning is often mistaken for friendship when in reality it’s more nuanced than that. Companionship is basically two people who, over time, develop a bond naturally and without any coercion. It’s a deep bond that an outsider can sense when they are in the presence of two companions. Let’s look at them as thunder and lightning. They are always together, in a rhythm with matching wavelengths.

“They are always in sync, their interests will match, and there will be a sort of closeness and familiarity which will be often hard to find elsewhere. Companionship mostly comes without the sexual aspect and it stems deep. It lasts despite hardships and brings comfort and warmth.”

According to Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, companionate love is when the intimacy and commitment components of love are present in the relationship, but the passion component is not. Companionship is a long-term, committed friendship, the kind that frequently occurs in marriages where physical attraction (a major source of passion) has died or slowed down. 

This is stronger than friendship because of the element of commitment. This kind of love is mostly seen in long-term marriages where sexual passion is not needed everyday to stay together harmoniously because the affection two people share is strong, and remains, despite the longevity of marriage. Companionship examples can be seen in family members and close friends who have a platonic but strong friendship. 

What Is Relationship?

A relationship is a broad term as there are different types of relationships ranging from professional, romantic, familial, and sexual. Nowadays, the word ‘relationship’ is mostly used only in the romantic context. Jayant says, “A romantic relationship can be both serious and casual. The typical format of a romantic relationship involves long-term or short-term commitment (based on whether you are casually dating or serious about each other), mutual expectations, respect, and physical intimacy.”

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love says that romantic love is when the intimacy and passion components of love are present in a relationship, but the commitment component is still undecided. This kind of love can also be thought of as ‘liking’, with an added element, namely the arousal brought about by physical attraction and its concomitants. Two people can bond emotionally and sexually with or without the need for commitment.

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Companionship Vs Relationship — 10 Major Differences 

We asked Jayant: Is companionship the same as relationship? He said, “Companionship vs relationship is not a common debate because people think it’s the same. A companionship can turn into a relationship if you add the sexual element. But not all relationships can become companionships because the latter is the kind of love which is often seen between two close friends or romantic partners who have been together for a long time. It develops over time.” 

If you throw in the trending ‘friends with benefits’ ingredient, it is still a companionship, just not a platonic one anymore. Below are some major differences between companionship and relationship.

1. Romantic/sexual feelings

Jayant says, “In companionship vs relationship discussion, romantic feelings are absent in the former and present in the latter. Despite the absence of romantic love, a companion can be anyone, irrespective of gender.

“Whereas, you can’t seek a romantic relationship while turning a blind eye to the gender you’re attracted to, unless you’re pansexual. A companionship is mostly platonic, with some exceptions. And a relationship is usually romantic and sexual, though the sexual component isn’t necessary in some cases.”

So is companionship the same as relationship? It’s hard to define them with such clear boundaries as their function and ingredients can overlap or evolve over time. But as the common understanding goes, they are not the same. Companionship mostly entails the absence of romantic and sexual feelings toward your partner. It’s a deep friendship where two people are connected for a lifetime.

Related Reading: How To Tell A Girl You Want A Relationship With Her Without Getting Rejected?

2. A companion can be your family member, friend, or lover 

A companion can be someone you are in love with. You spend time together and enjoy each other’s presence. There’s mutual trust and respect between the two of you. A companion can be someone with whom you share a house, but it’s not the same as a live-in relationship as there’s no intimacy and romance. In some cases, your companion could even be a family member or a friend with whom you get along easily. 

You spend time together and enjoy each other’s presence

I asked my friend Joanna which one she would choose – companionship or relationship? She said, “I often date for companionship or to just have a good time with someone. If I fall in love or have the desire to have sex with them, then great. If not, then they still stay my companion, which is just as good. But I don’t jump into relationships without spending a good amount of time with people as companions.”

3. Companions have similar views, interests, and hobbies

Jayant says, “What does companionship mean to a woman, or to anyone? It means they get to have a partner in all their likes and dislikes. Most of the time, companions share similar world views, interests, and hobbies which they actively participate in. They spend time doing the things they both love and that’s what makes this bond untainted and pure.”

This is where the ‘is companionship the same as relationship?’ question becomes important. In a relationship, you don’t need to have the exact same interests or hobbies. You can be polar opposites and make it work because opposites attract. You can enjoy going to the library and flick through bookshelves with your companion whereas your partner can go play football with their friends.

For example, even if your companion and your partner both love watching movies, it’s the ‘kind’ of movies you like that aligns with your companion, not your partner. It could be the in-depth discussion you and your companion strike with each other or the shared fascination with certain visual formats, actors, or directors. In this aspect, your likes don’t ‘have’ to align exactly in a romantic relationship. But it’s always good to spend quality time with each other and get to know what your partner likes. 

4. Companionships last much longer

In a romantic relationship, partners break up for numerous reasons. They cheat, manipulate, lie, fall out of love, feel bored, or trapped in a relationship which makes two lovers part ways. But in companionship, there’s a mutual understanding where even if you hang out with other people, there won’t be any jealousy. 

Jayant says, “Companionship tends to last much longer, and relationships can end due to various reasons. There are many breakup excuses people make to end a relationship. Even if you meet your companion after some time apart, the two of you will hit it off right away. But that’s not the case with relationships. When you take a relationship break, it will be very awkward initially when you get back together.” 

5. Companions are less likely to end up married

Companions don’t often end up getting married. They might indulge in sexual activities if both the parties are in mutual agreement. But the chances of them settling down together are less as compared to partners. People in long-term relationships or marriages often act as companions though, because they have been together for a long time. They understand each other better because of the longevity of the relationship. 

Related Reading: 35 Questions To Deepen Relationship With Your Partner

6. People resort to companionship to end loneliness

Companionship vs relationship – this is a discussion that needs to be had more often because the companionship meaning is lost somewhere in today’s times. People now solely focus on relationships or fatuous love, and whirlwind romances are motivated by passion and nothing else. Companionship ends loneliness without the company of sexual activity. 

Companions don’t have to be in love to be together. They want a companion simply because they feel alone and feel comfortable with the other’s presence. When asked on Reddit why some people choose companionship, a user shared, “I like being in relationships because of the companionship and the non-romantic love I feel for my partners. It’s hard to break out of the societal construct of a relationship being inherently romantic.” 

couple dynamics

7. Companionship vs relationship — There is no stereotypical goal in the former

In companionship, you don’t have to ‘achieve’ anything. It’s just two people hanging out, sharing their lives, and enjoying each other’s presence. I asked my friend Veronica, what does companionship mean to a woman? She shared her views on companionship vs relationship, “Relationships aim at building a life together, a marriage, children, grandchildren. Companions are forever. They are there for you when you need them. 

“You have a companion whom you can travel with, go out for lunch. You don’t have to be alone for holidays if you have a companion. There is no future planning done with them. No finance talks, no talks about where to buy a house, or which school you’d put your children in. You know they will stay with you, no matter where life takes you.”

8. Relationships require more effort to maintain

Every relationship requires a tremendous amount of conscious effort

Effort in a relationship is very important. Every relationship requires a tremendous amount of conscious effort to keep it going. You have to pour all the love, empathy, understanding, and loyalty you have in you to make it work. Sometimes when all that isn’t enough, you have to bring in the big guns like commitment, compromise, marriage, and kids. On the contrary, a companionship is more relaxed and less entitled. 

Ava, an astrologer says, “Companionship is effortless whereas a relationship fades away when either of the partners fails to match their actions with words.”

9. Companionship is dominated by positive emotions

Jayant adds, “In the debate of companionship vs relationship, companionship has more positive emotions than negative. It has trust, care, respect, tolerance, friendship, affection, adoration, and even love. Relationships also have their share of positive emotions.

But it gets very easy to develop negative emotions there like jealousy, possessiveness, ego, narcissism, betrayal (both physical and emotional), manipulation, obsession, and power struggle in relationships are toxic traits that deteriorates the quality of the relationship.”

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10. Both can co-exist

Sometimes, you get lucky and find both companionship and romantic love in the same person. On the contrary, you can be in a romantic relationship with one person and have companionship with another. They can exist with or without each other. 

Companionship examples aren’t just limited to human-to-human connections. Your pets can be your companions too. For me, books are my best companion. After all, a companion is sought to eliminate loneliness and seek alignment with. Before you jump into a relationship, make sure you know what you are looking for. A companion to bond and spend your time with or romantic love to build a home with.

Related Reading: How Soon Is Too Soon To Move In Together?

Companionship Vs Relationship Difference

Companions turn into lovers and lovers can become companions through affection, empathy, spending quality time together, and by sharing vulnerabilities. While writing this piece on companionship vs relationship, I realized how bewildering human relationships are. The resemblance, polarity, and how we can find them in different people at the same time and in the same person with the passage of time is quite astonishing. 

Below is a simple table you can glance through if you want to know the difference between companionship and relationship.

No romantic or sexual feelings involved. It’s influenced by care, support, and fondnessInfluenced by physical attraction, intimacy, and passion
Companionate love requires long-term commitment Long-term relationships need commitment, while short-term ones may not
They spend time by pursuing the same hobbies or value systemsPartners don’t need to have the same hobbies and likes
Companionship lasts longerRelationships can end mutually or bitterly due to differences
Mostly doesn’t end in marriage, though married couples become companions after a long durationPartners who are in love settle down eventually
Most people resort to companionship to deal with lonelinessPeople enter relationships because they are in love 
No stereotypical aims or goals in companionshipThe shared aims might include a house, marriage, finances, kids, etc.
Less effort goes into maintaining a companionshipA colossal amount of effort has to be put in by both the partners
Has a lot of positive emotions like trust and careAlong with positive, there are negative emotions like jealousy and insecurity
Companionship can easily turn into a relationshipCompanionship has to be cultivated in a relationship
Difference between companionship and relationship

Key Pointers

  • The article uses Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love to talk about the key differences between companionship and relationship
  • Companions aren’t sexual with each other whereas relationships have sexual intimacy
  • Companionship is important because a companion provides care, validation, support, and a longer commitment than many romantic relationships

Just like you who is reading this piece, even I didn’t know one tiny difference between companionship and relationship, let alone ten. The more I read about love and the complexities of relationships, the more understanding I become of humans. 

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