The following articles describe a number of different kinds of platonic relationships, from mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs), to celibate partnerships, to queer platonic relationships. Please note, these articles come from a range of perspectives including both secular and Christian sources – so I don’t necessarily agree with everything written in them. I simply share them for the purpose of opening people’s minds about different kinds of platonic relationships and experiences, beyond what most people typically conceive of as “friendship” in our modern, Western society.
“As Carrie and I graduated from university and then went on to seminary a couple of years later we moved forward with an expanded sense of possibility, and yet we still didn’t know how to conceptualize our relationship. We were roommates, certainly, and yet we were becoming family to one another. We had a sense that we’d like to keep living together for the foreseeable future, but still believed that our vocations or one of us getting married could draw us apart.
The longer we lived together the more people began assuming that we were a closeted lesbian couple, or that we were in denial about our sexuality. We felt awkward trying to define our relationship in the negative, that is, as what we were not. On a few occasions, telling people that we were not a lesbian couple led them to believe that we were homophobic. As we struggled to define our household we sought the council of one of our seminary professors who questioned the necessity of a label; it seemed the label was more for other people than it was for ourselves.”
“Even as we thought about naming our blog before we began writing, we knew there would always be people who misunderstand our way of life. There are many misconceptions about celibacy in general, and it’s understandable that there are even more about celibate partnerships like ours. Seeing as we already spent some time clarifying the nature of our relationship last week, we thought that it might be a good time to expound upon some misconceptions we’ve encountered about celibate partnerships since beginning our writing project together.”
“My sense is that some partners think of themselves as closer to a “monastery of two,” whereas others think of themselves more like a spiritual friendship. Those different self-concepts are probably going to have consequences for how the partners live their vocations, although to be honest, I haven’t spoken with enough people living these vocations to feel that I have a good handle on what the differences are. The more important point is simply that if you’re going to lead a life which many people will misunderstand as a mimicry of marriage, having other languages in which to express what you’re doing will help you avoid that same misunderstanding.
Celibate partnership is neither “marriage minus” nor “friendship plus,” I think. (“Friendship plus” seems closer to the spiritual friendship model, and closer still to the vowed friendship model, both of which I discuss in depth in the book itself.) I’m still at the very beginning of learning about this way of life. I believe strongly that many people have a vocation to life with a specific other person. That calling may be best lived out in friendship, but “friendship” is simply a language, a tradition, a framework for understanding how best to love another person. If you find that other languages, such as monasticism, commitment, partnership, are better guides for loving and serving the person with whom you’re called to entwine your life, celibate partnership may be a vocation (or set of vocations) to look into.”
“We’ve noticed conflation of celibacy with singleness, specifically a form of singleness that is cut off from the world. In our experience, the celibates who lead the most fulfilling lives (whether they do so while in the world or in monasteries) have meaningful relationships. We find it distressing when people equate celibacy with avoiding all relationships of every kind. This misconception leads Christians to believe that celibacy is somehow lesser than marriage. It seems to us that many Christians ignore what the Scriptures say about the value of celibacy as a way to seek Christ and the Kingdom of God. Celibacy is portrayed as an almost freakish way of life where the only way people enter is by being coerced. We’ve lost track of how many people have tried to tell us that we are suffering from deeply damaging internalized homophobia because we’ve embraced celibacy freely.
Celibacy is an opportunity to love and serve the world differently than married people. We organize our life together around the four guiding values we’ve already mentioned. Because sex is not a part of our relationship, we find it comparatively easy to turn our focus outward to the world around us. Additionally, we have the opportunity to develop deep emotional and spiritual intimacy with each other.”
“Dennis and Linda Anfuso met in art school, bonded over their interest in “The Wizard of Oz,” fell in love and got married. But that’s where the traditional narrative ends. Dennis, 60, identifies as gay, and Linda, 59, is an intersex woman who identifies as a lesbian. Two years into their marriage, Linda was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy and Dennis became her caretaker. The couple forged an incredible bond, based on friendship, a mutual sense of adventure and love — not the kind you see in movies, but a unique, deeply-rooted intimacy.
Of course they’ve faced many challenges over their 33-year marriage, but, as Linda says, “Life is nothing if not an interesting adventure.”
Watch the video above to learn more about Dennis and Linda’s stereotype-shattering relationship.”
“I’m 70 years old and while it’s probably unheard of today it wasn’t completely uncommon in the past for a closeted gay man and a lesbian to marry in order to give the appearance to the outside world of a ‘normal’ hetero marriage. That was the case with my wife, life partner, and best friend who I have now been married to coming up on 45 years.
…People ask me now why she and I don’t divorce and the reason is simple, she’s a part of me now and I’m a part of her. We love each other even if it’s not in a sexual or romantic way and the marriage and bond we have is immensely important to both of us. A promise is a promise, after all and if the sole focus of marriage is sex then, well, I don’t think that’s much of a marriage at all.”
“After 16 years as best friends and occasional roommates, we have become something else, something that doesn’t seem to have a name. We joke that we are each other’s PLP’s — platonic life partners — and recall the promise we made in our 20s: “If neither of us finds a husband by 40, let’s get married. If only for the registry.”
We’re now both 41, the same age as Stephen Daldry when he married his best friend. And we’re both wondering: What if he had it right? After all, the couples that I consider the happiest — mostly gay men who opened up their relationships decades ago — are not lovers as much as best friends.”
“Why would they need courage? Because choosing to have a primary platonic life partner instead of a romantic-sexual life partner is the most subversive act a romantic-sexual person could make in the contemporary social world. It is a radical departure from everything that is considered “normal” and standard. A primary platonic life partnership is something that most people don’t understand, don’t accept as valid, have never even heard of before, etc.
Not to mention that if a romantic-sexual person in a primary platonic life partnership has just signed up to deal with a long list of complications in their social life that may or may not subside with time. Primary platonic life partnerships don’t have a script, don’t have a pre-established framework in our culture, don’t have legal recognition as being equal to a romantic-sexual monogamous relationship, don’t even have effective language to describe and communicate about them!”
“As I’ve ranted about ad nauseum before, there’s a tendency to value romantic and sexual relationships over other types of relationships, where friendship and queerplatonic connections are considered the training wheels for the real relationship, and where it’s assumed that nonsexual partners always take a back seat to other kinds of relationships. And don’t enjoy a connection with the same emotional depth as a sexual relationship. We are, after all, just the second fiddles, the entertainment while the primary partner is away.
The devaluation of these kinds of connections means that many people are also deeply confused by them, especially when they encounter queerplatonic partners in person. And I do say partner, and sometimes refer to the unit formed by a partner and myself as a couple, because we are. We function like a couple, we do things together, we are intimate with each other, though not necessarily in the way people expect. We are a couple.”
“I would love to live in a world where these kinds of partnerships are commonplace, but in order for that to happen, beyond opening up this dialogue of possibilities, it takes action. It takes real live people making the choice to pursue this lifestyle rather than a conventional one where romantic-sexual relationships are primary. Sometimes, these relationships happen accidentally, like it did for my aunt. But I think for the most part, it’s only going to happen if people make a deliberate choice to go with it, to ask for it, to think about it, to take it seriously, etc. Instead of sitting back and thinking about what a cool idea this is, I think its time for more people to give it some serious thought—to think not only about nonsexual primary relationships but to ask themselves what they really want and why, to question the normative relationship model not as something universally faulty and bad but as a model that isn’t the only option or the automatic best option.
What are the pros and cons of a romantic-sexual monogamous primary partnership? What are the pros and cons of a nonsexual primary partnership? How do they compare for you, the individual? And if, upon making that comparison, you find that a nonsexual and/or nonromantic primary partnership looks more appealing—why wouldn’t you move forward with making that happen, instead of defaulting to romantic-sexual monogamy at the top of your pyramid?”
“But how do we commit to each other, knowing that someday one of us may marry? One of us might fall in love with something other than a man — a solar cabin in Mexico, a job in Tangier, a documentary film project in Florida, a year of silence in the Berkshire woods. Any number of things could pull us apart. We have made no promises to each other, signed no agreements to commit. For some reason, that seems O.K. most of the time.
For this article, I talked to many women who’d formed platonic marriages or who’d thought about it seriously. All of them discussed the complicated issues of commitment, or lack thereof, between friends.
Janet calls her arrangement with Greta intentional. “In the same vein as creating an ‘intentional community,’ we have an ‘intentional’ living arrangement,” she says. The two high school friends, both straight women in their early thirties, moved to Boston together five years ago, knowing that they would share an apartment, and a life. They eat dinner together and check in with the how-was-your-day conversation most people expect from a mate.”