Insights on Celibate Partnerships from Three Side B Christians


“I definitely believe that chaste committed relationships can happen and be successful. Having been in relationships of this sort, I will say that they are challenging, but what relationship isn’t? There are some things that make these sorts of relationships even more challenging, but I’m not sure I would lay out any set of dos and don’ts for people beforehand. Whenever people ask me about my experience or ask me for advice. I always say the same things:

One: It is essential that you pray together and individually and seek the Lord together. Praying for the relationship and other things together is really important. It puts the focus on the Lord and helps to purify your hearts. Of course, it helps if you are both from the same faith tradition, but that does not mean it can’t work if you’re not.

Two: It is always helpful if you are open and honest with each other about pretty much everything. I have found that if I kept things hidden, that’s when trouble arose. Bringing things out into the open makes it possible to deal with them, rather than keeping them in the dark. I also found this was the best way to establish boundaries that worked for us.

One thing that was the downfall of my relationships was that we stopped communicating with each other and quickly discovered that we were not on the same page anymore concerning our relationship. We did not have the same vision and had we been more open in talking with each other, we might have saved the relationship. Or, maybe not, but at least, it would have been a less painful separation.

Three: I would always advise the couple to have an outside “ministry,” for lack of a better word. Volunteering together is an great example. It’s very easy for a gay couple, whether they are Side A or Side B, to become insular and focused inward, and this helps work against that. Even doing something as simple as inviting friends and family in for a meal several times a week can suffice for this.

Four: Seek outside counsel from a trusted priest or pastor. It is really important that you have someone to whom you can turn to help you walk through the difficulties that may arise. I know when I was beginning my last relationship, we sought out the advice of a priest, who helped us set out boundaries and work through issues that we encountered.

Those are the four pieces of advice I always share with people that ask me. I know that not everyone will agree with me on these, but I do think that following these leads to a happier and successful relationship and makes navigating the challenges and difficulties easier.” – Scott

“I wouldn’t want to suggest what perspective is appropriate for others, but I can speak from my own experience.

I’ve been in a same-sex partnership for 13 years. We consider ourselves life partners, and we live and sleep together. Our relationship is free from sexual attraction and sexual temptation now.

We started out as Side A and gradually became Side B as we found out that erotic love was not central to our relationship and that our relationship was not founded on erotic love. Over time, we started putting God and self-giving love first (self-giving love as opposed to own-needs-based love).

So, our relationship revolves around common goals such as supporting our family members when they need help and teaching them how to prepare for the future, various kinds charity work and philanthropic projects, sustainable solutions to poverty in the world, etc.

Being a couple has enabled us to become better Christians and to integrate our sexuality into our lives in a practical way, so that it was no longer causing tension. We deal with sexual attraction and sexual temptation much as any single person would, and much as any married couple would if the erotic aspect of their relationship was over.

That is what chastity means to me: coming to honest terms with one’s sexuality, knowing that it’s not some kind of end result, but something to move on from, accepting that God can bring something good out of attractions and temptations, but that the attractions and temptations themselves can be a hindrance to genuine intimacy. They’re something to be transcended, not idolised.

I wouldn’t say our relationship is ‘exclusive’ except in the sense that any friendship is exclusive. In other words, no other friendship could take its place because all persons and all friendships are, to a greater or lesser extent, unique, and this one is a deep and permanent friendship that we could have with no one else. But we don’t restrict each other in terms of how many additional friends or what type of friends we may have. We just do what seems natural and appropriate to us.

All relationships need to be founded on agapē, in my view, and agapē always needs to take centre stage. That’s what really matters. I am just as comfortable calling my relationship with my partner a friendship as I am calling it a partnership because I don’t see those two things as mutually exclusive. No words can capture everything about our relationship, so I don’t expect to find a perfect word for it.

I think erotic love is appropriate in biblically based marriage and in sacramental marriage. I’m Catholic, so I understand sacramental marriage as consonant with bible-based Christianity. Erotic love in same-sex relationships leads to dysfunction and codependency, in my experience. It is ‘disordered’, in the sense of ‘wrongly ordered’, because it would not fulfil its biological purpose in my context.

We make lots of mistakes, and our relationship is far from perfect. But I feel it’s a valid way to live as a Christian, and it’s part of our journey.” – Anonymous

“I’d say communication is really important. Uncomfortable subjects have to be regularly discussed and pulled out into the light and examined. Also, I think the Bible has lots of great models for covenantal same sex relationships. David and Jonathan is the obvious one. Covenant is an important concept, and that to me is the main difference between what we’re talking about and what people think friendship to be these days.

One thing that makes marriage so powerful is that it is a binding covenant between two people to remain together for life. The safety of that oath enables both people to little by little remove all their masks and false projected selves, exposing the “real person” beneath without fear that the other will reject them once they truly “see” them. All sorts of ugliness, insecurity, pride, emotional damage, and inner wounds can come out into the open, be dealt with in safety and healed–all because of that covenantal protection. That’s one reason why divorce is so damaging–it robs people of that sense of safety which comes from “til death do us part.” Divorce has become an escape route, an eject button that people keep on the table as an option for if things get too hard. And because of that, the partners continue to present false, “perfect” (but fake) versions of themselves, always trying to keep the other placated so they won’t want to find someone better.

So for me, one defining quality about a healthy side B relationship is a sense of safety that both people can truly be themselves without fear that the other will be sent running. There’s a commitment to ride out the difficult times, hold one another up when things get hard, even and especially when it’d be far easier to give up and part ways. Like marriage, this level of commitment isn’t something to be entered into lightly, because it’s a giving up of rights in a way. It’s saying “I will be there for you, no matter what, even if you reject me in the end.” (sounds Christ-like) The freedom in that kind of friendship is of a nature that allows iron to sharpen iron and love to call out weakness and pride, all working to grow both people as they are rooted in trust they won’t ever be betrayed.

Of course, it is not marriage, and shouldn’t try to be. But covenant friendships can be serious and sacred too, I believe. Not to the exclusion of other relationships and friendships, but to the enrichment of them because you can engage with others from a point of strength afforded by such a mutually nourishing partnership.

… I have been in this sort of relationship for a few years now. It’s not a cure-all to be sure. It did solve my loneliness problem, but in many ways I simply traded one set of challenges for another.

I think what people need most is genuine intimacy of a two-way sort: to know and be known by another. This can and should happen in marriage, but it is not a guarantee in friendship. Same sex partnerships lie somewhere in between, walking a delicate line of seeking to foster true intimacy in all areas save the physical. And that’s not easy. In some ways it’s much harder than trying to remain celibate while not in a relationship. I personally believe sex to be sacramental in the mysterious way it knits two people together–powerful ways we don’t really fully understand. And the emotional, intellectual, spiritual intimacy experienced in a close relationship tend to naturally move the couple toward the physical if there is an attraction. So, there is a built in frustration there when the physical expression is off limits. In my own experience, one of two serious problems can arise in such a situation: compromise or disconnection.

Compromise is usually labeled as “attempted celibacy,” and essentially means “we intend to be celibate but pretty much know that we will have occasional slip-ups, and that’s ok.” I see that as simply fooling myself. Unless we see progress in our relationship toward true celibacy over time, we’re in a “side B relationship” in name only, and when I have fallen into this, God has eventually let it all cave in on itself.

Disconnection is more subtle but just as dangerous in a way. Blocks, barriers, and walls are put in place to prevent emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy from going too far, and in doing so, the potential for true intimacy is stifled. Things settle into more of a “roommate” situation but the hunger for true vulnerability, openness, and intimacy remains, unmet.

The middle ground of fighting the good fight towards celibacy and also tearing down the walls and defenses that prevent true intimacy is a tough place to be. You are open to the most hurt yet unable to partake in the physical expression that promises a kind healing and false intimacy of the “instant gratification” variety.

For a long time I didn’t think there were any other men out in the world who would even consider such a relationship, so I decided it was impossible. But then along came someone who challenged all that. And initially I thought “finally! The loophole I’ve been waiting for.” For me, that line of thinking eventually led to compromise, because my attitude was ever one of pushing the boundary as far as it would go–how much cake could I have and still eat it too?

Now I’m more in a humbled place, intensely thankful for what I have, but more concerned with protecting the purity and integrity of it, which I know can only continue to the degree that God is at the center and His will is paramount to my own. This attitude is less about testing limits and more about trying to pursue holiness simply by realization that route ultimately leads to joy despite the pains and trials along the way. I’m far from perfect, but I can see God working and changing hearts. As long as I can still see that, I’m all in.” – Shawn


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