What Biblical evidence or justification is there for this kind of relationship?
Celibate partnerships are a form of covenant friendship, much like Ruth and Naomi or David and Jonathan. I would recommend Ron Belgau’s article ‘Love, Covenant and Friendship’ for more in-depth insights on this topic. Some people prefer to use categories like committed/covenant friendship, while others feel more comfortable saying platonic/celibate partnership.
Not all Side B Christians agree with or feel comfortable with the idea of having a celibate partnership, so opinions on this area vary considerably.
Why do people use the word ‘partnership’? That makes it sound like a romantic or sexual relationship.
There are a number of alternative words or phrases that people can use to describe platonic/celibate partnerships, including covenant friendship, committed housemates, and chosen family members.
Ultimately this is up to the people involved in the relationship, and what category or name seems most appropriate and authentic to them. I think that the reason people tend to gravitate towards words like “partner” and “partnership” are mainly due to the fact that friendship is often something casual and temporary in our culture, and is a broad term that can cover such a wide variety of relationships.
Friendship has been devalued so much in Western culture that many feel the need to use words like “partnership” to convey the seriousness and level of commitment in their relationships, even when there is no sexual or romantic element involved.
I would probably use terms like covenant friendship or committed housemates in conservative circles, to avoid confusing people or raising too many eyebrows. I feel that using terms like “friendship” or describing the person as “chosen family” (like a brother/sister) could also help me to view the relationship primarily as platonic.
What physical boundaries are appropriate?
As far as physical boundaries, it would be pretty similar to platonic cuddling for me – no kissing on the lips, no touching of the breasts, genitals, bottom, etc. I think it’s probably simpler to choose a platonic partner you have little to no attraction to, though it’s not to say it’s impossible to make it work even if some attraction develops.
However, the preferred boundaries would depend greatly on the two people involved and what they feel comfortable doing in a good conscience. For instance, for some people having separate bedrooms and sleeping in different beds is important. For others, it’s not a big deal and is not a source of temptation.
For more details around physical boundaries and how to keep a relationship platonic, check out my article: My Adventure with Platonic Cuddling – Plus 12 Tips for Newbies.
What about romantic gestures?
As far as “romantic gestures” go, I think there are many gestures that could be both romantic or platonic, depending on the context. I have a couple of close friends I hold hands with, and I don’t see those relationships as romantic or sexual in nature. I’ve also had plenty of platonic friends give me flowers and chocolates as gifts, even though that could be construed as romantic. So it depends on the context and the cultural backgrounds of the people involved. Again, this is something that both people in a celibate partnership would need to discuss and agree on. There are no hard and fast rules in this area.
How do people stay chaste? I don’t think I could resist temptation.
Firstly, it’s wise to have a celibate partnership with someone you’re not romantically or sexually attracted to. Secondly, good boundaries protect people against temptation and help to keep the relationship pure. Thirdly, people vary greatly in their sex drives and how much they struggle, so this will depend on the individuals involved.
Having said that, since having a platonic cuddle buddy I have noticed my struggles with lust have decreased – not increased – because my struggles with lust were related more to loneliness and touch hunger, than my sex drive itself. I can see how this could also apply in a celibate partnership. Some people may also prefer to have a celibate partnership with someone where they don’t live in the same house, but still live close to one another and spend time together frequently.
Having said all that, celibate partnerships are not for everyone. People need to do what they feel is right and if you can’t enter one in a good conscience, it may not be a good idea. Just be aware of whether your feelings of conviction are stemming from false guilt as a result of cultural conditioning and expectations, or whether it is genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit – because it’s easy to get trapped in condemnation even when we have not actually sinned.
Do they need to be with a person of the same gender, who experiences same-sex attraction? Why not any ordinary heterosexual person? Or someone of the opposite sex?
People could have a celibate relationship with someone of the opposite sex, but I think it would make more sense to marry them if it’s intended to be a lifetime commitment. However, not everyone is open to a marriage without sex – though people from the asexual community may be interested in an arrangement like this.
The following article and video contain an interesting example of a gay man and a lesbian woman who got married and have a primarily platonic relationship: She’s a Lesbian, He’s Gay, and Their 33-year Marriage Will Change Your Perception of Love.
I would also add that celibate partnerships could be between a straight man and a gay man, or a straight woman with a gay woman. There is one example of this here: Colouring Outside the Lines by Alicia Buhler
Platonic partnerships and covenant friendships are as varied as the people involved in them. It could look like a young person who commits to caring for an elderly friend until the time of their death. It could look like three or more people who commit to living in an intentional community together, like a modern day monastery. It could look like a couple with kids adopting a single person into their family, like an aunt or uncle.
I have also heard of platonic partnerships between two heterosexual women, who didn’t end up getting married and decided to pool their resources together to buy a house and support one another. So they can be quite varied, and do not have to be between two people of the same gender who experience same-sex attraction.
How would I find someone interested in this type of relationship?
If you’re looking for another single person around your age for a celibate partnership, I suspect it will be a challenge to find someone – unless you’re willing to relocate. My guess is the number of celibate LGBTQI+ Christians who would be seeking out a celibate partnership in any one region would be fairly few. However, if you live in a large city, there may be more Side B Christians around.
Another possibility is to consider a Christian in the asexual/aromantic community – this kind of relationship could be ideal for them. However, please keep in mind that many asexual people also still want to have a romantic relationship (which may involve activities like kissing on the lips, and a desire to get married), so it would be best to find someone who is both asexual and aromantic. Committed asexual and aromantic relationships are also often called ‘queerplatonic relationships/partnerships’.
It may be easier as a single person to find a family with children who are willing to adopt you into their household as a godparent or an aunt/uncle figure, or perhaps you could connect with an elderly person who needs help and support. Keep an open mind to various opportunities in your local church and region. Another option is starting an intentional community or share house, where people are committed to supporting one another. Some of these options may not be as permanent as a lifetime platonic partnership, but they are still a helpful way of becoming more embedded in community.
There is a secular website called ‘Platonic Partners’ for people interested in finding a platonic partner, but you do need to pay if you want to message people.
Alternatively, you could try this free website called ‘Miscellaneace’ for people interested in asexual relationships, queerplatonic partnerships, friendship, platonic cuddle buddies, etc.
I also created a free forum called ‘Christian Committed Friends’ for this purpose, but it’s intended for believers only.
If you want to learn more about asexual relationships, check out the Asexual Visibility and Education Network website and forum.