What happens when you feel closer to your best friend than to any romantic partner you’ve ever dated? Or when you’re not really interested in marriage, but want to build a life with someone?
If you’re April Lexi Lee and Renee Wong, you enter a “platonic life partnership.” In a USA Today profile earlier this week, the couple argued for normalizing other definitions of love. Their relationship, they say, is just as if not more committed, respectful, and strategic than a marriage—but completely lacking any romantic or sexual component. The couple defines their partnership as “a deep platonic love and also a commitment to each other, like marriage, where we are trying to build the next step for our lives together,” including things like a joint bank account, buying a house together, and even starting a family.
Another couple profiled in the piece—Jay Guercio and best friend Krystle—go one step farther. The couple “platonically married” in November 2020, and now raise an adopted son together. (Lee and Wong each have dating lives of their own, but are clear that their first commitment is to each other.) Says Guercio, “We want to raise kids the same way. We have the same ideas as [to] what finances should look like. We are already symbiotic in how we work. . . . it just made sense to start building the life that we wanted to live together.”
Counselor and sexologist Cyndi Darnell tells USA Today that in her opinion, platonic partnerships “can ‘absolutely’ be as successful as a traditional marriage, because ‘partnership is based on shared values.’” Other supporters of the idea of platonic marriages or life partnerships argue that their reasons for entering these arrangements are far more stable and enduring than mere sexual or romantic attraction.
What are we to make of this? We can all acknowledge that friendship is great. If two people want to be friends, pursue a friendship with intentionality, maybe even be roommates or buy a house together, more power to them. The part of this story that should disturb us are the words “marriage” or “life partnership.” These couples aren’t just trying to be friends. They’re trying to imitate the best of marriage, in a relationship that is decidedly not a marriage. They’re watering down the meaning of the word even further, by stripping it of its erotic or creative potential. And they’re involving not only themselves, but any children who may somehow or other find their way into these households—in spite of decades of research demonstrating that a married, mother-father household is the best arrangement for the well-being of children.
Our societal views on love are disordered in a way that only Plato himself could explain.