Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Meaning, Benefits, And Tips To Make It Work


After 11 years of friendship, best friends Jay Guercio and Krystle Purificato decided to take platonic marriage vows together. They did this not out of romantic love but out of deep friendship. Are they raising a foster kid together? YES. Do they feel sexual attraction toward each other? NO.

This seemingly unusual relationship can stir up quite a few questions. How exactly do platonic lovers operate? Is there zero romantic attachment in the marriage? Can two platonic partners truly enjoy the benefits of marriage? Don’t worry, we’re here to answer these and myriad other questions you may have about platonic couples, in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc, Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couples counseling.

Platonic Marriage Meaning

Nandita explains, “A marriage can be platonic if both decide beforehand that they won’t have a sexual relationship after marrying each other. There can be many practical reasons behind wanting to have such a platonic relationship.” She states numerous reasons why people opt for a platonic marriage:

  • One/both don’t have the sexual desire to continue intimacy anymore
  • The married couple doesn’t live in the same city/country
  • Owing to a medical condition/old age, they cannot indulge in sex
  • Getting citizenship in the country where one partner is staying
  • It’s not a romantic marriage and happened under family pressure
  • It’s more of a legal union for legal benefits like tax breaks
  • Owing to sexual orientation (asexual partners/pansexual partners)

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Psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini explains, “When you marry outside the traditional type of marriage, you decide that this marriage is on a best-friend basis sans intimacy, sex, and romance. Platonic unions have been around since the 15th century and roughly 2-3% of the whole population is engaged with them.

“A platonic marriage is a little different from a sexless marriage. In the latter, usually one of the partners is adamantly against sex. But, a platonic marriage is all about two people marrying for the deepness to connect and form a committed friendship/spiritual connection. They aren’t marrying for physical love/intimacy.”

Related Reading: 7 Fundamentals Of Commitment In A Marriage

Benefits And Drawbacks Of A Platonic Marriage

While researching this topic, I came across an interesting comment on YouTube. @simplyaloha4469 wrote, “My uncle who is gay, married his best friend who is a woman. The platonic relationship has worked for them for over 15 years.” As she mentions, platonic friendship turned marriage offers just the right amount of emotional support. Let’s find out more.

Benefits of marriage done on a platonic basis

There are economic advantages involved (tax breaks and legal perks). In the UK, the Marriage Allowance lets you transfer £1,260 of your allowance to your husband, wife, or civil partner. This reduces their tax by up to £252 a year. Here are some other benefits of being married in a platonic way:

  • You avoid the hassles/problems/lies that come with romance and sex
  • You can live longer and have better reproductive health, according to research 
  • Another study says the health benefits of bonds with close friends ensure better mental health as well as lower morbidity and mortality 
  • Platonic love can work wonders if you are disillusioned with the idea of romantic love
  • Having a companion ensures your sanity if you’re a senior
  • Having a chronic disability doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy movies with someone
  • If your family was abusive/chaotic, marrying a bestie can mean enhanced trust
  • You can co-parent kids without tensions, friction, conflict
  • Such a marriage can eliminate struggles with sexual incompatibility

Drawbacks of marriage based on platonic friendship

However, here are some obstacles and challenges that platonic couples might face:

  • As time passes, one partner may fall in love with or be sexually attracted to the other
  • One of the partners might date someone else that they want to move on with
  • Sex brings a sense of vulnerability, the benefits of which get missed out
  • It can be challenging to gain social acceptance for such a marriage
  • Gaining legal recognition as certified partners could be a struggle
  • The courts could say it’s a sham, done just for financial benefits for marriage
  • A divorce could be difficult as, in most countries, the law doesn’t recognize “platonic life partners”

Related Reading: 10 Useful Tips For Dating Your Best Friend

Tips To Make A Platonic Marriage Work

There is no harm in ditching social norms and constructs, as long as you’re happy. Also, it’s not as if you have to swear off sex (if you don’t want to); it’s just that sex is not part of your marriage. 

Sounds simple enough, right? But when you don’t have an existing framework on which you can model your relationship with your life partner, things can get complicated even if you’re sure you’ve found your platonic soulmate. What are the rules of your union going to be? What are the boundaries? What are your rights as spouses? What about any romantic or sexual needs that may arise in the future? 

The simple answer to these questions would be, you make the rules that work for you and your partner. However, that, more often than not, can make things harder rather than simplify them. So, how can you make such a platonic relationship smooth sailing? Here are some expert-backed tips. 

1. Be honest about your reasons

The most important tip is to be straightforward and direct with your partner about why you’re opting for such a marriage. If you’re hiding out from sexual dysfunction, have a different sexual orientation, or have been abused in the past, just be honest. Own it and see if your partner understands your reasoning.

Related Reading: Could You Be Demisexual? 5 Signs That Say So

2. Establish ground rules

Will you both celebrate anniversaries? Cuddle at night? Is a kiss on the cheek allowed? Would you go on dates? What’s the hug etiquette? Nandita advises, “It’s important that platonic spouses establish ground rules on the following questions:

  • What is the exact agreement?
  • What are the benefits of platonic love?
  • What can be done and what should not be done?”

3. A written agreement helps

Nandita points out, “Partners bound by platonic love need to talk and talk and talk a little more about this so both are clear they have the same vision and neither feels cheated or jealous suddenly. In a platonic marriage, a written agreement helps, especially if one is not fulfilling the practical purposes or trying to get into a space that both had agreed to not get into. It is important to converse a lot and have clear-cut conversations.” 

Since your relationship may feel like unchartered territory, a relationship agreement can help give it a sense of direction – or the broad framework within which you can carve out your dynamic. Of course, it’s best to revisit and upgrade or change the rules of the agreement as your needs and circumstances change. 

more on married couples

4. Be discreet about your sexual needs if necessary

Nandita explains, “In my clients, I have seen married couples agreeing to seeing other people, owing to sexual incompatibility. I have seen that it’s a very delicate situation. Jealousy and other disagreements do creep in over time. It’s very important to frequently keep connecting with your partner and checking if everything is okay.” 

Keep these three pointers in mind to avoid conflicts:

  • Respect each other
  • Trust each other (once this gets betrayed, the foundation will crumble)
  • Be discrete if the other partner requires it

5. Seek professional help for unexplored areas

Seeking professional help becomes immensely important when you’re transitioning from a conventional marriage to a platonic one. Nandita says, “The transition from having a sexual relationship to sexless marriage can be tricky. This is why extremely good communication is important. Even if the life partners are communicating, complicated challenges may arise. 

“For example, a couple I was counseling decided to make their marriage platonic and agreed to have sex with other partners only and not with each other. But they ended up fighting. The husband got super angry with the wife. The reason behind his anger was that the wife had gotten her date home when her husband was away. But this was a point they did not discuss earlier in their ground rules. The husband felt that his place in the house had been violated.”

For such unexplored areas, Nandita suggests open communication and being sensitive to the other person’s needs. She also recommends taking guidance from an experienced professional. Should you need help, our counselors from Bonobology’s panel are always here for you. 

6. Understand that people can change

Not everyone is open/comfortable about their need for sex or how they think they’ll deal with that loss of sex. So, you need a partner who can understand that people can change. You may be a couple who doesn’t want a romantic relationship in the beginning. But this may eventually change and you may fall madly in romantic love with your partner. This is why you both need to be open, honest, accommodating, and flexible.

Key Pointers

  • A platonic marriage can seem like an unusual choice, but if you and your partner are doing it for the right reasons, it can work wonderfully
  • It can be a wonderful feeling to wear a wedding gown or tux and celebrate a close friendship with your loved ones
  • People also do it for economic advantages; for example, to split expenses or for tax benefits
  • There have been instances where two friends have gotten married to raise children together
  • Like any other relationship, such a marriage, too, comes with its share of benefits and drawbacks. You need to navigate the complexities of the relationship skillfully to sustain it for the long haul

Finally, Nandita says, “As long as platonic life partners are toeing the line and not the boundaries that they have decided upon, a platonic marriage can turn out great! After all, the start has been great. Both have been open enough to adapt to an out-of-the-box approach to be in each other’s lives. This means they are already open with each other and comfortable with each other’s suggestions.”

Romance fades, anyway. But good friends are for life. Physical attraction may fizzle out over time. Hence, this interesting concept makes us rethink the future of romantic marriages and romantic relationships. After all, love has many forms and so let’s not limit it.

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