Marie S. Crosswell explores the radical notion that your Life Partner and your Romantic Partner may not have to be the same person.
The fact that romantic-sexual people equate “primary/cohabiting life partner” with “romantic-sexual partner” is so baffling to me, that every time I think about it, it feels like my mind goes completely blank and the only thing there is a big question mark. This makes even less sense to me than linear algebra. It is so beyond my ability to understand, that I can hardly get over the “How is this possible?” long enough to attempt analyzing the logic behind it.
If you need sex, fine.
If you need romantic relationships, fine.
If you need sex and romantic relationships and you need them to always come in one package, fine.
But how and why would anyone believe that your primary life partner—the person you live with and share your practical responsibilities with and have a home with, etc—must also be your romantic-sexual partner, as if that’s universal law and absolutely impossible to choose your way out of?
This is completely and totally irrational. There’s a logic to it, sure, but there’s zero rationality. (FYI, logic and rationality are two different things.)
Once in a while, I’ll see or hear about a friendship between two sexual people that actually has emotional weight. (Almost always, the two friends are teenagers or young adults, because the vast majority of sexual adults can’t do friendship worth a damn.) It’s so obvious that the two friends love each other, they get along so well, their relationship is effortless and 99% positive and stable and affectionate, etc. They have an enthusiasm for each other. They can be themselves together. All the ingredients for a secure, healthy, positive, happy life partnership are right there in their friendship.
But they’re going to spend their whole lives searching for a romantic-sexual partner to fill in that “Life Partner” role instead.
Even though romantic-sexual relationships are the most volatile kind of human connection. Even though the American divorce rate is 50%. Even though building nuclear families on a foundation of romantic-sexual monogamous relationships has created a society full of broken homes and kids that have little, if any, stability. Even though most romantic-sexual people who claim to believe in sexual monogamy—because our culture says monogamy is good and non-monogamy is bad—royally suck at it in practice. Even though cohabiting with a string of lovers takes highly uncomfortable emotional and practical tolls when the couple breaks up and someone has to suddenly move out. Even though you’re fifty million times more like to be physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally abused by a romantic-sexual partner that you live with than you are by your best friend. Even though the frequency of conflict in a romantic-sexual relationship is usually exponentially higher than it is in a best friendship.
I could go on.
It’s just totally nuts to me, that anyone could have a real best friend who is compatible enough with them that the friendship lasts a long time—without even any formal commitment!—and choose to live a lifestyle where having a home and a family and a life partner all rides on their romantic-sexual relationships. It’s nuts to me that anyone could have a best friend, an honest-to-God best friend, who provides EVERY SINGLE THING THEY’RE LOOKING FOR IN A LIFE PARTNERSHIP EXCEPT SEX, and choose to put not just one, but a whole series of sexual partners above that best friend, in the pursuit of the magical Romantic-Sexual Monogamous Life Partner Who Makes You Happy Forevermore.
And this is not about having sex or not having sex. This isn’t a matter of rejecting romantic love for friendship. This isn’t a choice between one or the other.
This is just about relationship organization.
You could have a non-sexual, non-romantic primary life partner who you live with, who is there for you emotionally and physically and financially, who’s there to take care of you if medical issues come up, who’s there to help you raise a kid if you want one, who’s there to keep you company at home and go on vacation with you and help keep house, etc—and still have a sex life and romantic relationships!
And my God, would that make so much more sense on every single level! I could paper the walls of my bedroom with all the benefits of making your best friend your non-romantic/non-sexual life partner, instead of a lover who may or may not stick with you for the long haul.
How many sexual people in the United States alone are wasting their lives on a never ending roller coaster of serial romantic-sexual relationships, looking for the perfect one, getting married and getting divorced, moving in and moving out, scattering children all over the place, living in bad marriages or cohabiting romantic-sexual relationships, cheating on their lovers, fighting every other night, on and on and on? For what? For a home? For love? For joyful companionship? For happy family?
You could have all of that with your best friend—if you’re lucky enough to have a best friend—without even trying.
But instead, you subordinate that best friend to all of these sex partners/lovers, to spouses you end up hating, to romantic-sexual relationships that last three months or six or a measly year, to romantic-sexual relationships that steal years of your life before finally imploding. How many people actually find what they’re looking for in romantic sexuality?
If you want a stable, warm, low-maintenance, loving, caring home life; if you want someone there for you who accepts you and likes you exactly as you are; if you want someone to share your life with who will take care of you and be loyal to you and still give you the freedom to be who you are and connect with other people—then be life partners with a best friend, if you’re lucky enough to get one. And you can still have sex and you can still have romantic relationships, and if those romantic-sexual relationships prove to be consistently short-term or troublesome, at the very least, you still have a home and a steady companion and a source of love and support that doesn’t break down, when your sexual relationship of the moment does.
This is pure rationality, to me. It’s about maximizing your chances for a stable, happy, loving home life and reducing the negative impact of romantic-sexual relationships on yourself and your children, if you have any. Instead of asking one romantic-sexual partner to be your Everything, let them just be your romantic-sexual partner, and make someone else your living partner, your financial partner, your live-in co-parent, your best friend.
If I had any reason to believe a romantic-sexual person capable of committing to a nonsexual/nonromantic life partnership and if I had a sexual best friend and if that best friend wanted to be life partners with me, I would commit and be non-monogamous life partners with them. And I wouldn’t care about their sex life or their romantic relationships with other people, as long as I could trust my partner was committed to our home and our friendship. It probably helps a lot that I’m a radical relationship anarchist and not looking for any kind of strict monogamy (the sexual kind is irrelevant; the emotional kind isn’t doable for me), but even if that partnership were missing certain elements I wanted in my life—like physical affection, let’s say—I still wouldn’t have a problem with being my friend’s partner for good, as long as I could pursue other relationships, too.
I just don’t understand how anyone could pass up the opportunity to make a best friendship a cohabiting life partnership, for the sake of romantic sexuality. I can’t understand. It’s incomprehensible.
About the Author: Marie S. Crosswell is a celibate asexual, a radical relationship anarchist, a thinker, and a writer. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and currently lives in Phoenix. Her short fiction can be found in Thuglit: Issue 7 and the upcoming issue of Plots with Guns. She is currently working on her first novel.