boston marriage, passionate friend

I feel agreement with this very well written article by Thinking Asexual: I want to express my connection of the ideas of the asexual Boston marriage with that of the passionate friend.

I think that the passionate friend is a useful concept for describing a certain type of relationship. Contextualizing it with the potentially sexual relationships between women in a Boston marriage is, I hope, a helpful and constructive enterprise. At the very least the challenges to relating to either relationship are illustrative.

The premise that great sensual, physical intimacy can happen without sex or sexual attraction; the premise that the person you love most and with the greatest intensity of love is someone you do not want to fuck or need to fuck, someone you do not need to “date” or marry. (via thinking asexual)

I remember first feeling a visceral connection to this idea of the committed platonic female friend when reading Anne of Green Gables. Her passionate childhood desire for her soul mate was something I’ve carried with me my whole life. Accepting it as a normative narrative, I assumed that my soulmate connection would be added to with a romantic-sexual male soul mate as hers was.

As an adult, I encountered this sort of visceral connection between my desires and a lived experience when I read about Boston marriages. The loving friendships straddled this platonic/romantic, sexual/asexual binary; I certainly believe that many women who were in Boston marriages had complex romantic sexual connections to their partners. Lesbians have utilized friendship as a cover for a stigmatized sexuality. I believe too that both heart songs have been lived before, that some of these women did not have sexual relationships but still connected to each other in deep meaningful and passionate ways.

The premise of this is that I know I want a life long partner. I wish to strongly connect with someone and share my life with that person. Many complex factors go into this desire. There are practical concerns; our society gives institutional privileges to couples bound in legal matrimony. While this was a privilege exclusive to opposite sex couples, same sex couples can increasingly access legal matrimony much as opposite sex couple in co-residence may increasingly access privileges.

  • The passionate friendship often doubles as the primary partnership of the two friends, and consequently, they either choose to live together permanently or live separately and alone. Being primary partners, the passionate friends carve out protected time to be together on a regular basis, take care of each other’s core needs, may choose to become financially interdependent, may choose to rear children together or combine their families that include other adults, are each other’s caregiver (or one of them) in case of illness or injury, travel together, etc. (via thinking asexual)

There are emotional desires. As much as I enjoy living alone, I miss the company of others: the spontaneous laugh over breakfast or the warmth of sitting together.

Their love comes naturally and effortlessly, like the friendship itself. This resonance they have speaks to the spiritual nature of their connection and their love. There’s something about the relationship that can’t be seen with the eye or expressed adequately with words. The passionate friends themselves may not understand why they feel so strongly for each other, why they’re so drawn to each other, no matter how long they’ve been together. (via thinking asexual)

I’ve found that even friendships I considered strong were considered by all other parties to be secondary to potential romantic relationships. This has happened with multiple people at multiple times – but all for the same reason. A possible romantic partner emerged and the friend suddenly disappeared. I have heard friends passingly mention that once they marry all other relationships will end or be subordinated. I have seen it be lived out, due to neo-local marriages.

Romantic friendship was also a predominantly same-sex relationship, because throughout history, cross-sex friendship was considered impossible or inappropriate (unless the male and female were related). Romantic friendship, if it survived the weddings of the friends, would still become subordinate to the romantic-sexual relationships the friends had with others. Romantic friendship was usually a relationship that formed between members of the same generation, which ties into it being a youth-oriented relationship preceding marriage.

The Boston marriage challenged this heteronormative behavior of subordinating women. The Boston marriage was a lifelong commitment from one woman to another woman. So too, the ambiguity of the Boston marriage confused and rattled heteronormative standards. Alternatively tolerated and maligned, lesbian sexualities within the Boston marriage have survived violence and erasure.

Passionate friendship depends on principles that directly contradict that of mainstream sexual society: the premise that powerful, passionate love and friendship can exist without sex, sexual attraction, romance, or romantic attraction and can be superior to romantic-sexual relationships in quality and importance

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