Platonic marriages are marking the end of the nuclear family as we know it

By Svetlana Onye

Published Feb 11, 2022 at 09:15 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

We have long been taught that the main foundation of marriage is romantic love, that we must find the perfect Romeo to our Juliet and live happily ever after with our two dogs and cats, a couple of kids as well as a shared Netflix subscription. But what if we turned those traditional ideas of marriage on their head? What if we decided that we didn’t need to wait for the lover of our dreams before we tie the knot, buy the family home and settle down? What if that notion of romance was replaced by a different kind of love—a platonic kind—and instead spent the rest of our lives with our best friend? Turns out it can be done and it is being done. Introducing platonic marriages and the climax of the nuclear family.

Platonic love versus romantic love

For people like April Lexi Lee, 24, the platonic love she experiences with her best friend Renee is so special that she knew she had found her life partner. Now they live together in Los Angeles. “Renee and I wanted to do life together and be each other’s first of kin,” Lexi Lee told SCREENSHOT. The Singapore-born writer and creative producer has amassed a following of over 48,000 followers on TikTok, many of whom are intrigued by her platonic partnership.

@psychottie

Reply to @naptimeno hope everyone had a good night’s sleep 🥴🥴🥴@hotmilkwong #platoniclifepartner #qpr #queertok

♬ Sneaky Snitch - Kevin MacLeod

For Lexi Lee, the decision to spend the rest of her life with Renee was simple. Their friendship, which has spanned across eleven years, is one steeped in healing and safety, “I credit a lot of who I am today to Renee and vice versa. We’re on this journey to be the best version of ourselves, to heal our traumas and go after our dreams and we give each other the fuel to do that.”

Platonic partnerships are not simply two best friends living together but partners who build their lives together—sharing finances, making significant life decisions in consideration of one another and all other major components of marriage without the romantic or sexual aspect involved. “Your life partner doesn’t have to be your lover,” Lexi Lee explained, “I want to come home to Renee because it’s two different criteria to being a good life partner and a good romantic partner. We don’t have to force lovers into the life partnership box.” And these two aren’t the only ones.

Jay Guercio, 24, is legally married to her platonic best friend Krystle, 29, and together they are raising a teenage boy. Based in Tampa Florida, the pair are a testament to the fact that our best friends can truly be our soulmates. “During quarantine, she was the only person I let myself see because the risk of getting COVID could not be compared to the risk of not seeing her,” Guercio told me. For her, romantic love cannot be likened to the transformative growth she continues to experience while in partnership with Krystle, “I’m a hopeful romantic but it’s based on chemicals that may one day fade, based on a physical or emotional attraction that isn’t necessarily stable but my friendship developed and grew and cultivated into something very stable.”

Both Lexi Lee and Guercio are polyamorous, choosing to pursue multiple relationships outside of their partnership. The permanency of the platonic partnership they share with their best friend allows them to have more stable romantic relationships too. “My platonic partnership with Renee improved me as a romantic partner because I already know I have a life partner at home and so I don’t need any more from someone I’m romantically involved with,” Lexi Lee shared. To Guercio, monogamy is simply a construct that doesn’t work for people. “No one person can fulfil another one person’s desires or needs completely,” she said.

The dying idea of the nuclear family

Platonic partnerships and polyamory are ways of loving and living that threaten the very idea that the nuclear family is the natural mode of a family unit.

Doctor Haley McEwen, a decolonial researcher and lecturer, has published work that points out the colonial origin of the nuclear family. In her work, McEwen provides context to the reality that the nuclear family is fused with notions of gender, racial hierarchy and civilisation. “The idea of the nuclear family is seen as apolitical and ahistorical which it is not,” McEwen explained, “It has been used in the interests of certain groups and power and has a deeply political history implicated on political and colonial conquest.”

The nuclear family was used as a tool to destroy many traditional African kinships during colonisation where polygamy and platonic partnerships, as well as communities, were found to be the norm. “The nuclear family served a particular function to insert people into capitalism machinery. It was used as a measuring point—measuring civilisation to construct indigenous and African people as inferior,” McEwen said.

In David Brooks’ article for The Atlantic titled The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake, the writer also discussed the brittle nature of the nuclear family and the danger it poses to community-building. Brooks mentioned how the nuclear family created a shift from big, interconnected and extended families to smaller, detached nuclear families and how this affects the most vulnerable of society—from the working-class to the poor—who need forms of kinship which are more expansive to be supported and ultimately survive.

The nuclear family, which is the greatest asset of romantic love, appears to be impractical for the changing times we are in. It evades community and interconnectedness—while historically representing how racism, homophobia and sexism have built many of the traditional markers of family, love and identity that no longer suit humankind today.

Platonic partnerships are a rebuttal to the nuclear family, they represent the communal love that friendships thrive on and prove that such a love can be a safe place for children to be brought up in, animals to be owned and houses to be shared. It is liberating in ways that romantic love is not because platonic partnerships allow romance to exist simultaneously outside of it, creating family units that are widespread and, therefore, long-lasting.

The future of love

I encourage anyone reading this article to ask themselves if they could build a life partnership with their best friend, someone who’s been there for them through thick and thin, their source for laughter, tears and joy.

“I didn’t want to wait for a romantic partner to sweep me off my feet and help me to create the beautiful life I knew I could live,” Guercio shared, “Why shouldn’t I build the life I want with Krystle? We both deserve it.” And that is exactly it, there is no need to wait for romance if you want to build a life of your dreams with someone by your side. As relationship anarchy takes reign, it is time to reconsider what type of love truly liberates you in your journey.

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