Is your partner also your friend? If yes, you are in a great place in your relationship. But what happens when you are just friends with your spouse? When there is no romance and intimacy. How do couples who find themselves in a platonic marriage manage their relationship?
For the last decade, 46-year-old R has been in such a marriage where her husband G and she are great friends. They live together, go for holidays, attend family gatherings, share finances, look after each other’s parents and are there for each other. What’s missing is the attraction and intimacy. They haven’t had sex for the last ten years. Except friendly hugs, they don’t hold hands, cuddle or have any romantic intimacy. There was a time when R was peaking sexually and had a couple of affairs but they were just that. When G found out about them, he was upset. Eventually they both moved on. I asked R if she missed the physical aspect of a relationship and she said no. G, according to her is in the same place.
Staying married was a mutual decision. Since they don’t have children (a big reason why couples stay together), I asked R why did they decide to stay in the marriage? According to her, they both were of the view that they’ve been able to build a great understanding with each other over the 20 years that they have been together. While they do many things together, they have also achieved a state of independence, which many people will perhaps not understand. For instance, they can both invite friends over without checking each other’s availability. They can join the gathering or decide to stay in their own rooms. There is no pretense or obligation in their relationship. R and G do as they please. They both own their decisions individually and that in itself is a kind of independence.
For now, R and G seem to have nailed the dynamics of their marriage. What I discovered as I dug deeper to find couples in a similar situation is that they are quite few of them. I spoke to two of them. Their reasons for staying in this “arrangement”, as one of them called it, make a lot of sense in the landscape of relationships. Like R said, over time they have gotten to know each other well. And the effort of starting a new relationship seems daunting. Especially when they see their single friends struggling to find a partner. Once you have arrived at this decision of not seeking more than a friendship in the marriage, it actually is quite a smooth sail. So why rock the boat? These couples really don’t feel the need to find romantic love. There is a practical aspect to it as well, like joint assets that will complicate things if they were to part. But the most important thing is that they still “like” being around each other.
There is enough data available on how romantic relationships often start as friendships. I couldn’t find any substantial information on how many couples end up in a platonic marriage. If I were to guess I’d say that number is quite substantial. Especially of couples who have children together.
Relationships are complicated. Riddled with more greys than black-and-white. Once we accept that, it becomes easier (it will still remain in the realm of difficult) to find a path that works for your relationship journey. Whether your marriage is platonic or not, when you live together, there will be alignment issues on what you both are seeking, know that you will have to sort them out. Also know that the nature of your relationship can keep changing over time. R and G might be in a platonic marriage right now but who can say that they might rekindle their romance at a different stage/ phase of their lives.
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In my opinion, a couple needs to define their relationship on their own. There are no set rules that couples need to follow. As long as you are happy with the kind of relationship you are in, it’s great. If the decision of the kind of relationship you want to be in is mutual, do what seems right for both of you at that time.
This is a limited series by Simran Mangharam, a dating and relationship coach, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org