You can have any kind of marriage you like
Well, it had to happen, and it did. Two best friends got married. As best friends. And the New York Times was all over it.
I know some people are going to think this is weird or silly. You’re best friends. Nothing has to ever change that. Nothing can really add to that. So why get married?
But here’s what I think this is all about, and why I’m all for it, and why I think we should be all for it.
For a long time—thousands of years—marriage was a one-size-fits-all deal because life itself was pretty much a one-size-fits-all deal. People lived off the land, needed a partner and children to help them do that, and died young. The traditional marriage—man and woman, till death do you part—is the result of that.
As people lived longer, stopped all having farms, and started expecting more from one another, divorce entered the paradigm. But our ideas of marriage stayed the same. Now it was just—in practice—serial marriage.
But marriage itself stayed a very inflexible deal. Two people, once strangers, meet, “fall in love” (whatever that is, though it’s seen as having some sort of certifying function—if you don’t “fall in love,” there’s no deal), and commit to each other forever or until things start not working out, whichever comes first.
Marriage still feels to many like a straight jacket. A one-size-fits-all thing that doesn't fit ME!
So fewer people started getting married and more people started...no, “living together” isn’t the right word. More like “designing their own marriage.” Setting their own boundaries and expectations.
And in this, the LGBTQ+ community was invaluable. They’d been doing the “design your own” thing for a long time. The great thing about this is that now the committed relationship has a custom-tailored feel to it. What we do with each other, what we expect from each other, what stays in or outside of the relationship is all up for grabs. If some designs are bonkers, they will die out.
This is why I celebrate what the two young women in the New York Times article—Jay and Krystle—are doing. A sexless, bed-sharing, platonic, dating-others, conditionless relationship between two queer women. Will it work? Work is the wrong word. Like all committed relationships, this one is an experiment. But every traditional marriage back in traditional times was an experiment too: can two very different people who are more or less strangers create a meaningful and satisfying lifetime bond in this very constricting format? How often that experiment failed!
If you look at the marriages of kings and queens—the few people with the power to make more flexible arrangements, you find that they too tried every imaginably different form of living arrangement.
Jay and Krystle won’t find out if their format “works.” They’ll just find out how long it works for them. And that’s one of the great mysteries of marriage. Sometimes finding ways to make our marriage work is just what needs to be done. And sometimes finding a new way to design your marriage is what’s needed.
One thing though. In all committed relationships, no matter how loosely or tightly it binds the two people together, there must be a way to work out how both people can get their needs met with each other. Jay and Krystle will and are facing that. And so for every couple in every imaginable arrangement, Why Couples Fight is must reading if they want to stay together, however, you define “together.”