Romantic Friendship in the Modern Era

LouisaBook Reviews, More Than Two, Relationship Fluidity & Beyond, Self-Help3 Comments

[Edit: as of 2019, Franklin Veaux is the subject of multiple reports of harmful behaviour. I've left my reviews up for his work as it was co-authored with Eve Rickert who wrote the book in good faith and as a recognition of my own complicity in this matter.]

As the unchartered map of open relationships takes another bound forward in its clarity with the new book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert, many worthy ideas and concepts are brought to the fore.

Some like consent and communication are the cornerstones to polyamory as we know it; they've been hashed, cartoonified, sliced and diced from every angle and in every forum. But More Than Two explores other ideas in depth for the first time. Like so many reviewers, who have been invested in supporting this book to fruition, I intended to pay homage to it with a thorough evaluation, and yet with so many themes covered it's difficult to write one post to examine them all.

Welcome to the More than Two Review Series.

Courageous Stories

I don't know Eve and her partner, Peter. But I do know how courageous it is to openly discuss your sex life in the public eye, knowing how harshly many might judge. And in a society where a romantic relationship is equated to a sexual relationship, discussing your non-existent sex life with a romantic partner is even braver... because it is tantamount to an admission of failure in our monogamy-blinkered eyes.

Eve and Peter are to all intents and purposes sexless lovers. It's not so-called 'friendship' (although I in no way denigrate this type of relationship), it's love. And though they struggled with it at first, they are now and have been for a long time, wholly appreciative of what they have together. It is a romantic relationship, without the sex.

In my work with non-monogamous folk, I talk to many individuals who identify as part of what you might call (for want of a better word), sub-cultures. Asexuals, demisexuals, transgender, transexuals, monogamish, kinky ~ well the list of flavours and orientations is endless. For many sex is a sticky, or rather non-sticky (if you'll pardon the pun) issue... and it always boils down to two common denominators. Incompatible drive. Incompatible preference.

Predominantly though (being heteroflexible myself), my work is with previously identifying monogamous heteroflexible couples on the verge of opening their relationship. I've heard it time and again. The romance is dead and they are considering opening their relationship as a solution. What they mean by that is that the sex has gone. Lessened, or just totally disappeared. But sex, I tell them, is not romance. Sex is only a small part of physical intimacy.

'But wouldn't you want to be with her even if you had no hope of sex?' I ask.

'What would be the point?' They reply.

'Because you still love her. In fact as far as I can tell you are still IN love with her.'

'It'll fade.' They say. 'If the sex doesn't come sooner or later. Sex is necessary for a long-term loving relationship.'

'So love can't be maintained without sex? What about asexuals? Are you saying that there's a significant proportion of the population who simply never fall in love because they aren't sexually attracted to anyone?'

I've fallen in love many times in my life. Love is, for me, abundant. But when I fell in love with Lucy*, I wasn't prepared for it. I was in love with her. I was not sexually attracted to her. Through weeks I wondered whether I was a lesbian or bisexual. I was infatuated, I wanted to kiss her, hold her and be with her. I glowed when I was in her presence. We gazed in each others eyes. Held hands over wine. But the sexual attraction? It just wasn't there.

It never occured to me that I could be in love without wanting sex. There wasn't a word for it... until as so many times before, wikipedia came to my rescue.

The term romantic friendship refers to a very close but non-sexual relationship between friends, often involving a degree of physical closeness beyond that which is common in the contemporary Western societies, and may include for example holding handshuggingkissing, and sharing a bed.

During the renaissance romantic friendship between men was exalted almost above love between and man and a woman. There have been examples of both female and male romantic friendship cited in the bible, in Shakespeare and Victorian times. Feminist authors have used historical examples to demonstrate that romantic frienship can be mutually exclusive to homosexuality. In fact until the latter half of the 20th century romantic friendship was commonplace and lauded. Call it what you will, non-sexual romance or romantic friendship. They are different flavours of the same thing and once more proof that sex does not always equal love but more solidly that love does not always equal sex(hurrah).

Chaste romance has been documented throughout history to exist between individuals of the same sex. But perhaps it is only clearly now ~ in this groundbreaking piece of literature ~ that Eve and Franklin demonstrate the existence of love without sex between a man and a woman. Yes it's a love without sex.

And thanks to More than Two, it can now be a love without shame.