My family includes my "platonic wife"

March 24 | Guest post by Andrea Parrish
Our "Pod."
Our "Pod."

When I first was introduced to the idea of polyamory, I was the first one to admit I had the same thought that many people new to the idea do — that it was basically all about the sex.

A decade later, I've been slowly discovering what I consider my truth of polyamory, and it can quite neatly be summed up in one phrase: I'm dearly in love with my platonic wife. She is the Christina to my Meridith, the Horatio to my Hamlet. Or, as she would put it, the uber-smart and snarky Cortana to my Master Chief (pre-stalker levels, anyway).

Our little relationship "Pod" is made up of: Peter (my husband) and me, who got married (quite publicly!) five years ago, and have been together for just over seven. I'm pansexual, and he is heterosexual. Jeremiah, who is gender-fluid and bisexual, and I have been together for just over two years. Kira, the platonic wife in question, is sapiosexual, and we have known each other for about seven years; she and her heterosexual husband have been married for about two years, and their two kids are five and four years old. There are three houses, four cats, and a dog shared between the seven of us.

Whew. Confused yet?

platonic wives

I actually met Kira just a few weeks after I first met my husband Peter; I had found her blog when I was Googling Peter, and may have possibly dug through the entire archives in a night or two. They had been friends for several years beforehand. Thus, when I walked into a dinner party and saw her sitting there, I promptly made a fangirl embarrassment of myself. She very kindly looked past that.

In the years since then, our relationship has grown from friends-of-the-same-person, to friends, to best friends, to platonic wives. Those seven years have included two births (one of which I acted as one of the doulas), a few deaths, several marriages (she was the Matron of Honor at mine, I was the officiant at hers), the normal ups and downs of relationships, home buying, and life. We do not live in the same home (they're about 15 miles apart), though she did help me and Peter buy ours. There's a lot of reasons for this, mostly it comes down to sharing homes just hasn't worked out — and may not ever, even if our Pod has been known to dream of it now and again during a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

So why "platonic wife" instead of "best friend" or "really close friend"? Really it comes down to the fact that I consider her as important and as "legitimate" of a relationship as my relationships with my husband and partner. She and her husband are very completely sexually monogamous. A part of honoring their commitment to one another while being honest about the depth and closeness of our relationship is a big part of why we use the term "platonic wife."

There's also the not-insignificant fact that while our relationship is not sexual, it is romantic. This is not to say that there isn't a sexual craving… we are both attracted to one another, and we both openly admit that sexual intimacy can be a big part of a relationship. However, it’s out of respect for all of our boundaries that we just don’t.

This meme sums it up pretty well.
This meme sums it up pretty well.

Romantic intimacy can be shared in other ways. She sends me Valentine's cards and writes me incredible love notes when I'm having a rough day, I try to randomly surprise her with coffee when she's having a rough day. We do cuddle a bit now and again on the couch, we share shoulder rubs, we talk constantly. She spends hours painting my nails, I spend hours programming her website and keeping it running. If anything were to happen to her and her husband, it would be without a moment's hesitation that I would raise her kids as my own.

Another big part of it is using the terms we choose to make a very small, but important statement about respecting relationships of all sexual and relationship orientations. Asexual individuals have the rights to be respected as having just as deep, meaningful, powerful, and important relationships as those of us that are not. Couples living apart together are no less committed than couples that live together in the same place. She's monogamous, and I'm not — but that doesn't mean our bond is any less strong.

A good relationship isn't all about sex, and neither is a good marriage for everyone. I do consider sex an incredibly important part of the relationships I have that do include that facet, but this one just doesn't.

So not shying away from using marriage terminology, to me, makes a statement about what can make a good relationship — a strong, respectful, and deep bond between individuals that make the choice to be in a relationship, full stop.

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  1. Great post! I enjoyed it immensely. My partner and I are polyamorous and dating someone, however I love hearing about other polyamorous configurations. Sex is a big part of our relationship with the person that we are dating, and while the relationship is new, I expect that it will remain so. It might "cool" later, but coming home to see my partner cuddling on the couch with our boyfriend is something that warms my heart so much. Thanks for being a part of a positive visible face to polyamory.

    11 agree
  2. Sooo jealous. The one thing I desperately want in life is a platonic wife. Though I never really considered that terminology for it, it's incredibly apt.

    16 agree
  3. I long for a big poly family like this. Maybe someday!

    Thanks for the awesome post.

    *Edit to add*: I freaking LOVE your family photo, btw. You all look so awesome and happy!

    8 agree
  4. I am heterosexual and my husband and I are monogamous. And I love reading OBH posts that are about families that are full of love and respect, especially when they are family dynamics that differ from mine. Because it opens my eyes to new ways, to new terms and reminds me that the only thing that determines a "real" family is love. And I love the term "pod" that you use to describe your family. Thank you so much for sharing!

    51 agree
    • Ditto! At first I was like wtf? But posts like this have really opened my eyes. I don't think I could have a polyamorous relationship, I'm very monogamous, but I love hearing about all kinds of families and it warms my heart that people are willing to share and spread their love <3

      7 agree
  5. I don't have any insight to add to the discussion, but I wanted to say thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed it, and I love how much thought you've given to your relationship with your platonic wife. Thank you for responding to everyone's interest in your relationship, and thank you, OBH, for posting it.

    8 agree
  6. LOVE THIS POST! My mono husband and I are very-very close to a constellation/polycule of folks; when they draw their relationship map, we're included in our own little spot off to the side! 🙂 I have relationships with them that go far beyond "just" friends without being sexual, because those are the boundaries we're happy and comfortable with. Why can't friends snuggle? Why should spouses have to have sex? Like many things in life, relationships don't live in little boxes– the occur on a wide spectrum! Thanks for sharing your story and living life on your own terms! Rock on.

    18 agree
  7. So a few years ago, I was "the other woman" in a twisted kind of relationship. The two of THEM were kind enough to add me to the mix (can you read the sarcasm there?), and then later, when some things happened, it was ME and the guy. Except we called it the Nest, from Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land," and except he had a lot of jealousy issues and we ended up horrible and enemies and that's one of my only regrets in life. Not that I tried that lifestyle, but that I tried it with him, since he was so jealous and possessive and could NOT allow me the same rights as he took.
    I think that it takes a special kind of person to be in a poly-anything relationship. I admire people who can live that lifestyle successfully. Kudos for this!

    2 agree
    • I understand this. It takes a lot of work to make a relationship with two people work. Some people imagine adding a third person will make things easier, in that it alleviates some of the pressure for this one other person to be everything you could ever need or want. In some ways, it does work that way. But for every plus there is a minus, and healthy, responsible, respectful polyamory takes a LOT of hard work–especially when it comes to honest, painful, embarrassingly thorough communication. I have been in a throuple for about two and a half years now, and we are still in flux. It's not that the relationship(s) are uncertain–we all know we are in it to stay together, as we love one another very much–but just that there is no real guide when it comes to what we're doing. That's a blessing and a curse (though that's putting it dramatically). We have to be willing to notice when we're being close-minded, using boxes for people, and throw those boxes away. I'm so sorry that your experience was negative; it's easy for people to go into polyamory with less-than-admirable goals/expectations, and it sounds like the guy you mention was not in it to do the work so much as play.

      4 agree
  8. Love this post! As I have no personal insight to this my husband and I have talked a lot about monogamy and how it might not be our thing. I love reading stories like this to open my eyes that much more that this is possible. Couples can have other people and whether it's sexual, plutonic, or whatever it can work. I would love some insight into doing this with kids. As our oldest begins to dip his toes into the dating world how do you address this to them? Thank you!

    2 agree
    • Jess, I'm also going to toss this question over to Kira as well.

      If you mean how do you address your dating life to the kids:
      Be honest, be open, be direct, and answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner? The kids have a pretty good idea of what's going on — to the point there's been some conversations opened when the kids announce to the world "Mom has a wife and her name is Andrea!". Our nieces and nephews also know the broad strokes — due in no small part to their parents' efforts as well, which I greatly appreciate.

      For me personally, I try and be sure to approach non-standard-narrative relationships as "normally" as possible in conversations with kids, because it's nothing to hide from or be ashamed about — while also being honest that it's a little different from what they normally see or what their friends' families are like. That said, when we've just started dating someone new, there is a time period between starting to date them and introducing them to the kids, for a multitude of reasons. Kids are very good at cutting to the chase and asking some of the most difficult questions first, so in some senses, I just try to go with the flow and see where their curiosity leads?

      If you mean how do you address it if your son is curious about dating like this: Be honest with them. Emphasize that it's about asking for permission, negotiating boundaries, enthusiastic consent, and emotional openness. My hope is that by seeing things like our weekly scheduling meeting, the kids develop a sense of the fact it's about talking things out and communicating respectfully.

      7 agree
    • Oh, also, this is not an easy question. Between all the kids, this is most certainly not an easy thing, and it's a daily challenge. One of the things I think about very regularly, most certainly. Part of it is reminding myself that, 90% of the time, kids are asking a question to get context and add information, instead of asking questions with judgement in mind — which definitely changes how the answer comes out.

      6 agree
    • Well, Andrea said pretty much everything I was going to say, so to repeat in my own unique but redundant way… ^_^

      Kids certainly makes everything all the more interesting. Though mine are only 5 and 6 (somehow we got their ages wrong in the article, how did THAT happen? We only proofread a million times…) they realize that not everyone is like our pod, though in the same vein, they also don't currently feel any self-consciousness or embarrassment over that fact either.

      When they start to date *oof* that is a hard one to think about! lol. I notice my children model a lot of their behaviors after the actions of the adults they admire, so it is not enough to tell my children how I would want them to act, I have to make sure I model those behaviors as well and make sure the people I keep in my life are positive role models as well. I foresee that I will keep being honest in an age appropriate way with them about what my expectations of them dating are. That they are honest with their partner, or partners if they have multiple, because monogamous or poly relationships (no matter how serious or not) cannot function without honesty. Also I will keep talking about respect, and mutual physical and emotional consent.

      That said I still have a few years to think on this one, fortunately!

      11 agree
  9. Thank you for your responses! I'm going to read them over and over until I figure out better what my true question is. It seems to be something along the lines that I believe he's not old enough to try to have a relationship like this if it's something he's even open to. Plus to find a partner who is open to this as well at his age. If someone ran this idea past me as a teen I would have freaked out! As adults my husband and I are mature enough to handle this and understand fully what we're getting into. I know telling him to check back on this when he's older isn't the answer, but maybe it is, so I'll just have to think some more about it. Thank you!

    1 agrees
  10. Great post. For a while my relationship with other-husband was platonic, and it was very uncomfortable trying to feel as important to him as my legal husband was. The language people used about his sexuality, his relationships, and me all contributed. He also didn't have words to really call me what I was: more than a friend, less than a sexual partner, but still in some sense a lover. It's really, really great that you are so mindful of including your platonic wife. Good for you guys. Thank you.

    Thank you, Offbeat Home, for hosting articles like this in a respectful and friendly forum of like-minded people.

    7 agree
  11. Just wanted to echo the support and thanks for the post. I have a Platonic Life Partner and will likely adopt your terminology. We found this through random pinteresting and it is oh so comforting to know there are others that are similarly minded and a community of folks willing to accept 'non-traditional' families. <3

    4 agree
  12. I have found anecdotally that open or poly relationships tend to be great for women but for men…not so much. It's a lot easier for a woman to meet a guy because we tend to not really care about any other underlying relationship if it still ends with sex. Women tend to not involve themselves with attached men regardless of circumstance.

    I'm not judging but rather saying that in my opinion the benefits tend to be more one sided than to both partners. If these folks are happy it's not my place to say otherwise.

    • It's true that there is a perception out there that it's tougher for poly men to date than poly women. I can only kind of speak to it, but I think there are two factors, one of which you hit on:

      1- relationships are not all about sex.
      As I wrote in the article, sex doesn't define a relationship, and if someone is interested only "if it ends in sex", then I'm not dating them, full stop. So this depends on your preference and the structure of your relationships. If that's what you're in to, awesome, have at it, just not for me.

      2- It's true for all genders that there are some people not interested in being involved if you're already attached. That's their preference, and that's ok. I appreciate it more when someone is up front about it, as I try to be up front, because then we all know what the deal is.

      In short, the relationships vary as much as people. Dating can be hard for everyone. And it's not always all about just the sex.

      3 agree
  13. This post made me start crying. My platonic wife and I got in a fight last year and have not spoken since
    (she lives across the continent, in another country, so I can't just drop by with "I'm sorry" cupcakes – also, I'm not sorry, but that's another story for a different day). I have felt completely alone since this happened. I have friends and family who care about me, but I don't feel the same way about them as I do about my platonic wife. I guess now that I am writing this out, it's like I've been through a divorce. I hope I can some day find a new platonic wife. Having a "best friend" just isn't the same.

    This has turned out way more "woe-is-me" than I intended. What I really mean to say is love and cherish your platonic wife and if anyone is having doubts about their relationship because of what people say, fuck 'em, because having a platonic wife is an unbeatable experience.

    To end this comment on a lighter note, in regards to that meme, we did, quite regularly, have people assume we were lesbians. I always thought we were more like that SNL skirt Roomies featuring Taylor Swift.

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