Thinking in terms of life partnerships vs. friendships (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of my submission to the June 2022 Carnival of Aces (on the theme “Throwback” hosted by Aspec of Stardust) I am responding to a Carnival of Aces topic from August 2011 carnival on the theme “Relationships”. To trace the conversation on the topic, I read all the available posts submitted as well as posts from carnivals with related topics : January 2013 (Non-traditional relationship styles and polyamory), January 2014 (Overemphasis on romantic sexual relationships), January 2016 (Relationship Stages), November 2016 (Relationship Anarchy), and the August 2019 Carnival of Aros (Relationships).

Part 1 is available here.

Comparing life partnerships and relationships

Specifically those of the romantic and queerplatonic varieties

Partnerships and relationships can have overlaps but don’t necessarily mean the same things. Coyote has already hashed this out for the August 2019 Carnival of Aros in “Relationship =/= Partnership”. Here, I will discuss how “romantic relationships” and “queerplatonic relationships” typically refer to life partnerships, but don’t necessarily have to.

Are “romantic relationships” life partnerships?

The answer, as always, is: typically, yes, but there can be exceptions. When people talk about being in a romantic relationship, they do usually mean they are in a life partnership.

But there are those situations in which two people are dating each other, but they don’t intend to commit to each other (or are unsure about whether they want to). Those relationships can also be considered to be romantic, but they are not life partnerships. Maybe, we can think of it this way: when people get on the relationship escalator, they don’t start off in a life partnership, but if they stay on the escalator, they will be expected to transition into a life partnership at some point on the escalator. The January 2016 carnival (“Relationship Stages”) has a lot of great submissions that delve deeper into this idea.

Are “queerplatonic relationships” life partnerships?

I believe the answer should be the same as above, right? Btw, do people use “queerplatonic relationships” (QPRs) and “queerplatonic partnerships” (QPPs) interchangeably? There must be a difference and I think that’s the difference I discussed above. So QPRs are not that different from RRs.

What is the difference between QPRs and RRs?

I’ve been trying to think about what it is exactly that sets romantic relationships apart from queerplatonic ones. And this is what I came up with as potential factors.

Performance of romance: QPRs likely don’t have the aesthetics or performance of romance. The people in a QPR don’t make goo goo eyes at each other, or whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears, or feed each other pieces of fruit. 😛 That was a very stereotypical image of romance, but you get the idea. I also imagine people in QPRs don’t make a huge show of romance on social media with the hopes that others will look at them and think #relationshipgoals. Not that all romantic couples do this, but anyone with a social media account must have witnessed people gushing about how amazing their relationship is.

Limerent feelings: I also imagine that, typically, people in QPRs aren’t entertaining any kind of limerent feelings for each other. But then again, limerence is supposed to wear off from any relationship, so a romantic relationship 10-years down the line is also likely limerence-free. And while I don’t know how big the overlap is between aromantics and non-limerents, I imagine non-aromantic non-limerents also have limerence-free romantic relationships. (Note that here when I say limerence, I don’t mean intense limerence; I am also counting milder forms of limerence like crushes).

Can it work with siblings? This is a genuine question from me. The idea of a romantic relationship between siblings (or cousins) feels gross, even if there is no physical relationship involved. Is is the same with QPRs? I’ve heard stories about twins who are inseparable and they continue to live together as adults and do everything together and make life decisions together, and that honestly sounds a lot like a QPR to me. But does the fact that they are siblings make it weird? (If we extend the question to family members of different generations, then maybe it does seem a little weird because that introduces a caregiver-child dynamic rather than one between equals; so let’s just stick to family relationships between equals.) Definitely would love to hear from someone in a QPR or someone who would like to be in a QPR on this!

(On a related note, check out Emily’s post from the August 2011 carnival and Kelly’s post from the January 2013 carnival in which they both discuss their relationships with their respective sisters.)

Physical relationship? I’d thought at one point that QPRs typically don’t involve physical relationships because typically people on the aroace spectrum engage in them; but then I read somewhere (can’t find it now) that some QPRs can involve physical relationships (e.g. in the allosexual aromantic community), so now I don’t know.

Conclusion

Let me try to explain what the point of this this post (both parts) was. Regular readers of this blog will know that I frequently write about how frustrating I find the romantic vs. platonic (vs. queerplatonic too I guess) distinction. But I concede that the distinction exists because it is useful. I was trying to determine in what way is it useful.

So I was thinking about whether QPRs are more similar to RRs or more similar to friendships (here I’m talking about close friendships and not casual friendships). And here’s what I think:

If you think it’s the “romance” element (whatever that is!) that is the most important distinguishing factor, then QPRs and Fships are more similar to each other compared to RRs.

But if you think it’s the “partnership” element that is the distinguishing factor; then RRs and QPRs are more similar to each other compared to Fships.

Personally, I don’t understand why we need to make such a big deal about the “romantic” distinction; and the “partnership” distinction seems a lot more meaningful to me. Perhaps this is due to my cultural background (where arranged marriages used to be the norm and romance was not seen as a necessary component for marriage). So, when somebody asks “Are you guys together?” in my mind the question isn’t so much “Is there romance between you guys?” as much as “Are you guys life partners? Do you function as a unit? Should I consider you to be a family?” Because what use is it to other people if there is romance between you and your partner? But it’s probably useful for them to know that you are partners on life-issues. So they’ll know whom to call if something happened to you. Or they’ll know to invite your partner along with you to events. Stuff like that.

But I’d be curious to know what everyone else thinks.


Related and relevant ideas: (1) the anatomy of relationships by Intimacy Cartography; (2) the 5-factor relationship model by Queenie; and (3) the 8 reasons for wanting relationships (but really, those are reasons for wanting life partnerships) by me.

Edits: This post has been slightly edited to reflect the sentiments highlighted in the first part of this comment.

8 thoughts on “Thinking in terms of life partnerships vs. friendships (Part 2)

  1. Hmm. You raise a good point about the terms “QPR” and “QPP” — the latter is more specific. So some queerplatonic relationships might be “partnerships,” and others might not, if we’re thinking of relationship as the more general term.

    I would disagree that QPRs necessarily don’t involve “performance of romance”(?) or limerence. Queerplatonic is supposed to be an umbrella term, and it could be that either of those things is what blurs the lines to make it queerplatonic.

    Re: siblings, I suppose that just depends on what you consider to be normative or nonnormative for siblings. On the one hand, it seems pretty expected for siblings to be emotionally close, and it’s also not all that strange for them to be closely involved in each other’s lives, like going into business or starting a band together or something. On the other hand, siblings aren’t someone you can extend your health insurance to here in the U.S. — that’s reserved for spouses and children. So to be closer to and more involved with a sibling than with a spouse might be considered nonnormative.

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    1. Ah, good catch. I meant to say these are factors that could potentially separate QPRs from RRs because there usually aren’t hard-line separations among these things.

      And also, really great point about benefits, which really should have figured somewhere into this whole discussion, but I had not thought of it while writing.

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  2. *Thoughts continued from part 1*

    Limerant feelings in QPR’s – I’ve thought about that more since I first learned the term “limerance” from one of your posts, and for myself, I think I do experience those feelings towards my partner, although I could see that lessening over the years.

    Overall, I love your comparison. It’s helpful seeing all the different components that go into types of relationships and how they can compare.

    Siblings – I’m not sure on that one, but I will say, I feel like attitudes about families in general play into definitions and feelings around that. My first reaction is to say “Well, family is just a different category of relationship, maybe we shouldn’t try to squeeze familial relationships into the other labels when they already have a label,” but then I realized that “family” is as vague and unhelpful to describe a specific type of relationship as “friend” is, given how many different ways family members can feel about and behave towards each other. I guess that instinctive reaction comes partly from societal expectations, at least in white, middle-class American culture: “the nuclear family is a closed unit and their business is predominantly their own, so it’s not our right to get involved.”

    Sort-of regarding links to other articles: I have to say, I find it both exciting and overwhelming how much people have already written about this stuff. I want to read it ALL, and then I see the archives for the carnivals and realize just how much material is there, and wonder how long it would take to even make a dent in it if I give what I read proper thought and consideration :P.

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    1. You raise a really good point about cultural influences – living with family bears different connotations in different cultures. In South Asian cultures, it is sort of expected (traditionally) that family members are available for rooming if you are moving to their city or something like that. If two siblings are living in the same city by themselves, it would seem weird to someone in our culture.

      Also, regarding the archives – yes, there is SO MUCH. I usually wade into the archives when a particular topic has piqued my interest and then I try to go see what people have already written. And I’ve done a few compilations because I think that is a good way to bring some of these articles back to attention. Going through the entire archives would be nice, but who has time for that, heh!

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