THERE’S A REASON why so many people yearn to be in a romantic relationship. With romantic partners, we enjoy intimate perks like living together, cuddling, feeling emotionally supported, and being able to share our hopes and dreams. We get to vent after a long day at work, and maybe even get a calf rub when we’re stressed. We relish being loved, and loving someone else.
But guess what? You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to enjoy those beautiful things, even though society has led us to believe that. That’s why some queer people have queerplatonic relationships, a different—and awesome—kind of intimate connection.
What is a queerplatonic relationship?
A queerplatonic relationship, or QPR, is a bond between people who aren’t spouses or romantic partners, but who partake in some of the same intimate behaviors.
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“A QPR may include cuddling, but also bigger life decisions, like moving in together and raising a child together,” explains polyamory educator Leanne Yau.
Of course, straight people can also have committed platonic relationships, but we often see these partnerships in the queer community. After all, we’re already used to defying societal norms.
“Due to cultural phobias, we are less likely to receive acceptance from our families or mainstream groups,” says Adam D. Blum, MFT, founder of the Gay Therapy Center. “QPRs are an example of the creativity queer people have developed in building intimacy and friendships. They can help build a family without the heteronormative family definitions.”
Same-sex marriage wasn’t federally legal in the United States until 2015, and it’s still banned in most of the world. For that reason, many queer people don’t aspire to traditional marriage; instead, we’ve created other ways to experience intimacy.
Can you kiss in a queerplatonic relationship?
A platonic relationship typically refers to an affectionate relationship that isn’t sexual, so it’s natural to wonder whether people ever kiss in queerplatonic relationships.
The short answer is yes. “Queerplatonic relationships can move back and forth between physical contact and non-physical connection,” Blum says. “If both of you are on the same page in terms of expectations, physical contact can create another level of connection and intimacy in a queerplatonic relationship.”
The entire point of queerplatonic relationships is that you make your own rules, Yau adds. “You throw societal expectations of friendship out the window and do your own thing,” she says. If you and your queer platonic partner want to kiss, then kiss!
Asexuality and Queerplatonic Relationships
Another benefit of QPRs is that they let people on the asexual spectrum experience intimacy and connection without the pressure or expectation of sex.
“They remind us that sex is not what defines a relationship, and we can create any relationship that works for us and our partners,” Blum says. “When we spotlight and validate these relationships, we can help soften the self-criticism that some ACE folks feel about not desiring sex.”
What is it like to be in a queerplatonic relationship?
To learn more about the intricacies of queerplatonic relationships, we reached out to some folks currently in them! Here’s who you’ll hear from:
- Annie, 37, identifies as queer and demisexual
- Carly, 35, identifies as queer
- Maia, 36, identifies as a queer, bisexual, nonbinary, and a relationship anarchist
How do you define your QPR?
Annie: “I would describe my partnership with my queerplatonic partner (QPP) as a deeply committed relationship that we negotiated intentionally to work for both of us. We are emotionally involved with one another and share many aspects of our lives together. We don’t have sex or engage romantically, but we share big moments in one another’s lives as well as smaller, day-to-day details that one might associate with a [romantic] relationship.”
Carly: “I define my QPR as a mixture of chosen family, best friends, and co-conspirators. They are someone that I trust implicitly with intimate details of my private, personal, and financial life. I would buy a house with this person, raise children, go to play parties with them, and have shot porn with but have never had direct sexual contact with. It is very confusing for people how we still view this relationship as platonic.”
Maia: “I’ve never met my queerplatonic partner in person. We met in an endometriosis support group three years ago and quickly started texting every day and never stopped. We each went (are going) through our own queer evolutions and have leaned on each other for moral and emotional support. He was the first person I came out as nonbinary to, and he supported me in a way that people I’d known my entire life couldn’t. We say I love you and provide support through memes and horoscopes, venting, listening, and holding space for us to explore our identities. There’s no sexual element to the relationship, as my partner is asexual, but he celebrates my sexual wins the same way I celebrate his nonsexual ones. It’s a relationship where I feel completely accepted and celebrated for everything I am and could be. It’s gentle and kind, nurturing and supportive. I wouldn’t be where I am in life today without it.”
How has being (or dating someone) on the asexual spectrum impacted your QPR?
Annie: “I’m demisexual, and even though that is on the ace spectrum, I think I have learned more about QPRS from dating grey ace people. When I have taken sexuality out of my relationships, I can feel my personal value differently, which I can struggle with when I am engaged sexually at times. This has been a really healing experience for me.”
Maia: “I am not Ace, but my partner is. It’s always been that way, and despite personally being quite a sexual person, there’s no sexual element to our relationship. They celebrate my sexcapades like I celebrate them getting a new job. It works for us. As a nonmonogamous person, I have other relationships in my life that provide a sexual element, not having that allows us to just exist with no pressure, [sexual] undertones, or hidden meanings.”
How do your QPRs differ from your close friendships?
Annie: “In close friendships, there isn’t the same emphasis on commitment in an intentional way. My QPP and I are intentional about our commitments to one another and what they mean in a way that close friends don’t (traditionally) have. We wear jewelry to denote that. She comes to my daughter’s school recitals and is a co-parent of sorts. We carve out a place for one another in our emotional lives and share an intimacy that tends to confuse people… Are they sleeping together, or aren’t they? That’s the difference—people don’t actually know what our relationship is with one another because there’s something intangible about that, even an explanation. But it has a special quality to it that makes it markedly different.”
Carly: “It differs from my close friendship because of our intimacy level. I would share details about my blood family I wouldn’t share with close friends, my trauma that I don’t just share with most people, and we also feel comfortable enough to go to play parties, shoot porn, and share resources in a way that I just don’t do with friends.”
Maia: “This is a hard one to pin down. As a relationship anarchist, I try to uncouple romance from dating and sex and let relationships evolve independently. I think my QPR is unique (or maybe not!) because it’s all been virtual, and we’ve never actually shared space in person. I think that allows you to be a more authentic version of yourself. We connect over shared experiences and similar suffering but also shared joys and parallel growth. I think knowing exactly where we stand with each other helps solidify it as a partnership.”
How does it differ from your romantic partnerships?
Carly: “Even if we do have sex in the same room, or at play parties, or shoot porn together, we don’t have sex with each other. We can share explicit details and be comfortable doing so but feel no need to do that with each other.”
Maia: “I think it differs in that there are no expectations for things to go a certain way like there can be in romantic relationships. We say I love you and do thoughtful things for each other because we want to, not because a societal script tells us to. What even is romance? Is it candles and cozy vibes? Is it a feeling, an atmosphere, an action? I love my queerplatonic partner in a way that I’m not afraid of losing. It’s secure, confident, and long-lasting. My experience with romantic partnerships is that they end. And maybe this one will too, but there’s a stability in it that feels different from romance in a way I’m not sure I can articulate. Romance feels like a performance, and queerplatonic love feels like being myself.”
What do you wish people better understood about your QPR?
Annie: “I wish that people questioned it less. People are perfectly comfortable imagining relationships where people have sex without love feelings, so why is it so questionable that people should love each other without having sex? We don’t have to share sex to share our commitment and craft our lives in a collective way. This is beyond friendship: This is my family structure, and my QPP is a part of it.”
Carly: “I have to be honest, I don’t need people to understand anything about my relationships. But I do wish more people would be open to different forms of relationships in their life and the different ways people can be there for each other without putting relationships into such rigid boxes.”
Maia: “That it’s just as valid as any other type of sexual or romantic partnership. That I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without it. It’s a quiet support, a celebration of queerness, and a space for experimentation and evolution. There’s no relationship escalator, no external societal pressures to define it in a certain way or achieve particular milestones.”
What have you learned about yourself from your QPR?
Maia: “I’ve learned that I’m more than just my sexuality. Growing up in a cishet world, I learned to use my sexuality to get what I wanted from men. Acknowledging and embracing my queerness has expanded my worldview infinitely. I’ve learned there are ways of sharing intimacy beyond sex. That there are ways of being intimate without being physically together. I’ve learned what I’m capable of, who I am, and what kind of mark I want to leave on the world.”