A More Unconditional Love: Modern Iterations of Platonic Marriage


Anne Kennedy

Article ID:



Nov 30, 2023


Dec 1, 2023

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 45, number 2/3  (2022).

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“Like I said, I don’t really have a good word for him,” Celeste M trails off toward the end of a YouTube video titled “My Legally Official Platonic Bestie.”1 I had Googled “platonic marriage,” as I generally do whenever I encounter some new term on Twitter or Facebook. The search proved enlightening. It is perfectly reasonable, according to an increasing number of Americans, to get married to a friend for whom one feels no sexual attraction. Celeste M, however, seemed plaintive: “If anybody has any suggestions of what we can call each other that doesn’t have any loaded implications behind it….let me know below…. maybe I can call him my ‘Primary’ or something.”2


Platonic marriage has been around almost as long as the romantic kind,3 but it was recently rediscovered as a “radical,” even courageous choice in the post-Obergefell v. Hodges era when same-sex couples received the legal right to marry.4 Like other trending topics, it has its own hashtag leading to tweets like: “can we normalize platonic marriage pls i would love to spend the rest of my life with people that i just don’t feel any romantic attraction to.”5 And recently, the New York Times’ Style section profiled “besties” who got “married.”6 “On Nov. 14, 2020,” reports the Times, “at Greenwood Hall in East Islip, N.Y., Jay Guercio and Krystle Purificato donned wedding gowns, walked down the aisle, exchanged rings and shared their first and only kiss. Ms. Purificato is in the process of changing her last name to Guercio.”7 They tell their story on the TikTok account “thelovelyjaybird.”8

For most of the people today who choose this lifestyle, the marriage bond is deftly detached from the sexual and romantic one. Sex belongs outside of the covenant. Both parties are allowed to date people of the same or opposite sex,9 but if they want to bring those people home, conversations have to be had.10 It is not a given that sexual partners will be granted admittance to the platonic family. “I’m not afraid of losing Krystle,” explains Guercio on the Tamron Hall Show, “because I feel like there’s not much she could do to lose my love. I feel like our love is more unconditional. With romantic relationships there are conditions that exist, right? You can’t cheat on me, you can’t stop having sex with me…all these different things. But because we don’t do that I feel like it solidifies that commitment so much more.”11


Christians encountering increasingly crazy iterations of relationship possibilities should relish the irony. In the first place, the term “platonic love” — we love each other but we are not having sex — isn’t new. It entered the modern English Lexicon in 1631 as a form of satire coined in a popular play, “The New Inn.”12 From thence through the habit of over usage, it lost its humorous note, so that now it is employed in all seriousness. One brash TikToker, for example, blandly and unironically uses the term as she plots out what she calls a relationship “constellation.” She is married to a man, is dating a woman who is in a “platonic life-partnership” with someone else, and all of them, in turn, are seeing other people.13 Or there is the notorious marriage of a young man to a fictional character.14 The complete absence of humor in the reporting of each of these “romantic” circumstances wonderfully rivals the original satire.

Plato, if he could take a scroll through TikTok, would perhaps question his faith in the beauty of man. Synthesizing the wisdom of his teacher and friend, Socrates, Plato wrote that the love of a beautiful person (Plato and Socrates both were thinking of a boy, not of a woman in this regard) is the lowest rung on the ladder of ideal loves. With contemplation, a person advances to admire a type of beauty beyond the singular individual. Ultimately, if he persists, he will arrive at a love of beauty itself.15 Plato’s insistence that the nonmaterial is superior to the material did induce, or at least support, the categories from which the gnostic hatred of the material world developed. Nevertheless, Platonism, as such, was true enough that the great doctor of the church, St. Augustine, synthesized platonic thought with a Christian sacramental vision. The physical elements of the bread and wine pointed beyond themselves to ultimate beauty, that is, God.16 The believer could be united, spiritually, with the Divine through the Eucharistic Feast. Then, through the Middle Ages, discomfiture with the human body, ever a plague for humanity since the Fall, was in some measure baptized as spiritual, chivalric love between a knight and his lady. In the West, the un-consummated love — untouched by the base body — enjoyed a privileged theological and philosophical position in theory (if not always in practice) until the modern period.17

Returning to the question of irony, the modern-day Spiritual Friendship movement reaches back into the Middle Ages to make a case for platonic, “spiritual” friendship between people of the same sex. Some even take vows of “friendship” resembling the marriage bond. This movement derives its teaching from the celibate Cistercian abbot, Aelred of Rievaulx’s short work, Spiritual Friendship. “Since friendship makes one out of two,” writes Aelred, “just as a unity cannot be divided, so also friendship cannot be divided into two.”18 Discussing the question of the “spiritual kiss” alluded to by St. Paul, Aelred insists that it “belongs to friends who are bound by the one law of friendship. This takes place not through a touch of the mouth but through the attachment of the mind, not by joining lips by blending spirits, while the Spirit of God purifies all things and by sharing himself pours in a heavenly flavor.”19 This, according both to Aelred and modern Spiritual Friendship advocates, is entirely platonic, that is, it is the co-mingling of souls without their bodies having anything to do with it. Living in community, “doing” life together, “pouring” out themselves in friendship all speak of the mind and heart, and do not ultimately lead to any sexual communion. “Now the spiritual,” writes Aelred, “which we call true friendship, is desired not with an eye to any worldly profit or for any extraneous reason, but for its own natural worth and for the emotion of the human heart, so that its fruit and reward is nothing but itself.”20


Initially, Guercio and Purificato, because they lived in a high-priced neighborhood, chastely shared a room and a bed. Before very long, they began to foster a teenage boy. Tamron Hall pressed her questions home, particularly wanting to know what they would do if they ever developed a sexual attraction for each other. I was pleased with all the questions. As a person who has counseled a lot of young couples seeking Christian marriage, I know these are the issues most people are reticent to talk about — not so for Guercio and Purificato. Their confidence in themselves, their communication abilities, and their life choices was implacable.

Still, not every problem can be solved by talking more. In Spring 2022, actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s televised trial for mutual defamation became a cultural water cooler moment. Who abused whom? Twitter watched in amazement. Many of the millions of people worldwide who watched the Depp v. Heard trial surely mused that a stable relationship between friends, untroubled by fury and passion, would be a better, safer refuge for children in an unpredictable world. All these age-old marital troubles point to the apparently sane idea that erotic love is too volatile a thing. Logical, rational people will protect themselves from romantic immolation and despair.


Strangely enough, the Song of Solomon in Scripture might lead one to err on the side of a platonic marriage. The Bride and the Groom are so in love. The passion and longing are heady, perhaps even unseemly. Will the relationship last? The book ends happily, by the grace of God, and generations of Christians silently freak out when theologians explain that it’s also an allegory for Christ and the church.

Even more explicitly, in the prophets, Israel is likened to a promiscuous woman who is so desperate for sex that she exposes herself by the side of the road and is willing to pay her own money to get people to sleep with her (Jer. 3:2, Ezek. 16:34). God wanted a bride, but Israel did not want to be that bride. Maybe if He had accepted to be friends, had settled for a safer intimacy, His people wouldn’t have rejected Him.

“How have I wearied you?” asks God, reaching across the many emotional and intellectual barriers that Israel was always erecting against Him (Mic. 6:3).21 She wanted the one-night stand with someone who wouldn’t try to peer into her heart and claim her as his own — body, soul, and mind. Which is what marriage speaks to, and why it is such a terrifying proposition for right thinking fallen people.

The reason that sex belongs in marriage, temporized by the joy of friendship, is because of how all-consuming God’s love is for His people. It is such a great mystery, so strong a force, that we cannot comprehend it. St. Paul’s admonition that the wife has authority over the husband’s body, as well as he over hers (1 Cor. 7:4), that he is to love her as himself, however haltingly obeyed, ultimately produces marriage in which men are expected to be both friends and lovers with their wives. Though much maligned today, and even referred to as a “myth,” the idea that a man should share a close emotional, intellectual, and physical relationship with his wife is reflected in the marriage prologue to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Marriage, that most ancient rite, serves three purposes: a remedy against sexual sin, the procreation of children, and the mutual companionship and love that makes the long road to eternal life more comfortable, if not absolutely satisfying in its own right.22 Yet even these three purposes do not explain its greatest good — the icon of union with Christ. The layers of biblical and sacramental images culminating in the holy city coming down out of heaven adorned as a bride (Rev. 21:2) defy common sense safety-ism. We are caught up, corporately, into a communion with a Savior who searched out a bride with an unquenchable and unconquerable love. Though we cannot fully grasp it, we can marvel at its beauty and weep over its loss. “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken,” cries Isaiah, anticipating the time when Christ will be all in all. “Your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married” (Isa. 62:3–4).

Anne Kennedy, MDiv, is the author of Nailed It: 365 Readings for Angry or Worn-Out People, rev. ed. (Square Halo Books, 2020). She blogs about current events and theological trends at Preventing Grace on Patheos.com.


  1. Celeste M, “My Legally Official Platonic Bestie (or: Aromantic and Married?!),” November 11, 2016, video, 10:42, https://youtu.be/xIBVudNBTkg.
  2. Celeste M, “My Legally Official Platonic Bestie,” https://youtu.be/xIBVudNBTkg.
  3. Rob Whitely, “A Reconsideration of Romantic Love,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 32, no. 03 (2009), https://www.equip.org/article/a-reconsideration-of-romantic-love/.
  4. Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015).
  5. Officialtheo23 (@officialtheo23), Twitter, May 13, 2022, https://twitter.com/officialtheo23/status/1525132444340346880?.
  6. As a Christian, I don’t believe this is real marriage, but putting scare quotes around the word “marriage” is awkward and a bit unkind. However, the reader should understand that in the description of the prevailing definition of platonic marriage, I do not think it constitutes actual marriage.
  7. Danielle Braff, “From Best Friends to Platonic Spouses,” New York Times, May 1, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/01/fashion/weddings/from-best-friends-to-platonicspouses.html.
  8. Jay Guercio (@thelovelyjaybird), “Y’All I’m Getting Married to My Best Friend,” TikTok, September 9, 2022, https://www.tiktok.com/@thelovelyjaybird/video/6875361166231604485.
  9. Guercio documents her extra-marital relationships on TikTok under the hashtag “polyamory.”
  10. Guercio and Purificato describe these conversations on “It’s Marriage Without Romance, Best Friends Give Us an Inside Look at Their Platonic Marriage,” Tamron Hall Show, April 23, 2021, video, 10:47, https://youtu.be/nzE0djQIHMA.
  11. “It’s Marriage Without Romance,” Tamron Hall Show, https://youtu.be/nzE0djQIHMA.
  12. “Why We Keep Things ‘Platonic’: From Ideals to Friendships,” Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/platonic-plato-love-origin-history#.
  13. Anna (@sailorstar), “New Layout Just Dropped,” TikTok, May 2, 2022, https://www.tiktok.com/@sailorstar/video/7093294779894730026?
  14. Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno, “This Man Married a Fictional Character. He’d Like You to Hear Him Out,” New York Times, April 24, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/24/business/akihiko-kondo-fictional-character-relationships.html.
  15. The following article summarizes the basic concept from Plato’s Symposium: Emrys Westacott, “What Is the ‘Ladder of Love’ in Plato’s ‘Symposium’?” ThoughtCo., August 28, 2020, www.thoughtco.com/platos-ladder-of-love-2670661.
  16. In the mid- to early Renaissance, Aristotelianism and nominalism began to push Platonism aside and a deep-rooted Christian knowledge of the platonic ideal began to disappear. This is the point made by Hans Boersma in his very helpful work, Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011).
  17. The Roman Catholic Church continues to offer the blessing of a “Josephite” marriage. Following the traditional belief that Joseph and Mary never engaged in sexual relations, a man and woman could get married and live chastely, that is platonically, all through. Or they could have children and then explicitly, with the blessing of the Church, transform their relationship into a platonic one.
  18. Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, trans. Lawrence C. Braceland, ed. Marsha L. Dutton (Trappist, KY: Cistercian Publications, 2010), 126, Kindle.
  19. Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, 96.
  20. Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, 78.
  21. Scripture quotations are from the ESV.
  22. The Book of Common Prayer (1662), 171, http://basicchristian.org/bcp-1662.pdf.
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