This is a series written by author Dan Brennan (you can buy his book here) on sacred unions and friendship.
“Secular author Lisa Gee believes “a soul-mate doesn’t have to be a sex-mate.” For the Christian this statement takes us right into the heart of the mystery of robust love and the bonds of friendship. Mysteries are something so complex, they defy solutions. They are aspects of reality we enter into but we cannot control or begin to capture in definitions.
Exploring the mystery of friendship as a deep, generous, inclusive communion of love is going to make some nervous like they are being asked to travel through unknown territory. Some will think it takes friendship too far. Others will find it liberating. Some will hold to romantic love as the greatest love and remain depressed because of what they are missing. What I am suggesting is that these stories take us into an ongoing profound mystery of love, into the love we see in God. God is love.
It is tempting on this side of Freud and the sexualization of intimacy, to impose a cut-and-dried interpretation on all passionate friendships of the past as sexual or homoerotic. In our romanticized culture, some of us find it difficult to believe that a soul-mate doesn’t have to be a sex-mate. The romantic ideology in our culture holds those two as synonymous; the greatest and grandest of all human love is when they are in sync.
I would suggest that this idealized, sexualized friendship (i.e. your soul-mate is also your sex-mate) undermines marriage and friendship—impacting heterosexual relationships and gay relationships.
1. The billion dollar romantic industry stereotyping intense romantic intimacy as the greatest love affects us all—straight and gay—married and single.
In America we have more romantic relationships than any other nation. We have more marriages and more divorces, we have more cohabiting relationships, and we have more romantic and sexual partners than any other nation. While certainly the factors which contribute to this are complex, our infatuation with romantic chemistry and intensity surely looms large. If you don’t “love” your partner anymore and are “in love” with someone else, then whoever you are “in love” with is the “true” love in your life according to the romantic myth. In this story, romantic love trumps all loves and thus trumps friendship-love.
2. Rediscovering a deep spirituality of friendship reveals a connection between spirituality and sexuality.
I think it could be argued that Freud and romantic ideology exalted sexualized friendship over a robust spirituality of friendship. Yearning, desire, affection, passion, deep tenderness and sweetness, and even physical attraction between friends were sexualized and romanticized after Freud so that these were/are healthy expressions only in romantic relationships.
Friendship-love reveals the profound connection between sexuality and spirituality. The end of sexual relationships and spiritual friendships is the same: the quest for beauty, goodness, and truth in union, communion, oneness, intimacy, mystery. This becomes apparent in Catholic theologian Paul Wadell’s description of the Trinity: “God is intimacy. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is a perfect communion of love.”
Is the sharing of our financial resources a romantic marker? It seems the New Testament would call this koinonia—whether in friendship, community, or marriage. Are we only limited to public vows of love in romantic relationships? The Bible and the history of nonromantic friendships suggest a place for vows outside of marriage. Is holding hands or other close physical affection an exclusive romantic marker? Again the Bible and the history of deep friendships suggest a robust spirituality of mutual lingering affection toward beloved friends. What about physical attraction? Does this have to be present only in romance? Can there be physical attraction towards the same-sex without it being lust? What about between those who are married but not to each other? Even physical beauty and awareness emerges in deep friendships.”