The Boston Marriage.
June 14, 2001 7:11 AM   Subscribe

The Boston Marriage. An article in Ms. Magazine describes the author's choice to live with a beloved friend rather than a sexual partner. The arrangement differs from a typical roommate situation in that the two people involved take care of each other and socialize together like a couple traditionally would, and are even considering raising a child together - yet they are heterosexual and have lovers that don't interfere with their partnership. For straight people that don't want to live alone forever but are disillusioned with marriage... could this be the social institution of the future?
posted by hazyjane (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Ms. Magazine??!?!?
posted by preguicoso at 7:12 AM on June 14, 2001

Yep, that's the one.
posted by hazyjane at 7:20 AM on June 14, 2001

What would be really fascinating is if the author of the article could have found a man and woman in this situation - because I don't actually like women as friends - but the thought of settling in with a male friend, that works for me.
posted by gsh at 7:30 AM on June 14, 2001

This is amazing -- I have friends in college who actually live like this in their dorm. They say things like "I wish we could get married, but we both like dick!" (their words, not mine...)

What makes me sad is that a lot of men are pretty much unable to do this -- I don't think I could ever have a relationship that close with a man. Not that I don't want to -- I'm non-discriminating in my close relationships. It's just that I can't think of a single man who'd want to have that close of a friendship with me. All my favorite people, all my confidants, all the people I'm most comfortable with are women. I know this isn't universal, but that's what stops me from doing this I suppose...
posted by tweebiscuit at 7:44 AM on June 14, 2001

As the article observes, this is actually a very traditional situation, in that it was commonplace for single women to live together in the decades when it was more inappropriate for single women to live alone.
posted by briank at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2001

Historically, I believe that the extended family, rather than today's current nuclear family was the rule, and one could draw upon the resources of many more people.

As a science fiction reader, I always liked Heinlein's concept of "line marriages," where people "bought" their way into families - literally, in some cases, purchasing a share; in others, bringing valuable skills.

The typical family today - mom, dad, 1.4 kids - simply doesn't have the compendium of skills necessary to run an efficient household. Mom works, so there's daycare; dad's an accountant, so home and car repairs have to be farmed out to their respective professionals (at cost). These are obvious generalizations, but alternatively, imagine if you could put together a family of friends with varying skills and strengths. One "dad" may be an accountant, and he handles the family's finances; another dad may be an auto mechanic or contractor, and he maintains the family home and vehicles. Several adults could work, contributing their wages to the family finances, while others could stay home and provide care for the children....

Heinlein outlines this sort of thing in his book Friday (ignore the juvenile cover art), it's a good read if you're a SF fan. It always seemed to me a very efficient and sensible way of making a family that had the resources to be highly successful in many ways.

Monogamy + Specialization = Failure? Maybe.
posted by UncleFes at 9:08 AM on June 14, 2001 [1 favorite]

I know from first hand experience that this sort of relationship can and does work between heterosexual people of the opposite sex. I've lived it for over 2 years. Their are only a few things that are awkward about it. Like when people tell us we fight like were married, or the thin wall on nights the other person has their lover/S.O. over. There are just some things you don't want to be hearing at 2 AM unless you’re a part of them.
posted by Jeremy at 10:00 AM on June 14, 2001

I loved this article. My best friend and I have talked about buying a house together for all the reasons you can think of - we're both "artists" and frankly, if we pooled our supplies we could create really fantastic...stuff. And we inspire each other. We both have boyfriends (I even live with mine) and friends outside of our relationship, but we like the idea of an extended family of friends all pooling their collective talents.

I always figured the "Boston Marriage" WAS a euphemism for committed lesbian relationships in the Victorian era, but I like its new usage.
posted by annathea at 10:15 AM on June 14, 2001

yet they are heterosexual

Suuuuuuuure. ;)
posted by kindall at 10:26 AM on June 14, 2001

My mother has actually been thinking of starting up a community on her property similar to this, but with more than two people.

She and her aging hippy/artist friends (many of whom are divorced) have talked frequently about a committed group relationship which revolves around trust, mutual care, and shared expenses.

"I"d never want to remarry," she laughs. "But it does get sort of lonely living alone."

And what brian k said: I agree. Nuclear families are a relatively recent phenomena. And not a very smart one.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:59 AM on June 14, 2001 [1 favorite]

I was raised from age 8 by my mother and her best friend. It works well. They've owned houses together for 21 years. And Kindall, your attitude pisses me off.
posted by acridrabbit at 11:18 AM on June 14, 2001

acrid - he's just joking. See the winky-winky emoticon? That means "don't take this seriously, nudge nudge".
posted by annathea at 11:28 AM on June 14, 2001

I personally don't think I have the mindset to do this with anyone. I'd have to be involved with the person I live with, I think. Because I'm an arrogant, dismissive, incredibly sloppy pain in the ass, and even my best male friends would tell you that there's no living with me.

How my fiancee puts up with me, I will never understand. I think love would have to be the answer there, and I am of the opinion that it is the particular variety of love between people who are seeing each other naked and inducing orgasms in one another.

This isn't meant to dismiss the author's viewpoint...I have heard of such things before. I could sit here from my differing vantage point and try to psychoanalyze her, but it would serve no purpose (and I'm not qualified, no matter how much reading I've done) but to try and put their situation in a box. I don't think this solution is for everyone, but I would not be surprised to see it spread.
posted by Ezrael at 12:05 PM on June 14, 2001

I personally don't think I have the mindset to do this with anyone. I'd have to be involved with the person I live with, I think.

Funny, 'cause I'm finding it harder to live with a boyfriend than I ever found it living with a close friend. That friend and I lived together for 3 years, and got the "married couple" comment a lot, yet she and I were able to also not be involved enough to keep more individual space. Living with a partner, I'm having to share everything. In living with a very close friend, I still had my own space.
posted by annekef at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2001

Living with a partner, I'm having to share everything. In living with a very close friend, I still had my own space.

Why do you have to share everything? I've made it clear with my girlfriend that I require my own separate interests that I don't share. My writing, my private time...these remain my own. Two people in a relationship are still two people. Of course, I could be totally wrong on this, but so far it seems to be working for us.
posted by Ezrael at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2001

when i was thirteen or so, my best friend and i made the promise that we would buy a house together and throw lavish parties and have kids by the men we thought worthy to donate human material and we would raise them together, if we weren't married by thirty five. but we've grown apart. she still has a special place in my heart. but now, oddly enough, i have this relationship with my mother. it isn't me living at home to mooch off my mom. it isn't because i'm afraid to move out. it's because we hate being lonely and have very few friends who don't annoy us. and the friends we do have are pretty flaky (i.e. predisposed to nervous breakdowns, drinking binges, bouts of insanity, etc). we always have dinner together, unless we have an invitation to dinner from someone else. and even then, we tend to go together. we see movies together. we go shopping together. we pick out dishes and housewares together. i had a boyfriend who was extremely clingy. i loved him, but he was ruining the relationship i had with my mom. until i can find a boyfriend who understands this, i guess i'll just have to be single. there isn't anything stronger and more platonic than mother daughter love.
posted by natasharama at 6:55 PM on June 14, 2001

it seems like a pretty natural thing to me. I think marriage is just one of many mostly sterilized customs left over from christianity (which in itself is just an amalgamation of several early religions, which can account for marriage's prevalence), one that will probably become discarded (but not anytime soon).

or in other words, file me under "straight people that don't want to live alone forever but are disillusioned with marriage."
posted by mcsweetie at 8:42 PM on June 14, 2001

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