I am in love with my best friend. You might think you’ve heard this story before, but it’s not romantic—we did try dating, but after we realized it wasn’t working, we spent years confused about what we meant to each other. We weren’t lovers, but our connection ran deeper than friendship. If there’s one person who knows me the way I long to be known, it’s her. There’s a comfort in having someone to whom you don’t need to explain yourself. That way, when the world asks questions and demands labels from you, you have someone who sees you. I don’t have to translate my rambling thoughts to her because she knows the layout of my brain. She is my friend, but she is also my life partner—a steady, reassuring presence.
There needs to be more discussion about these undefinable relationships. When I looked to the internet for help, I couldn’t find anything about platonic partnerships; all I could find were more boxes. Same went for fluid romances. Where were the appreciation posts for ace couples, for aro partners, for the people who float in and out of love with ease? After years of searching for information on polyamory, I still know next to nothing about it. How many more people are out there desperately searching for a label that fits them? Society demands identities that can be summed up neatly in an Instagram bio; the more specific, the better, but I don’t just want a sentence below my profile picture. I don’t want people to put me or my emotions in a predefined box. I want to express the different layers of calm and love I feel when I’m with my special person. I can’t sum up a lifetime of conflict and change and understanding in a few words. Knowing glances, casual assumptions, the pressure to be in a paint-by-numbers relationship—these are all things people in non-traditional partnerships deal with on the regular.
So much of that stigma hurts ace and aromantic people in particular. Sex and love will never be mutually exclusive. If a person is unable to feel romantic and/or sexual attraction, their relationships are constantly invalidated. “Sex is shoved down my throat when all I want is a connection,” an ace friend once explained to me. “There are all these expectations for what love should look like. I’m just not interested in that.”
It’s limiting to confine certain kinds of affection to certain kinds of relationships. Sometimes we don’t get to decide what we feel for someone, or how that will translate into societal standards. Love in any form is not a box which can be checked off with “yes” or “no.” Every time we enter a new beginning, we’re constantly thinking of the end: ex, summer fling, sort-of-friend, faded away, no longer on speaking terms.
My best friend and I tried a million different labels—lovers, rivals, acquaintances—and we still think “partners in crime” fits us best. Ours is the kind of love that can survive when a label no longer applies. When people are comfortable following their hearts, they worry less about what outsiders will think or how they’ll frame their special person in their mind. They let themselves breathe and take love as it comes.
A relationship is a process, not a product or a title. Entering while already dreading the aftermath, while forcing yourself to adopt a label—it hurts more than it helps. Despite our struggles, my best friend and I have had the longest, most fulfilling relationship I’ve ever been a part of. Life partners don’t require the pressure of permanence. The only true love that exists is the kind that sustains both people involved, no matter if it lasts a few weeks or a lifetime. I’ve accepted the fluidity of my life and my feelings, and I’m so much better for it. Now that my friend and I have discarded the need for labels, we can invest in our relationship without second-guessing ourselves. It’s an equal partnership, no longer plagued by preconceived standards of what a friendship “should” look like. I feel so much more free to express my love for others without categorizing it. Whether it’s a ten-year connection or one that lasts a couple of weeks, I put myself all in. I don’t worry about what kind of name to give it, because love is a feeling that moves and bends with me. I am in love with my best friend. It’s not romantic; I no longer feel that I love her in the wrong way, or that I need to use labels to define my feelings. I’m alright with the fluidity, the uncertainty of it all—because it still comes naturally.
By MJ Brown