So there’s this thing called the triangular theory of love.
The triangular theory of love talks about three axes on which relationships can differ. Intimacy is feeling close and connected to someone else and knowing a lot about them; passion is feelings of romantic and sexual attraction; and commitment is the decision to be together with someone in the long term and to make future plans incorporating the other person.
It seems to me that the only axis relevant to strangers, acquaintances, and other people who are not deeply invested in my love life is commitment. You want to know whom I’m living with, whose job search you should ask about during small talk, and whom I’m going to be super-stressed about if they’re in the hospital. You do not need to know who makes my genitals throb or my brain fizz. That is, quite simply, none of your business.
And yet look at our language for talking about relationships.
“Boyfriend”! “Girlfriend”! “Friend”! Everything encodes the genital throbbing/brain fizzing business! My close relationships include two platonic relationships and two romantic relationships; there is no way I can talk about “people I am in close relationships with” in a single word. Even “partner”, my old friend, beautifully ambiguous “partner”, implies you are in a romantic and/or sexual relationship.
I mean, I understand why this is. In mainstream culture, your primary relationship is always your only romantic-sexual relationship. They did not need a word for “romantic-sexual but not serious” or “serious but not romantic-sexual”, because that never comes up.
But I want to follow Dean Spade’s dictum: “to try to treat the people I date more like I treat my friends—try to be respectful and thoughtful and have boundaries and reasonable expectations—and to try to treat my friends more like my dates—to give them special attention, honor my commitments to them, be consistent, and invest deeply in our futures together.” I have spent entirely too much time around aromantic and asexual communities to assume that my life partner is going to be someone I’m in a romantic-sexual relationship with, and I have spent entirely too much time being poly to assume that I should be planning to be together with someone in a decade just because I’m in love with them.
And apparently the only way you can do this is go full relationship anarchist and refuse to have labels at all.