Single Mom Planning 'Boston Marriage' With Friend Sparks Debate Online

"Boston marriages" might not be as common as they once were, but a popular online post has reignited discussion of the arrangement, after two moms contemplated forming one family unit.

Posting to the popular forum site Mumsnet, a single mom shared her potential plans to form a "Boston marriage" with her longtime friend and fellow mom. The poster defined a "Boston marriage" for her as "two women living together as a household, or even a family unit, but without the underlying romantic/sexual relationship."

Boston marriages became popularized as a concept in the second half of the 19th century, often with women from New England, college-educated and financially independent choosing to live with and commit to one another instead of a man. Despite the nature of these relationships being debated, with assumptions that many were lesbian relationships, the premise was that they were simply platonic.

"We used to flat-share during the student years, and then were often on-off couch surfing at each other's places for a couple of weeks at a time, and just joked that it was the healthiest and most pleasurable cohabitation experience both of us have ever had (including our marriages)" wrote the mom.

"We both are single mothers in professional jobs, our children are approximately the same age and are good friends. The housing and childcare costs are crippling us both, and we both are very lonely," she continued, adding that neither plan to remarry or live with a man until their children are older.

The mom confirmed that they are both homeowners but would likely move into her home and rent out to her friends. All children would be able to have their own room and they both earn "good professional salaries."

Despite not yet working out the details of finances, they would share incoming and outgoing expenses between them.

Boston marriages might not be so popular in modern times, but one of the main causes for it is—loneliness. "Loneliness and isolation is a big, big factor in all of it. Especially after lockdowns," wrote the mom.

According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Making Caring Common survey conducted in October 2020, 51 percent of mothers with young children feel "serious loneliness." Other reports have also found that women feel lonely more frequently than men do.

It's perhaps for these reasons that so many of the post's respondents chose to support the proposal of a Boston marriage between the two women, with some even wishing they could do the same.

"A friend of mine did this after her very difficult divorced from a very controlling man. It worked out really well for her and her house partner," recalled one user. "All the kids are grown up now and away at college, and they have both moved on, but it gave them both stability and security for many years. They are still close friends."

One Mumsnet user even compared the set-up to Sex and the City, suggesting it would have been ideal for Carrie and Miranda: "When I used to watch SATC, I used to shout at the TV screen that Carrie and Miranda should move in together instead of constantly chasing after unavailable or un suitable men to give them the domestic security and love they both craved, because they so clearly had it right under their noses—in each other."

With concerns over how their children would enjoy living together, the original poster confirmed that they're all pre-school ages and have had positive responses with several long weekend stays together.

"I also think you'd need to discuss parenting. Obviously you'd parent your own children, but equally if the children are similar ages and you both have different rules about what they can/can't do, or expectations around chores etc you could cause some friction between the kids," countered one user.

"Also to what level are you happy with one person disciplining the other's child. If your child is rude to her when you're not there for example, can she speak to them about that. If they're very rude or repeatedly misbehaving, can she enforce a punishment. And vice versa you with her kids."

One user even shared her negative anecdotal experience of a Boston marriage and how it deteriorated: "I did this when my girls were younger and all the big things we sat and worked out, but the little things made it a disaster. Christmas presents and ketchup were the two things that caused the final rows—I'm not even kidding. As ridiculous as they sound they were the proverbial straws," they wrote.

The original posting mom concluded that many of the issues mentioned were "all very good points" and resolved that a trial run could be a solution.

Mom cooking with kids
Stock image of a mom with her kids. Two moms have contemplated forming one family unit. Getty Images