Your Marriage of the Future: Seven Science Fiction Ideas about Relationships and Sex that Might Come True

Your Marriage of the Future:  Seven Science Fiction Ideas about Relationships and Sex that Might Come True

I’m not a big science fiction reader, but I admire how the genre has just enough of a toehold in reality that it feels plausibly weird. It stakes out the space of the uncanny: familiar, but disorienting.

Here are marital sci fi ideas that seem like they might come true. I’m choosing things that we already have marital “prototypes” for today, albeit in some cases on the edgy frontiers of that strange world known as Planet Relationship.  


What if you lived for 300 years? Would “’til death do us part” still apply? In John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen, Diana is a smart, sexy scientist who’s isolated the secret to living hundreds of years (plot spoiler: it’s moss). “How is marriage going to mesh with the new order,” a character asks her. “Fixed term marriages, with options, as in leases, perhaps?” Or maybe “companionship” appeal, rather than sex appeal, would become the primary consideration if we extended marriage from 50 to 250 years?

Marital term limits already have been proposed in some countries, and serial monogamy is a common marital practice, since many Americans marry, divorce, and re-marry. Maybe the practice will shift from normal to ideal in the 21st century.  Forever’s only getting longer. Fifty is already the “new 30.”


One of the most popular sci fi relationship ideas is non-monogamy. Samuel Delany’s protagonist in Dhalgren is in a polyamorous relationship, and Robert Rimmer’s Harrad Experiment (1966) explores open marriage. Sci fi writer Robert Heinlein was a noted advocate of sexual liberation and free love.

Ethical non-monogamy’s already here. An estimated five percent of marriages today are “open,” and that may well be an under-count.


Sperm banks, egg donors, birth control and surrogate motherhood have already shattered the ironclad marital premise of “biology as destiny” and the bond between marriage, sex and reproduction. Medical technologies can replicate an in utero environment to keep extremely premature babies alive.

Sci fi imagines that the marriage of the future will have a more tenuous link to “breeding.”

In addition to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga series explores a world of “uterine replicators” and genetic engineering where reproduction belongs in the lab.  Relationships and marriage aren’t tethered even vestigially to reproduction, and so they spin off in many different directions and forms, from all-male monastic societies to promiscuous ones.


American marriage politics are consumed by the opposition between homosexual and heterosexual unions. But what if sex was just an act, not an identity, or an opposition of two main types? Relationships of the future might obliterate the very idea of a fixed sexual orientation.

Heinlein has fun with sexual polymorphism. His characters have sex a la carte, in a variety of ways and with a lot—a lot—of different partners of both sexes. These characters aren’t really “oriented” in one particular direction at all.  

So much for the “ISO” abbreviations in the personal ads.


From Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland on, a popular (feminist) sci fi idea is a sex-segregated world without men, or marriage.  

In Sheri Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country, women all live together in a gated community, with eunuch sell-outs around as servants, and hold annual festivals where a few men are invited in to mate with them. James Tiptree, the pen name of a female bisexual , imagined a female-only society after men had been killed off by disease (“Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”). Men are comedic fodder for the women, who reproduce through cloning. One (woman’s) utopia is another (man’s) dystopia. I guess.

A lot’s been written in the last decade about the superfluity and the “end” of men. It seems unlikely that we’d ever actually live in sex-segregated worlds, but it’s already true that women don’t need men to support themselves or find an identity. What sci fi presents as a fait accompli is just a subtle drift today—a drift into our own “Mars/Venus” worlds and destinies, and a feeling that women might do just as well without men or marriage.


Jo Walton’s Lifelode –called a “domestic fantasy”—describes a quiet farming community, where characters are polyamorous and families are intentionally formed with several adults and children from different relationships.

The ideal today is still the married nuclear family, with two parents and children, even though this isn’t the statistical norm at all.

The marriage futurist might predict normatively blended, non-nuclear families, where children are raised with different adults from various relationships.  Blended families are already common, and the children of divorced parents often find themselves in relationships with other adults as their parents start dating again.


Bladerunner envisions desire between android and human, and androids designed for human pleasure; Strange Days features a SQUID device that lets people experience fully the sexual violence or pleasures that others have already had; the Matrix gives us virtual experience almost indistinguishable from the real.

Sex and desire are more commingled with technology than ever today. In online and social media, we can have mental affairs and simulate experiences. Relationships of the future will probably have more virtual, cyber-desire infiltration—avatars, simulators, memory data chips, robots, and Wii-like games that take us on “sex trips,” perhaps, without the trouble of leaving our chairs. Anything’s possible.

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Listen: Scientists re-create voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy

Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
  • With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
  • The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…