There are so many relationship terms today! I was listening to an NPR segment and they were talking about how the idea of relationships has changed dramatically in the previous 20 years. Xennials, Millenials, and Generation Z (essentially everyone born since 1975) have redefined what it means to be in a romantic relationship. Often, as a therapist and sex educator, I get questions about what specific terms mean, or how to define specific ways of putting a relationship together with partner(s).
The FIRST thing you should know - you and your partner(s) define what kind of relationship you have. You decide what to call it, and what it looks like.
However, that doesn't mean that you won't come across many terms and ideas as you determine what works best for you. In an effort to help you understand more about what some of these terms are, I went ahead and put a few of them together for you.
NOTE: Not in alphabetical or any other order.
This is not an exhaustive list. This is purely a start!
This is a generic term that when broken down means "many" (poly) and "love" (amorous). Essentially, it is a relationship that is not monogamous, or just between two people. It is a relationship that has more than two people, but is not defined further than that.
This can be a person or couple who typically engages in 'swapping' partners or inviting lovers into their sexual relationship. Swingers are not often involved in romantic entanglements with others, it is more physical and sex-based.
This is a relationship type where each partner(s) have decided that they are not exclusive, and that they may pursue other relationship types - this can include romantic, psychological, emotional, or physical (sexual) relationships per the couple(s) agreement.
This is the standard-template form of a dyadic relationship we are all familiar with - it is represented every day in the media and all around us un public. This is a relationship where there are a maximum of two people in a romantic (etc.) relationship with one another.
This is the person whom you have the deepest, or longest connection with. Often it is the "first" person you have in your relationship. It can also describe the m most important person in your relationship(s). Usually calling someone a primary means that you have other partner(s) as well, denoting your relationship as other than monogamous.
This is a relationship type when the people involved in it have decided this is a serious relationship, with long-term plans and goals. A committed relationship is defined as such because all the partners have decided they are going to invest in maintaining the relationship over time and across difficulties.
Uncommitted (not serious)
You know, when you meet someone and at first, it's so care-free and laid back? Yeah, that kind of relationship is "uncommitted" - there are no serious expectations, everyone is just having fun and getting to know one another. This is an uncommitted relationship, based on the consideration of a future, without investment.
These can include specific terms or identities related to sexual expression and how that plays into the specific kind of relationship. These can include: Scene Partner, Daddy, Mistress, Play Mate, Play Time, Dom/Sub, etc. - This will be defined later, stay tuned!
Umbrella term similar to polyamorous; essentially saying that a couple is not just the two of them. Some couples use this term to describe relationships that are not "open" relationships, and are not "poly," and are also not "swingers," but instead are more open to discovering which one fits best, with an acknowledgement that it may change.
This is probably one of the most important terms on this list! If a person puts "intentionally" or "consensually" in front of their relationship type, they are denoting that they (as a couple+) have decided on this identity together, with forethought and insight. It is similar to consent in a lot of ways - denoting that all parties have agreed, and it is current!
This is a relationship type typically applied to heterosexual couples, when the male partner in the relationship finds and watches his female partner engage in sexual relationships with other men. This is different than a threesome, in that the male partner enjoys the act of watching his female partner have sex with another man, and that is the relationship type itself.
Another generic umbrella term for a relationship that is more than a pairing - can be considered to include all non-monogamous relationship types.
.... pfew! That was a good start, eh? What do you think? I know I missed a lot on here... What is the one that is most important to you? What did I forget? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Starting soon, a series of articles and posts will come out discussing different types of relationships here on my blog. I thought it might be fun to explore this often overlooked part of our relationships. So many people begin and start relationships - but do you know about the different types? Or did you just start in your relationship, assuming that you knew what you were getting into? How do you know you and your partner are on the same page? I have had lots of people come in to me for therapy because they were not on the same page as their partner, and it came to a head when the different in relationship types were exposed - usually in a dramatic flourish and with fanfare.
Have you sat down with your significant other or partner and intentionally decided that monogamy is the best option for your relationship? If you haven't - how do you know that you both are on the same page?
I have been doing some research and speaking with colleagues about their experiences with polyamorous or open relationships, and it got me thinking... When my wife and I first got together, we never talked about having more than one partner. We also never talked about desires to have multiple partners - or our thoughts and beliefs around having more than one intimate or romantic partner. We kind of 'took for granted' that we both knew what the other thought, and we both had the same views. This true? Until recently, we only had our internal beliefs based on assumptions to answer this question. So, like any good, OVERTHINKING sex and relationship therapist, I sat down to have a conversation with my wife about Intentional Monogamy. I no longer wanted to make assumptions about our relationship, and I wanted us BOTH to be on the same side... Turns out, we were (fortunately).
We both thought about it for a while, and decided we are intentionally monogamous. It is simply not part of our identity to be non-monogamous.
Intentionally Monogamous, as a relationship type, can be defined as the conscious decision (reached through introspection and communication with your partner) that the romantic relationship you are both involved in is the only one in which you will engage. There will be no additional partners, emotionally, financially, spiritually, romantically, sexually, or psychologically. Each person only has ONE partner, and that partner is YOU! (or the other person :-P)
This is all part of an exciting new series on relationship types - which will culminate in some helpful ideas on how to determine your own relationship identity and have the conversation with your partner(s) so you are all on the same page.
I am not a fan of Thanksgiving - due to it's historical foundations in the oppression and misrepresentation of indigenous first peoples. The good thing is that our current celebration of the holiday is centered around a time for us to give thanks to those people or things in our life that mean the most to us (often forgotten in the daily shuffle). This includes ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us.
As I've talked about previously, our relationships are a significant part of who we are. We are social beings - and even the lack of a relationship is a relationship in and of itself. There is a tradition that many families, couples, and friends engage in when celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday - going around the table before dinner and giving an example of what they are thankful for. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to contemplate the following questions - they can bring you insight for yourself, and a closer connection with your partner(s).
NOTE: Some of these may not be appropriate for all family or friend gatherings... but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider their answer!
Be thankful, be merry... and remember that Thanksgiving is just one day - a reminder.
This is the last in a three part series based on Gottman Method Couples Therapy that is scientifically proven to help your relationship. Read on!
Repair Negative Interactions
If you want to have a good relationship, you have to be able to come back from an argument or disagreement and still enjoy the company of your partner - dare I say, even continue to like spending time with them. Literally EVERY SINGLE RELATIONSHIP WILL HAVE FIGHTS OR DISAGREEMENTS. It is impossible not to. While fighting or arguing fair and respectfully is very important, it's what you and your partner do after the fight or disagreement that best describes how well the relationship will move on.
We often get our feelings hurt in fights - it's the nature of the game. However, do you believe that your partner wants to hurt you? Do you actually think they are going out of their way to make you feel bad and tear you down? If the answer to those questions is true, you may want to look at seeing a therapist, working on your trust and commitment, and then making your way through the lower levels of the Sound Relational House.
For most of us, we know that a fight is a fight, and what is said in an argument is not always 100% representative of what the other person is actually feeling, or what they actually think of you. This is something you need to focus on after the disagreement is finished. Gottman calls the process after a fight of repairing any damage as, "The Aftermath of a Fight or Regrettable Incident" and it includes steps to help process what happened.
There are six steps in the Aftermath of a Fight or Regrettable Incident process. They include:
You might find this handout helpful - it will help you understand each level and what to do in these stages.
I hope this was helpful for you and your relationship - feel free to give me a ring and set up an appointment if you want more direct services.
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