Relationships – there are no two that are exactly the same! And when it comes to definitions you could find tens of dozens of different relationship types, with a huge spectrum of characteristic traits.
From platonic to monogamous, to polyamory and long-distance: relationships can make or break your confidence. The one that’s good for you doesn’t need to be popular or labeled “right” by society, it’s okay to not want the standard relationship everyone else is having.
We’ve summarised the most popular types of relationships there are out there and what’s unique about them.
1. The first
Ahh, your first relationship ever! It will hold a special place in your heart forever, whether you like it or not! And even if it didn’t feel that special at the time, you will look back on it and probably remember it until the day you die.
It’s just unique going into your first relationship, totally clueless about love and dating and what it all means. It teaches you so many things – what your love language is, what you are good at, what you prefer, what makes you angry, what makes you swoon.
If you are really lucky he might be the one, or if you are really unlucky he will put you off from dating for a while.
Your first relationship is probably also the one with the saddest breakup, just because it all feels so dramatic and new, especially if you are still quite immature!
It’s the one where you think you will never find anyone else like them, you will never love again. But your first relationship is just the beginning of everything.
2. Casual relationship
It’s what it says on the tin – a relationship that isn’t clearly defined, and definitely not committed, where the two partners are free as birds. In fact, a lot of long-term relationships start with a casual stage, which could mean many things:
- Neither party is ready to settle down
- One party really likes the other one but doesn’t want to scare them off with being too forward to settles for a casual thing instead
- Both parties are just browsing, and don’t mind hanging out but equally don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket
The range of casual relationships also varies – some of them are just about sex, others are a bit more involved. If you find yourself in a casual relationship, it’s important to know that’s what’s going on.
That means that as much as you don’t want to define it, you might have to label it casual, so you don’t make much of it if he’s still texting other girls, or not making that much time for you. The same goes for him – if you want to stay casual and he is starting to get a little clingy, make sure you have the conversation.
3. Platonic relationship
It describes either a relationship or a friendship which can be loving and strong, but doesn’t involve any physical intimacy.
Most young girls who say they have a boyfriend usually mean exactly that – it’s just someone to hang out with but not to be sexual with.
And some long-term relationships become platonic with time if the two parties don’t put in the time to be physical with one another.
4. Co-dependent relationship
This peculiar type of relationship is best spotted when you aren’t in it. Do you have a friend who started dating someone and completely changed their life to only ever be with that person? Do the two of them resemble a bubble that nobody else is allowed in?
That’s co-dependency, which broadly describes the behaviours and personality traits exhibited in that relationship, including:
- Taking care of the other person, to the extent of forgetting about one’s needs
- Not having any other relationships of your own
- Taking on your partner’s issues and trying to fix things for them
This relationship dynamic is definitely verging on unhealthy and can be totally imbalanced.
5. Friends with benefits
Similar to a casual relationship, another popular type of arrangement is simply hanging out with someone for the physical aspect of it. That means being friends with benefits, or hook-up buddies.
You don’t share much with them about the rest of your life, they don’t know your friends or need to be involved in important life decisions, they are just available for casual sex. You keep your personal lives separate from one another which ensures that you don’t complicate things.
A lot of people who can’t commit or find the time for a full-on relationship choose to be friends with benefits with the same person, even for prolonged periods of time. It just helps avoid the commitment whilst still getting the benefit of intimacy and romantic relations.
6. Committed relationship
One of the most popular types is a committed relationship. One in which both partners choose to be with each other and spend quality time together.
They work to resolve issues together, make plans with each other, know each others’ families, etc. It’s not to be necessarily mixed for monogamous relationships. There are plenty of committed relationships out there that are open ones!
7. Open relationship/marriage or non-monogamous
Open relationships are a little bit of a more formal spin on the casual relationships and allow romantic, emotional, or even sexual interactions with people outside the relationship.
Some open relationships or marriages are structured around the main dynamic, with both partners also seeking their other relations outside of it. Why do people choose to be in open relationships?
There are plenty of reasons, some include:
- The couple seeks to bring excitement to their relationship
- The couple has grown cold towards each other physically but still wish to stay together romantically
- They couple has children and shared life but no longer interested in being together physically
8. Monogamous or exclusive relationship
It’s one in which both parties have agreed to be only with each other and are no longer keeping their options open or dating other people. You can be in an exclusive relationship for as early as the first date, or not have the conversation until a year into your relationship.
With any relationship to be successful, you need to be open and honest with them as to whether you want to be in an exclusive relationship, or in one just for now.
9. Polyamorous and polygamous
These two relationship types are similar but different. Polyamory is practicing intimate relationships with more than one person, being open to both emotionally and physically involved with them.
Dating a polyamorous person means accepting that they wish to be involved with more than one person at a time. It doesn’t mean that this person is unable to have a committed relationship and it doesn’t mean that they are cheating. As long as they are open about their preference it’s up to the partner to decide whether they are okay with it.
Polygamy on the other hand means a relationship that allows having multiple partners – both legally or/and culturally recognised.
10. Rebound relationship
A rebound relationship occurs when one or both partners get together after ending another relationship, usually as a way to console themselves or heal a broken heart.
Often times one partner who’s recently broken up could rush into a relationship with just about anyone just to feel again and escape the doom and gloom of post-breakup loneliness.
Often rebound relationships aren’t defined, they just happen. If you are having one, make sure you don’t waste the other person’s time, especially if a casual or friends with benefits arrangement would be enough.
There’s nothing worse than dating someone to make an ex jealous too – nobody wants to be used!
11. Toxic relationship
You never want to find yourself in a toxic relationship and you might even struggle to tell that you are in one! Usually, it’s much easier for people from the outside to spot some of the characteristics – emotional blackmail, criticism, jealousy, passive-aggressive behavior, verbal abuse.
Sometimes a toxic relationship starts completely fine. In fact, you are probably absolutely smitten with him and don’t even have a clue he’s controlling you.
A toxic relationship will scar you for a while so it’s important to get out as soon as you can. Before your self-worth is completely dragged down.
A period of time in a relationship before you tie the knot! Also, it’s one of the biggest steps in a committed relationship. Some couples associate the engagement with the actual proposal and giving an engagement ring, whilst others more casually say they are engaged just because they plan to marry the person they are with.
Engagement can be as short as a few weeks to as long as many years before the couple decides to do the wedding.
13. Marriage, civil union, or legal partnership
Most of us (depending on our culture and religion) have grown up to see marriage as the ultimate top of the relationship pyramid. You date different people in order to meet the love of your life one day.
Studies show that marriage has existed for over 4,000 years, it was a popular institution for the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews. It used to act as an alliance between two families.
Even today in a lot of cultures and religions arranged marriages are still the norm.
Marriage is the legal union of two people who commit to being only with each other and sign a marriage certificate for it. The only way to get out of a marriage then is to have a divorce. Also, the only way to remarry is to divorce, unless you are in polygamy legally.
Until recent years marriage was only allowed to heterosexual couples but a lot of countries now allow civil partnership or marriage between gay couples as well.
14. Domestic partnership
Describes a relationship between two people who are cohabitating but not legally married. A domestic partnership is a legal status and a lot of couples choose it for the added benefits and rights.
Different countries have a different time period for couples before they can enter into a domestic partnership, usually as little as six months.
A domestic partnership is also an opportunity for same-sex couples to be legally together without getting married.
15. Dominating/subordinate relationship
The dominating/subordinate relationship type refers to the act of asserting dominance over the other partner, whether that is physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological.
It’s a relationship with a clear power disbalance, usually of two people who are quite opposite in behavioral traits.
For many couples, the dominant/submissive dynamic brings an extra level of excitement and spark, whereas others don’t know any other way of being with someone.
16. Long-distance relationship
Perhaps the hardest and in many cases the most romantic type of relationship, the long-distance one happens between people who aren’t physically in the same place and/or are geographically distant.
A long-distance relationship can be as close as a few towns away to as far as a continent apart. A long-distance relationship usually either ends with a break-up (sadly) or with one partner moving closer to the other (happily), thus presenting new challenges and opportunities for a longer, more stable relationship.
17. The affair
There is a special type of relationship which can best be described as you being “the other woman”. Most women never want to be the other woman, it’s a dreaded label that comes with a lot of baggage
He’s usually already dating someone or is married, and somehow you end up with him, becoming his secret. He promises he loves you, he says wants to be with you, promises to leave his girlfriend/wife, but you keep waiting and you are always kept on the sidelines.
If you are the other woman, then you need to ask yourself: would you want to end up with a guy who so easily cheated on his partner? What makes you think he will be committed to you?
And would you want to be the one responsible for his marriage ending, or him leaving his children? It’s almost always a bad idea to get involved with someone who’s already taken, also because you wouldn’t want some woman to do that to your relationship, would you?
Relationships can be as varied as there are people, and the language we use to describe them is also largely nuanced. Often a relationship type will range between one country, culture, or belief system to another.
There is still a lot of stigma and judgment when it comes to relationships that don’t necessarily follow the familiar norm – dating, committed relationship, engagement, marriage.
It’s important to recognize that just because one type of relationship might not work for you, that doesn’t make it necessarily wrong. Taking the time to educate yourself and to understand the different terms and the wide spectrum of relationships can help you better understand others.
The other important consideration is that if a relationship makes you happy then it’s good for you and it doesn’t matter what label society has put on it.