Gone are the days when you could only describe your relationship status as single, married or divorced. These days you can find yourself talking anywhere and hanging out, being partners or maybe just being friends with benefits.
“Relationship titles run the gamut,” says James Wadley, PhD, professor and chair of counseling at Lincoln University in Philadelphia. “I see married couples who call their partner their best friend and all kinds of other terms of love. Dating, hook ups and all kinds of ‘It’s complicated.'”
So why are there titles in the first place?
It’s a way to clarify things. “I see people looking for those definitions to set their own rules and their partner’s rules about how they should act in their relationship,” Wadley says. “There has to be an understanding about quality time, being together, and even about things like when the other person is expected to come home at the end of the night. Often couples talk about this. Don’t compromise what they are doing and it causes conflict.”
While Wadley points out that, these days, two (or more) people in a relationship are making up their own titles, he points to seven common types of romantics. relationships You are likely to encounter:
talking/hanging out/kicking it
This phase can start with a crush—those ooey-gooey feelings that drive you to spend more time with one person than the others. It is often casual and brief. Or it could go on for months while both sides “figure things out.” Just hanging out doesn’t mean the relationship is serious, but it does mean that you enjoy each other’s company.
Like other types of relationships, dating has changed over time. Your grandparents or great-grandparents may have called it courtship. Back in its day, this could have included adult supervision. Now dating often relies on technology and parents usually stay at home. While the meaning of the word itself is to go on dates, people see it as meaning very different things. It’s important to communicate what you expect, says Wadley. There is something casual to dating – just a small step away from talking – and you can date more than one person. For others, it is the first stage of a serious relationship.
Are you seeing other people? If the answer is no, a couple may decide that they are officially in a relationship. Having a significant other can provide a sense of stability. Many couples with this title only share an emotional and sexual relationship with each other. The stakes are high, but some would say the rewards are too. Couples who are just seeing each other may be more focused on working things out when a disagreement occurs.
Formerly a term for same-sex couples, the term is now applied to couples in general. The partner turns away from heterosexual language, says Wadley, who assumes that everyone is interested in the opposite sex. A domestic partnership generally describes a couple living in an intimate relationship without a formal marriage commitment. Before same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015, many same-sex couples lived in domestic partnerships and had few benefits of marriage.
casual relationship/friends with benefits
In an open relationship there is a level of commitment in a couple to each other. But they also believe that it is okay for one of them to date or have sex with other people. The key word here is agree. It’s not cheating. The word open means just that – each person is honest about the fact that they are spending time with someone else. Studies show that there may be more interest in open relationships, although people are talking about or agreeing with it. About 5% of the population admit to being in an open relationship, compared to 20% of men and 15% of women who admit to cheating on their significant other.
In an open relationship there is a level of commitment in a couple to each other. But they also believe that it is okay for one of them to date or have sex with other people. The key word here is agree. It’s not cheating. The word open means just that – each person is honest about the fact that they are spending time with someone else. Studies show that open relationships may be more interested in what people are talking about or agree with. About 5% of the population admit to being in an open relationship, compared to 20% of men and 15% of women who admit to cheating on their significant other.
From ancient stories to modern reality TV, polygamy has a long history. This type of relationship involves romantic love with more than one person. Unlike an open relationship where one member of a couple may have an affair with someone else, polygamy involves an arrangement where three or more people are together or in a relationship with other people.
Whether you’re in one, none, or a combination of these types of unions, it’s still important to have a healthy relationship. A therapist can provide conflict resolution and other tools to keep you aligned. “I think relationships benefit from a check-in with a professional,” Wadley says. “You do a security check on your car. I recommend the same for healthy relationships.”