The reality that we live in today has evolved in multiple ways, including in how we engage with dating and relationships. It has become evident that the Information Age is coming to an end, and we are now welcoming the Experience Age. And this can be seen in the way we understand our relationships and define our relationship statuses.
As human evolution progresses, it’s time to review the latest trends in relationship categories. The days of predictable and straightforward dating and marriage are over. In the diverse, international urban environments of modern day cities, relationships have become a more complicated phenomenon with wide reaching choice, insecurity, and lust, and sometimes, love. Modern relationships can have some ugly truths to face while trying to understand what type of relationship category fits your own life. But also in that there is a new level of liberation not previously possible. Relationship rules have evolved with technology and society, and it is helpful to update your own understanding to keep up to date.
I have worked as a matchmaking consultant and currently coaching singles and couples. In this position I have worked with different types of relationship models and expectations, and come to see the various types of relationships existing today. I have summarised some of the most common modern relationship statuses into an easy to use guide to the modern relationship status.
1. Traditional monogamy: marriage or long term relationship
The traditional relationship model of a monogamous relationship is still standing strong, and I argue, will always remain in some form or another. This type of relationship is deeply ingrained in our society and personally psyche.
Traditionally this was seen as marriage. And the goal was a happy, fulfilled marriage that lasts a lifetime. In many ways this idea has now evolved to include a series of meaningful relationships in a lifetime. It has expanded to include the idea that maybe we are not suited to one individual for our whole lives, but rather different partners in different life stages, but still foundationally a committed and monogamous relationship.
The idea is that people have a healthy and flourishing relationship in a long-term partnership. However, sometimes people get stuck in these types of relationships for the wrong reasons long after the relationship spark died, such as ‘for the kids’ or a joint mortgage. In this type of relationship, it is time to rebuild your relationship, for example with coaching, or accept it is time to move on. Staying in an unhappy relationship is unhealthy for both partners.
Commitment doesn’t always equal happiness. One needs to keep working on a long-term relationship to keep it growing and fresh. And when you find lasting love, it is worth that effort.
Being in a polyamorous relationship can be easily misunderstood. To clarify it is defined as ‘the practice or condition of participating simultaneously in more than one serious romantic or sexual relationship with the knowledge and consent of all partners’. It is important to note that everyone involved in the relationship is aware and consenting to having others join as sexual partners. It is also known as ‘swinging’ or being in an ‘open relationship’.
One can be a couple choosing to be in an open relationship or a single individual who is taking part with a couple. In this type of relationship, the importance of open communication and equal power sharing between both partners, male or female, is central for it to succeed. Usually, all parties involved know about the people involved and choose this type of interaction. The standard example of this is swingers, a married couple who have consensual sexual relationships outside their marriage.
People who identity as poly often stress that the loving relationship between them and their partners is more important than sex. In fact, it is their ability to have multiple loving relationships with more than one partner which defines them. And in many cases, people who are polyamorous stress the importance of being ethical and caring about the feelings of everyone involved, and often tend to date within their poly community who understand this.
In certain cultures and religions polygamy is accepted as the norm, and more so, polygyny, a marriage of one husband and multiple wives who are each sexually exclusive with the husband. For example, polygynous marriage is legally valid in Jewish and Islam law, respectively. Around the world culture does influence the reason for a structure of a poly relationship. In terms of religion, the highest concentrations of contemporary polygyny is in the Middle East and parts of Africa. In Asian society, it is often accepted by wealth and class, with the husbands usually from UHNW households.
It is important to note that in a polyamorous relationship, it is usually open to both partners with a focus on power sharing and mutual consent, whereas in polygyny, it is usually one male partner with multiple female partners/wives. They do necessarily share the same dynamic.
3. Part-time lover
In this set up, both parties are usually single, but a type of ‘part-time partnership’ develops. It entails two people seeing each other regularly, once or twice a week, but with an open agreement that it is not a monogamous model. This can be referred to as the famous ‘friends with benefits’, and in other cases, the pair might be monogamous but have rejected conventional relationship labels.
Whatever the intricacies of the individual arrangement are, in this type of relationship status, the individuals would like the sexual intimacy without the structures of a traditional relationship. This situation can become complicated quite easily and can be difficult to maintain if one of the parties desire more or less than the other. The key is to negotiate and communicate openly to ensure you are both on the same page.
4. Permanent state of singledom
On the opposite end of the spectrum, is the individual who enjoys a permanent state of singledom. This is somebody who enjoys the freedom and carefree nature of the single life. This can result in a constant flow of booty calls and one night stands. Or regularly moving between different relationship statuses. In today’s world, there is even the option of delving into the world of AI and choosing robots over people for sexual gratification.
This is a growing group of people as the traditional model of getting married and settling down has changed, and personal autonomy is increasingly valued. In this lifestyle, one does run the risk of losing meaningful relationships, and it can be beneficial to explore what are the reasons one doesn’t want to connect with a partner on a deeper level.
5. Side piece
A somewhat controversial relationship status, a side piece is when one is engaged in a physical relationship with someone and one of the individuals is married. A side piece is the person who is taking part in an affair with a person who is married or in a committed relationship with someone else. It is typically a woman that is referred to as a side piece, however it can go both ways. The key element of this type of relationship is that it is a sexual relationship, usually with little or no intention to form a serious relationship. The partner of the individual involved in the affair usually is not aware that it is taking place.
It would be best to understand the unwritten rule in this status. If you choose to enter into this type of status with someone, do not get emotionally attached. It is a strictly physical arrangement, and not the type of partner you want to become attached to in the long-term.
At its most basic, a sugar arrangement is when a ‘sugar baby’ is paid for being in a relationship by a ‘sugar daddy’. There are various ways of negotiating the deal, but essentially it is one person buying another’s affection. The payments can be practical, such as car or tuition payments, or gifts, and the arrangement can include companionship or sex, exclusivity or openness, depending on the individuals involved.
Websites and apps facilitating this sort of relationship have seen it grow and become increasingly accepted. Monogamy is not likely, nor is it encouraged, in this arrangement.
7. It’s complicated
‘It’s complicated’ is a widely understood generic term to define an unclear relationship, with Facebook notably offering it as a relationship status. This category can happen either on the way to being in a committed relationship, or on the other side, it can be a sign that the relationship is about to fall apart.
If you are seeing someone but not yet officially dating, it can be called ‘complicated’, while you figure out what you both want. Or when a steady relationship is downgraded to a complicated status, it can signify that the couple are fighting and may break up. It is less sturdy than Facebook official, and often not a comfortable category to fall into.
8. Just talking
‘Talking to someone’ can have different definitions depending on the context. Generally it means that you’re interested in someone or multiple people at once, but haven’t made the move to ask them on an official date yet. It is that space between a once off meeting and actually dating. A middle ground when nothing is quite yet defined.
‘Talking to’ someone, what can be called a ‘textationship’, and can reflect two entirely different scenarios. The first one is that you’re moving in the direction of becoming official, and taking the relationship forward. Or, on the other hand, you’re simply biding your time to avoid commitment altogether, while enjoying the convenience and companionship. A good rule of thumb is that ‘talking to’ someone shouldn’t last longer than three months.
M. Wadhera. The Information Age is over; welcome to the Experience Age. Found at: https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/09/the-information-age-is-over-welcome-to-the-experience-age/
Polyamorous definition. 2018. From: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/polyamorous