Different kinds of consensual relationships in the 20's

Times are changing and so are we. Regardless, understanding and navigating relationships have been just as complicated, if not more so now, but not to worry! We get you. Often, the opinion shared widely is that there are only a few fixed ways to go about romantic or sexual relationships. But like we’ve said earlier, everything is changing today. In today’s world, there are more than a couple of ways to enjoy being with people and finding partners, if that’s your thing. 

Relationships today can be more casual; have some elements traditional relationships have, and not others; include more than two people, and may not have anything to do with the concept of marriage. There are marriages involving the union of two people, and more than two people being involved in a similar union too is becoming increasingly popular and even accepted.

Let’s start by understanding what a casual relationship entails. 

Casual relationships are not labelled and have far less or almost no commitment like a formal relationship does. It is usually understood to be a sexual relationship, but it doesn’t always have to be! It is, however, important to make sure you and the person you’re involved with are on the same page about where the relationship stands and where you’d like it to go. 

Some people often consider this a friends-with-benefits situation, although it is not the same. In a friends-with-benefits relationship, the two (or more) people in the relationship mutually agree to keep their relationship as one that has elements of friendship and romantic or sexual attraction. Based on what you decide with your partner, this means you’re free to see other people and go on dates with them and/or this simply means that you both will still be just friends but with physical intimacy thrown in. 

Open relationships fall along similar lines. Except, this term describes those relationships that allow you to have physical, romantic, emotional, or sexual interactions in more than one relationship. This is either centred around a primary committed relationship with mutual consent from both parties or is a structure where no one relationship is prioritised over the other. When translated into marriage, this is also called a non-monogamous relationship.  

Polyamory is the umbrella term that includes open, multi-partner, non-monogamous relationships. Being polyamorous means that you have, or want to have, intimate relationships with more than one person with the informed consent of all people involved. This can include a triad, usually called a throuple, or a family of more than three people. 

Committed relationships are based on a mutual agreement to commit to each other. This involves a loving, trusting relationship based on honesty and accountability. Priorities are different here compared to a casual relationship as the desire may be to settle down with your partner(s) and spend a life together. Committed relationships have a level of dedication to work through conflict and disagreements and an understanding to meet each other’s needs.  

Some, if not many, committed relationships end in marriage or some kind of union. Marriages are legally binding formal commitments whose definitions can change according to where you’re from, what values you have, the culture you belong to and the traditions you follow. Marriages have long meant monogamous relationships but this is changing. Monogamous relationships mean you agree to be with just one partner and be a ‘couple’ who do not engage in sexual relationships with others at that time. This can be, and often is, referred to as “being exclusive.”

Polygamous relationships, on the other hand, is the practice of marrying multiple people. These are relationships that are based on the desire to have multiple partners legally or culturally recognized. If a man is married to more than one woman, this is called polygyny, and if a woman is married to more than one man, it is called polyandry. This, however, is not legal in many countries the way monogamy is, making it difficult for polyamorous families to have their relationship legally recognised. 

Really, relationships are just a matter of exploring, understanding what your partner(s) and you want, and how you communicate it.

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