Relationships, love, attraction and sexuality
I have posted quite a few Instagram posts in relation to all of these topics but I have yet to write a full blog post about them, so I figured now is a good time to sit down and put it all together into one place.
There are so many different types of relationships where the language is really more of a guideline for how a relationship can look, as I truly believe that each relationship is individual to each person involved.
When outlining all of these relationships below please note that in each of these circumstances having open, honest communication is an important skill to cultivate with your partner(s), and above all else the relationships described are for individuals being ethical, consensual, and of legal age.
Platonic relationships - these can be friendships or deeply connected relationships that don't involve sexual or romantic interactions.
Monogamous relationships - a relationship between 2 people where they do not date, have romantic or sexual contact with anyone else outside of this relationship.
Monogamish relationships - a relationship between 2 people where there may be some casual dating/sexual/romantic contact outside of the 2 people, e.g. causal threesomes, not being help to monogamy in different countries/state lines, or the idea of a 'hall pass'.
Ethical non monogamous relationships:
Open relationships - where a relationship has the guideline that dating, sexual contact, and/or romantic contact can happen outside of the primary relationship i.e. being open to other relationships. This can be true of one or all individuals in the relationship e.g. one person may be monogamous, but the other is polyamorous and open to other partners.
Swinging - Where people in a relationship are primarily open to sexual experiences through parties, events, or exchanging partners with another couple. Swinging is often planned ahead and seen as event based rather than being open all the time.
Relationship anarchy - where there are no set guidelines on what the relationship is other than what is agreed between each partner. Taking the relationships out of the set constructs allowing there to be no expectations of what the relationship will be/where it will go.
Polyamory - being open to having multiple relationships at the same time. This can be where there is no set hierarchy, or it can be where couples have a primary relationship which they date outside of. Polyamorous relationships can also be a mix of romantic or sexual relationships.
Polyfidelity - where members in a polyamorous relationship will not date, have romantic partners or sexual partners outside of the members in the current relationship e.g. three people in a relationship making a triad and being committed solely to each other.
There is no right or wrong way to be in an adult, consenting, and ethical relationship. All of the relationships above will take work, communication, sharing, and honesty. They will all involve an element of allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your partner(s) and trusting them.
There is also a misconception that an ethical non-monogamous relationship is 'an excuse for people to cheat and feel okay with it', however this is not the case. Cheating is where a partner has betrayed trust - a person in a polyamorous relationship can still be cheated on by not telling the truth around how many partners they have or if they have been sexually active with partners they said they wouldn't be.
Polyamory, and ethical non-monogamy on a whole, still requires trust in partnerships. It still means being hurt, let down, or going through break-ups when things don't work out. It can still mean being cheated on. It can still mean being single even though you're open to multiple relationships. None of this is taken away from people in ENM relationships, and those feelings are still 100% valid of an experience.
Monogamy isn't for everyone, but it also isn't forced for people either, just as ENM relationships aren't for everyone either. Relationships are a connection, understanding and partnership between the people involved and the external opinions put on those aren't necessary as what works for one person may not work for another.
We've talked about the types of relationships people can have, now lets look at the types of love and connection we can have with the people in our lives.
For me personally, I like to go off the Ancient Greek types of love that we can have and express to others:
Ludos - a playful type of love reminiscent of 'young lovers', being flirty with those you have feelings for.
Pragma - a love that is standing the test of time, love for someone that has shown commitment, devotion, and adapted to the changes of the relationship.
Eros - a lustful type of love that we can have for someone, the deep desire for sexual connection with that person. The Ancient Greeks saw this as a loss of control where the inner desires took over the cognition.
Mania - where love becomes an obsession, the person is all you can think about. This love is codependent and linked with feelings of extreme jealousy and rage.
Philia - a love that doesn't depend on physical attraction but is more to do with the platonic connection we have with someone. This is an affectionate love where we care for someone.
Storge - a protective, kinship love felt between family members - often the type of love that parents try to express towards their children and vice-versa.
Philautia - Being able to care for yourself, address your needs before caring for others. “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” - Aristotle.
Agape - this is a love that is universal and above ourselves. This type of love would be linked to being altruistic or doing things for the love of our community, the world, the earth, humanity, the religion you believe in etc. This is having empathy for people whether they are known to you or strangers - an unconditional love.
Emotions and feelings can be complicated, expressing love for people can sometimes be misunderstood. We can care so deeply for someone yet not want to be romantic or sexual with them, but how do you then express that?
The distinction for me is - I can love my friends, my family, my partner, my pets as this is love for who they are, the qualities they have, the connection we have, the trust, the laughter, the safety the evoke etc. However I am 'in love' with my husband, for me being in love is the distinction to then being romantic with someone.
This might not be the same for everyone but hopefully reading about different types of love can open your eyes or help you make sense of your feelings towards those around you.
We can then also show our love in different ways. A good way of figuring this out is looking at the 5 love languages - this is a very generalised way of looking out how we show and receive love from people, but it is a start to understanding that what we might do to show our affection might not mean the same for other people and vice versa.
Words of Affirmation - receiving letters, texts, spoken words describing the affection someone feels for you. Being told 'i love you'.
Acts of Service - having someone show their affection and care by noticing the needs that you have - i.e. tidying the house to prevent anxiety, getting the shopping ordered so you don't have to etc.
Receiving Gifts - showing affection through gifts, these can be gifts we buy or gifts we make.
Quality Time - spending time with you, watching your favourite TV/films, going for walks together, doing hobbies together, staying up and talking about goals/dreams/aspirations.
Physical Touch - not just sexual intimacy, but being close to each other, hugging, holding hands, reassuring with touch etc.
It is believed that we will generally prefer one of these types above the rest when being shown affection, yet it may be we prefer to show our affection differently. You can take a quick quiz by Dr. Gary Chapman who theorised this concept - https://www.5lovelanguages.com/5-love-languages/
Sexuality can then play into the relationships you have, the love you show and the feelings you express.
Sexuality is something that a lot of people are still learning for themselves and so the terminology is still catching up - the important thing is that you are valid in whatever your sexuality is and however you feel.
Sexuality is also something that is consensual love and so the movement to include pedophilia into the LGBTQ+ spectrum is not accepted in this way.
For a list of sexualities and their definitions, I have linked a post from Unite UK who have a lot of resources around sexuality and gender - https://uniteuk1.com/2018/06/a-z-list-of-sexualities/
Finally, we can also have different types of attraction towards different genders or find our attraction changes with our hormone cycles.
Attraction can be fluid across a spectrum which can leave looking at our sexuality to be confusing and overwhelming as it adds another layer to what we feel at certain times.
Sexual attraction - having a desire to be sexual with someone.
Intellectual attraction - wanting to engage in intellectual stimulation with someone else, being attracted to how someone thinks, or the knowledge they have on subjects.
Aesthetic attraction - disconnected from romantic and sexual attractions, but being able to appreciate how someone looks.
Emotional attraction - being attracted to someone for their personality, their traits, their qualities, rather than their looks/intellect.
Sensual attraction - wanting to be close to somebody in a physical way that isn't sexual i.e. cuddling or hugging.
Romantic attraction - having a deep desire to be with somebody and interact with them, involving emotional connections.
Our attractions can sync up with each other or they can be completely separate for different people or even genders.
It might be that you have romantic and sexual attraction to one gender but only have an aesthetic attraction to another gender.
How these can all work together?
There are infinite possibilities of how our relationships, love, attraction and sexuality all pay a part.
It could be that you define yourself as straight in a non-monogamous relationship, but you are on the asexual scale where you have romantic attraction without sexual attraction for your partners, yet you can still be in love with these people.
You might be pansexual in a monogamous, where you have full attraction to your partner of one gender, but you still have attraction to other genders in different ways without acting on the attraction. You can still then love other people but only be in love with your partner.
Again, the important aspect is that whatever you are feeling is fully valid for you. You define your own attraction, sexuality, love and relationship in a way that feels right for you within the confines of being ethical and consensual.
I would love to know your thoughts on this and if there's any other links readers can check out that I haven't included!
And please if you are struggling with any of the above and are looking to talk to someone please do get in touch and we can look at sessions that work for you.