Basic types of relationships

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There are many kinds of unique relationships that you could experience in your lifetime if you’re going to look back at your relationship history. In fact, the real number is infinite.

But, if you’re struggling to define your relationships, these labels can help steer you in the right direction. Just remember, your relationship could be, and likely is, a variety of these types.

And these aren’t all of them. Although they may be the most common ones, there are many different types of relationships that exist. Don’t feel lost if you don’t connect with any of them. Your relationship is its own unique merger of two or even more people, and that is perfectly alright as long as you’re happy.

But if you aren’t, clearly communicate with your partner. Seeing which of these different types of romantic relationships it seems you have versus what you want can help you start an important conversation.

1. Codependent relationship

Do you need your partner to function efficiently in your life? This is the kind of exclusive relationship where you’re too dependent on your partner and completely rely on them to help you with your decision-making. This can go both ways as well.

You can both be codependent, which is even worse. If you require the other person to define you, the relationship has taken over your life.

2. Controlling relationship

One partner plays a dominant role in the romance, while the other partner just follows the rules. This can really impact someone’s self-esteem and is often caused by trust issues or a need for power.

It can go on for a long time before realizing that your partner is controlling you and not protecting you. It can lead to frustration, hopelessness, and even a need to find solace elsewhere.

3. Grieving relationship

Both of you have lost someone or have experienced something painful recently. You come together out of comfort and connection. It feels good at first, but over time it begins to feel empty or like a placeholder for what you lost.

This doesn’t mean this relationship can’t work or that it isn’t worth having. These relationships can help in working through your grief, be it from a former relationship or something else.

4. Open relationship

An open relationship is a non-monogamous relationship where both partners are emotionally committed to each other but have a consensual agreement to see and have sex with other people. This may not be common, but it is becoming more socially accepted as people become less close-minded and less dependent on monogamous relationships.

This type of relationship is serious about communication. An open relationship is not when one person can date whoever they want as the other is committed. This is a joint decision.

5. Negotiation relationship

Both of you are happy with each other, but every now and then, there are a lot of negotiations and compromises from both sides to keep the other partner happy. This may sound like a lot to handle, but can be a very positive relationship.

Learning how to meet your partner in the middle is healthy and mature. It teaches you how to focus on the relationship without completely giving up on yourself. It helps both partners find a balance.

6. Toxic relationship

A toxic relationship can be toxic for a number of reasons and in a number of ways. For example, it can look great from the outside, or outsiders can see the negative effects of it.

Partners in this type of relationship usually don’t support each other, and their relationship values don’t align. When they have a conflict, one person tries to undermine the other. They may treat the relationship like a competition, and it likely lacks all levels of respect.

7. Pastime fling

You’re in love with your partner, but you’re not so in love that you make future plans with each other. You’re happy for now, but somewhere inside, you’re convinced you’re in a relationship that won’t work out or last forever.

This is a very common type of relationship as it is based on the now. A fling focuses neither on the past nor the future. You may share relationship dynamics like connection, passion, or friendship, but you’re not worried about a future together. You only spend time with this person because it makes you feel good.

These relationships are not long-term commitments and are most likely to end on mutual and respectful terms.

8. Asexual relationship

Being asexual is not just one thing. It can mean different things to different people.

An asexual relationship can be where you share an emotional attachment but no sexual attraction. From the start, it can be that way, or a relationship that once included sex and is now a platonic relationship could also be defined as asexual.

9. Trophy relationship

You’re dating your partner because it makes you look better or gives you something materialistic in return. Gold diggers and men with trophy wives are the best fit for this type of relationship.

The love in this relationship may be true, but the foundation of the relationship often is built on shallow and material reasons instead of romantic compatibility.

10. Sexual affair

You’re in the relationship only for the sex. There’s no emotional connection, but there is a lot of heat and physical attraction. So, you could not be interested in another relationship or simply don’t connect with this person on that level for a number of reasons.

You’re sexually infatuated with each other, but it doesn’t go further than just being sexual partners.

11. Distracted relationship

Many college sweethearts experience this type of relationship several years down the road. Both partners are in love, but the feelings in this relationship change over time. They’re too focused on their careers or the kids to give enough time to each other.

This is a common type of relationship. Many young marriages go from magical and romantic to distracted and routine because both partners are growing apart rather than together. They have other priorities, and their relationship falls by the wayside.

12. Imperfect relationship

You know your relationship isn’t perfect, but you don’t really want to change it. So you don’t complain because you’ve accepted your romantic partner.

Now, this can be a good thing or a bad thing, romantically speaking. No relationship between two people is perfect. Accepting that and finding happiness together is great. But living with true problems and letting them go because you think you don’t deserve more leads to low self-esteem and resentment.

13. Unhappy relationship

You’re not happy in your relationship, but you’re staying, not for love, but for something else. This could be for the kids, so you’re not alone, so you don’t have to date again, or because you miss what you used to have.

This is extremely common. Many types of relationships can become unhappy at a certain point, but many people would rather stay unhappy in the wrong relationship than be alone or face the truth.

14. Long-distance relationship

A long-distance relationship is one where both of you love each other and are connected to each other emotionally. But physically, both of you live in two different area codes and share minimal physical intimacy. As a result, you’d have to deal with insecurities and/or jealousy and several bouts of suspicion now and then.

The end goal of this committed relationship type is to move and stay together physically as well.

15. Complicated relationship

Complicated relationships are the trickiest types of relationships. Both partners may know that things aren’t great, yet both of you have no idea how to fix the issues or deal with them. There could be resentment, distrust, or several problems in the relationship, but instead of facing them healthily or at all, they are mishandled or, worse, ignored.

A complicated relationship can benefit from couples counseling or therapy. This will get both partners to speak honestly about what they want.

16. Emotional affair

This is the kind of secret affair you have with someone other than your own partner.

You may not realize you’re falling for this person, but you’ve become attached. So much so that you’d willingly jeopardize your own intimate relationship to be with this other person.

17. Friends with benefits

The friends-with-benefits relationship is a no-strings-attached agreement between two people, where there’s a sexual relationship and a bond of friendship but no romance. This casual relationship is based on sex. It is meant for fun and for physical fulfillment with someone you like and trust.

This seems like a great agreement, but it almost always becomes more complicated when one person or both catch feelings.

18. Love-hate relationship

There’s loads of chemistry and sexual attraction in this relationship. But as much as there is love and passion, there’s the same amount of hate and frustration.

Both of you are crazy about each other and yet, can’t stand each other at times. But unfortunately, this is often the sort of relationship you see unfold on television or in movies. For example, Noah and Allie in The Notebook had this relationship, and it required an immense amount of work.

Do you know that couple that has loud passionate fights in front of strangers and is then seen hardcore making out an hour later? That is a love-hate relationship, and you could be in one. This can be fun for a while, as it is intense and overwhelming. But in the long run, it becomes more stress and work than it is worth. [Read: The secrets of a love-hate relationship – Can this ever work out?]

19. Insecure relationship

Both of you may lead your own independent lives and have your own friends. And as much as you try to convince your partner that you’re loyal, your partner may always assume you’re cheating or are interested in someone else. You could also be the one who is doubtful of your partner’s intentions or actions.

You can help your partner to a certain extent with patience and understanding. But, beyond a point, you can’t do much. This is a problem that the person feeling insecure needs to handle on their own.

20. Abusive relationship

This relationship between two people is where one partner holds the reins and controls the other partner, either verbally or physically. This is an unacceptable situation and needs to be left immediately. Not only is it dangerous, but also illegal.

If a partner ever tries to control you or places their hands on you, walk away and get help from someone you trust. As hard as it may seem, this is the only way to protect yourself. Many people try to convince themselves that it is a solitary incident or forgivable, but it never is.

21. May-December relationship

Are you in a relationship with someone who’s at least a decade and a half older or younger than you? Then you’d qualify for the May-December romance. Of course, compatibility matters here, but beyond that, you still need to learn to deal with different expectations from each other, your family, and the views of your friends.

Age may just be a number, but it can alter a lot of things in a relationship, like having children, and retirement, not to mention energy levels and interests.

22. Sacrificial relationship

This is unconditional love in its worst form. You’re dating someone you truly love with all your heart, but your partner doesn’t seem to love you with the same intensity as you love them.

Sacrificial refers to a relationship where one person is always giving more, and the other is taking. It is unbalanced and unfair. No matter how much romantic love and romantic attraction there is, this kind of relationship will only lead to bitter fights and helpless tears.

23. On and off relationship

On-and-off relationships are incredibly common. We’ll bet you know more than one couple who has broken up and made up more than once. Unfortunately, you may be that couple.

These relationships end for a reason. The makeups are often brought on by grief, loneliness, and an ideal version of your ex that only exists when you’re not together. As a result, on-and-off relationships have a low chance of working out in the long run.

24. Stepping stone relationship

This is the type of relationship you are in only to get to the next one. At the moment, you may not realize it, but in hindsight, it was something you needed to experience to get to the next step of your life.

For me, this was a brief relationship I had after a long and dysfunctional one. My ex was lovely and made me feel special. I needed that boost of confidence to move forward in my life and feel good about myself and my love life.

25. Fun relationship

This is a relationship filled with adventure and fun. You aren’t concerned with meeting friends or family. There isn’t stress about when you’ll label things or take the next step. Instead, you are enjoying each other each day.

A fun relationship also is great for people who are good at communicating. Without that, this relationship can take a turn when one person has differing expectations. Although it is also possible for this type to be a romantic or sexual relationship later on.

26. True love

This type is the hardest to find but is a serious relationship. It is worth the work, patience, and time. Both of you are compatible, understand each other, and accept each other. You aren’t perfect, but with imperfections, you still find happiness.

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