This article is not part of my book, The Passionate Earth, but is a separate article on relationship styles that I am including on this site to illuminate some of my concerns regarding the frequent choice of monogamy in interpersonal relationships. Monogamy includes some of the negative aspects of patriarchy inherent in its formulation and practice. The following article describes the commonly practiced relationship styles noting their positive and negative attributes.
Relationships are the most sought-after unions the human species engages in. Almost all individuals have various types of friendships and many eventually come to partner with someone they consider special and important. Some people have committed relationships and many others engage in marital partnerships of some kind. There are many configurations for relationships and their underpinnings will be the discourse of this article.
The reason I am writing about this subject is because I have been a marriage and family counselor for over thirty years and I have learned a great deal about relationship dynamics from the families and couples I have worked with. I would like to share with you what I have learned in the thousands of hours I have spent talking to people with relationship concerns and difficulties.
I have been aware of how many couples fail to remain together for very long and why this happens so often. I am also aware of the specific difficulties that being in a partnership entails and how to avoid the many pitfalls that are encountered in our daily lives that effect how we function in our intimate relationships.
Let’s take a look at the most common relationships, define them properly and then set out to explore their merits and deficits. From this information, one should be able to decide on a relationship style that fits his or her particular lifestyle and needs.
Monogamy is a form of relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime — alternately, only one partner at any one time (serial monogamy) — as compared to non-monogamy (e.g., polygamy or polyamory).
Serial monogamy is a form of monogamy characterized by several or many successive, short-term marriages over the course of a lifetime. This means that a person moves from one relationship to another but practices monogamy with each individual relationship. One could easily argue that this is really not monogamy at all since the person is changing partners multiple times as opposed to remaining faithful to one partner.
Serial Monogamous Dating
There is also serial monogamous dating in which individuals date various people sequentially and are monogamous in each relationship. This can also become a pattern in which dating replaces marriage by the practice of continuous dating that doesn’t lead to a solid friendship, marital union or a committed relationship.
Some individuals date several persons simultaneously that can be expressed by commitment or a casual disposition. This type of relationship may include sexual intimacy or be platonic.
Types of Non-monogamy
Casual relationships are physical and emotional relationships between two unmarried people who may have a plutonic or sexual affiliation.
An individual has sex with other persons without consent from their partner or partners or purposely excludes certain partners from sex.
Group Sex or Orgies
This type of arrangement involves more than two individuals having sex together.
Involved persons have multiple partners but only have sex with a particular group of people.
Several or more people form a single-family unit with each person acting as if they are married to one another.
Line families are a form of group marriage intended to outlive its original members by ongoing addition of new spouses.
Open Relationship or Open Marriage
One or both members of a committed or married relationship have the freedom to become sexually involved with others. Despite the condition of sexual freedom with others, often times there are rules or conditions regarding sexual behavior and emotional intimacy may not be encouraged or allowed.
Menage a Trois
Menage a Trois is a sexual relationship involving three individuals.
Polygamy is a relationship style in which a man or woman can have more than one spouse at a time and the configuration can be multiple spouses or multiple marriages, not husbands and wives in particular.
Polyandry is a relationship style in which a woman has multiple husbands.
Polygyny is a relationship style in which a man can have multiple wives.
Partners are not bound by any set agreements.
Similar to open type relationships but conducted as an organized social activity often involving some form of group sex.
Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy”. Polyamory addresses the need for novelty and variety in romantic relationships. Poly families are similar to the group marriage configuration but some participants may not consider themselves married to all the other members.
Non-monogamy or consensual non-monogamy or (CNM) is an umbrella terminology for every practice or philosophy of an intimate relationship that does not conform to the standards of monogamy, particularly that of having only one person with whom to exchange sex, love, and affection. A particular and important feature of nonmonogamy is that exclusivity of sexual involvement is eliminated and individuals may be freely involved in multiple and simultaneous sexual or romantic bonds.
There are also people who have to be in some form of relationship all the time and are always looking for another partner when their present one ends. This can be due to neediness and insecurity, not wanting to be alone or those who just play the field as the saying goes. Some individuals desire commitment and others would rather have more casual or recreational affiliations. The above-mentioned configurations are the most common in Western cultures. Polyamory and Polygamy are alternative relationship styles that are more common in non-Western nations.