Different Types of Relationship

Published by Lisa Martin on

People use the word “relationship” so often these days that most people think it means the same thing for everyone. This is not true. In reality, though, the word “relationship” can refer to so many different kinds of interactions between people, both romantic and not, that it’s very unlikely that two people will have the same idea of what a relationship is. So, here is a quick reference to the basics.

What is a relationship?

A relationship is any kind of association or connection that exists between two people, whether it is intimate, platonic, positive, or negative. When people talk about “being in a relationship,” they usually refer to a specific type of romantic relationship that includes both emotional and physical intimacy, some level of ongoing commitment, and monogamy (i.e., romantic and sexual exclusivity, in which members do not have this type of relationship with anyone else). However, romantic relationships can take a variety of forms, ranging from marriage to casual dating to ethical nonmonogamy.

Family relationships, friendships, acquaintanceships, and romantic relationships are the four basic types of relationships. Work relationships, teacher/student relationships, and community or group relationships are examples of more nuanced types of relationships. Some of these relationships can overlap and coincide, for example, two people can be both work colleagues and close friends. Within each category, there are numerous variations, such as codependent friendships, sexless marriages, or toxic family members.


Basic types of relationships:

  • Familial relationships, aka family members or relatives
  • Friendships
  • Acquaintances
  • Sexual relationships
  • Work or professional relationships
  • Teacher/student relationships
  • Community or group relationships
  • Place-based relationships, such as neighbors, roommates, and landlord/tenant relationships
  • Enemies or rivals
  • Relationship to self

What is the definition of a relationship?

When it comes to dating, romantic relationships, and sex, it’s critical for partners to be open and honest about the sort of relationship they want and to be on the same page.

Here are some questions you may ask each other to help define your relationship:

  • What do you want to gain from this relationship? Something spontaneous and in the moment?
  • Something more forward-thinking? Not sure yet and want to experiment for the time being?
  • Do you want a long-term relationship? If that’s the case, can you see any potential here?
  • Are you seeing anybody else?
  • Is there something romantic going on here? Do we want to explore those emotions, or do
  • we want to keep things more casual?
  • How frequently do we want to speak and see each other?

Understanding Sternberg’s Theory of Love

The relationship types discussed in this post make more sense when you understand Dr. Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. His theory was that everyone experiences varying degrees of the following throughout their lives:

  • Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness and connection.
  • Romance and/or physical attraction and amorousness are examples of passion.
  • Commitment — the decision to love someone or the commitment to continue loving them

The best relationships recognize this and show a mutual interest in cultivating all three, even when it is difficult.

Different Types Of Relationships For Romantic Partners

Examine the following love relationships to see which one best describes yours. You may notice several types that appear to cover aspects of the relationship you’re in. Some of these relationships allow Steinberg’s love theory to be expanded to include intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Others, however, are more dysfunctional or even toxic, as you will see. Understanding the type of relationship you have with your romantic partner enables you to navigate your future with this person with greater self-awareness, compassion, and mutual respect.

Which type of relationship do you have?

Which of the 15 types of partnerships listed above most closely resembles your current — or most recent — love relationship? How many of these do you recognize? Every connection teaches us something.

We’re thinking you’ve learnt something worthwhile to share with others. You’ve undoubtedly also heard some really horrible stories. This essay attempts to demonstrate the diversity of relationship forms as well as the depth of the sort we desire for you, regardless of your orientation or gender identity. You, too, deserve a relationship based on mutual respect and genuine love.

The Asexual or Sex-Averse Compatible Love Relationship

The best of these demonstrate that a relationship without sexual intimacy can be compatible and satisfying, especially for two people who dislike sex. There are asexuals. And their asexuality isn’t a flaw or an anomaly.

They are asexual because they lack sexual attraction rather than a complete lack of interest in sex. However, some asexuals are averse to sex (i.e., sexual intimacy does not appeal to them). And the absence of sex does not preclude them from having a mutually satisfying romantic relationship because sex and romance are not synonymous or inseparable.

The Allosexual Compatible Relationship

However, there is nothing wrong with a truly compatible romantic couple engaging in physical intimacy. When used as part of a healthy romantic relationship — that is, not as a weapon or as a “duty” — it can bring you both closer together.

different types of romantic relationships

You have the makings of a compatible relationship when the love is genuine and the attraction (not just physical but soul-deep) is strong. We’re not saying there won’t be difficulties. There will be some. However, if you have a solid foundation, you will find a way to overcome them.

The Open Relationship

Both partners can date (and be intimate with) other individuals in open partnerships. It’s akin to a no-strings relationship/arrangement, yet it may look to be exclusive. Or there may just be a stronger desire to remain together as a pair.

The success of these partnerships is mostly determined by whether both sides are equally satisfied with the arrangement. When one of you wants to be exclusive but the other does not, the relationship frequently ends in divorce.

The Independent Relationship

In an autonomous partnership, both parties pursue their own interests. In actuality, you may accomplish very little (if anything) as a pair. You may reside together (or not), and you likely spend time together.

But none of you relies on the other for financial or personal assistance. You are nominally a couple, but there is no true reliance between you. If both of you have been in codependent relationships, it may feel like just what you need right now. Eventually, if you desire greater connection and assistance, this is likely to alter.

 The Codependent Relationship

In a codependent relationship, both partners are functionally dependent on each other, hence separation is likely to produce anguish or acute anxiety. You feel insufficient without them, and vice versa. You desire to be with them always.

And knowing they feel the same is satisfying, at least until it gets suffocating. It’s time to reevaluate when you discover your “other half” is constantly around and you can never do your own thing without feeling like you’re cheating on them.

The Open Relationship

Both partners can date (and be intimate with) other people in open relationships. It’s similar to a no-strings relationship/arrangement, but it may appear to be exclusive. Or there may simply be a stronger desire to remain together as a couple.

The success of these relationships is primarily determined by whether both parties are equally satisfied with the arrangement. When one of you wants to be exclusive but the other does not, the relationship usually ends in divorce.

The Independent Relationship

You both do your own thing in an independent relationship. In fact, as a couple, you may do very little (if anything). You may or may not live together, and you most likely spend some time together.

However, neither of you is financially or emotionally dependent on the other. You’re a couple, but there’s no real interdependence between you. If you’ve both been in codependent relationships, it may feel like just what you’re looking for right now. If you want more closeness and support, this is likely to change at some point.

The Codependent Relationship

In an independent relationship, each person does their own thing. In fact, you may not do much together as a couple (if anything). You might live together or you might not, and you probably spend some time together. But neither of you depends on the other in terms of money or feelings. You’re together, but you don’t really depend on each other. If you’ve both been in codependent relationships, it may feel like exactly what you’re looking for right now. If you want to be closer and get more help, this will probably change at some point.

The Chameleon Relationship

In this relationship, you or the other person changes to make the other person happy. Most of the time, one person changes to please the person they want to be with. If you’re the chameleon, you’ve probably given up some interests and maybe even one or two relationships to make your partner happier or find you more attractive. But at some point, it gets old to pretend that you like everything your partner likes and dislike everything they dislike. And it becomes vital to your health and happiness that you let go of them and move on.

The Dominant/Submissive Relationship

There’s a problem if one of you is proud of being “the one who wears the pants.” In a loving relationship, neither person should want to be the one in charge or the one with the most power over the other. This isn’t love. It’s about power. And you only use that power over someone who isn’t your equal. If someone expects you to obey them without question (or in any other way), you are not in a relationship with them as an equal.

The Toxic Relationship

Here’s another time when you stay together because it’s convenient or because one of you is in charge and keeps the other in line. You may be very attracted to each other, but either you don’t love each other or you only love one another.

different types of romantic relationshipsWhen two people with narcissistic personalities get together, they make a toxic environment for the other person. No one is helped by it. Staying together “for the sake of the kids” is probably not a good idea, since kids learn about relationships by watching their parents. And if they do make it, they probably won’t want what you have.

A relationship that is toxic is the exact opposite of one that is healthy. In a bad relationship, neither person is willing to give in. Both of them have emotional problems, so they hold on to each other out of fear of losing something that only exists in their minds. When relationships get bad, people often give up everything they want or need for the other person.

Love doesn’t mean giving up all of your freedom. Selflessness is a good trait, but it only helps the relationship if both people do it. Also, to love means to love yourself. On top of this, he has no compassion at all.

This couple can’t or won’t try to see things from the other person’s point of view. They can’t see past their own needs, which makes the relationship always tense. The goal of empathy is to understand the other person’s feelings, wants, thoughts, and actions in a meaningful way. In a bad relationship, only one person gives and the other only takes.

The Rebound Relationship

One of you started dating the other person right after you broke up with them or got dumped. And we understand. Why waste time missing someone you can’t be with when you can get back out there? You might be thinking, “Right now, I need this. It isn’t everything I want in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be. We are just having fun with each other.” And you might be. But it’s important that you both know and are okay with the fact that your relationship isn’t everything you want it to be. This will come up at some point. And it’s likely that they’ll break up again.

The Last Resort Relationship

Consider films based on a promise between two closest friends: “If we don’t meet someone by age 30, we’ll marry one other.” Except in the movies, they typically end up falling in love. As long as neither party complicates matters by desiring intimacy more than the other or falling in love with someone else, these relationships are often harmonious. Nobody should be your final resort. And neither should you be anyone’s..

The No-Strings Relationship

This is a typical “no commitment necessary” relationship. It may be all about hooking up. Or it could be a case of “friends with benefits.” Perhaps you two get along so well that maintaining a platonic relationship seems antiquated. However, you do not desire the restraints that come with an exclusive relationship. Or perhaps they do not. In the absence of genuine commitment, it will not take much to destroy this connection.

The No-Breathing-Room Relationship

“We accomplish everything together!” If you are already cringing, that’s a good indication. This is comparable to a codependent relationship, but it is founded less on insecurity or dread than on the false belief that loving partners do everything together. Even in the best relationships, time apart is necessary. Consider the following instances:

  • One of you attends a concert with friends, while the other visits a spa.
  • One of you attempts an intriguing new recipe while the other reads in another room.
  • One of you visits family while the other spends time alone at home.

Not doing everything together does not indicate relationship difficulties. Each of you is unique from the other (we hope). Therefore, appreciate your separate interests.


The Long-Distance Relationship

Long-distance relationships are difficult. It is one thing to be apart for a few days, weeks, or months. It can still work if you know you will be together within a fair duration.

different types of romantic relationships

But when the long-distance arrangement becomes uncomfortable for one or both of you, your partnership may face insurmountable obstacles.

  • One of you may fall in love with a neighbor.
  • The absence of physical proximity can harm a relationship.
  • Initially, your relationship may have been predominantly physical.

The Gold-Digging Relationship

In a gold-digging relationship, one spouse takes advantage of the other. One is the gold, while the other is the miner. If you are the “gold,” you gain little (if anything) from the connection. You may like the gold-company, digger’s but at some time you must recognize that the only reason they are around is because they want something from you:

  • Affluence and access to the lifestyle they desire
  • Influence and status (for career advancement)
  • renown by association


The Transactional Relationship

This relationship is similar to the gold-digging one, but the exploitation is mutual. If you find yourself thinking, “We have an arrangement that works for both of us,” you may be in a transactional relationship.

It doesn’t preclude you from feeling deep mutual affection, but your couplehood is more about what you can do for each other — or what each of you gets out of it. For example, one of you could be wealthy, while the other could have a stunning partner on their arm. You might be the “it” couple in the public eye. On paper, you look good together — but not behind closed doors. And eventually, one or both of you will want more.

 Dominant/Submissive Relationships

The unhealthy version of our first two entries takes the bad parts of both to their logical conclusion. In the relationship, one person has full control over the other. This sad story can be told from two points of view. One person doesn’t care about the other and only sees the relationship as a way to get something.

The other person doesn’t think much of themselves and sees the relationship as a way to feel better about themselves. Before getting into a relationship, we need to be honest with ourselves about who we are. If we don’t, we often end up in relationships like this.

You will be a chameleon in relationships if you try to find someone to make you whole instead of making yourself whole. Before getting into a relationship, we need to be whole on our own. If we don’t, we’re always trying to change who we are to be like someone else. Your sense of self-worth has to come from you and you alone. Don’t let other people decide how you feel about yourself.

 Open Relationships

An open relationship is a type of independent relationship. You’ve both agreed to spend time with other people outside of this relationship. This usually means that neither person is emotionally prepared for a serious relationship.

A relationship requires trust and time to develop into something that can make you happier than anything else. That requires openness and honesty. True intimacy cannot exist when other people are present. Jealousy is most likely to come up first. Jealousy makes it difficult to trust, keep secrets, and be truthful.

Two people must start putting down deep roots with each other for a relationship to grow and last. That requires a heartfelt commitment. This cannot happen in an open relationship. One or both people in an open relationship are frequently afraid of a genuine emotional connection.

Long Distance Relationships

This is the only one on the list that stands out. At least on the surface, there are more physical obstacles than emotional ones in the other types of partnerships we’ve talked about here. Communication is more important than ever, even if you only live an hour away or on opposite sides of the country. Few people in a relationship would say that talking to each other isn’t important. Still, it’s something that most couples need to work on.

Leslie and I have studied and talked about relationships for more than 25 years, but sometimes we still need a cheat sheet. These are small reminders to pay attention to each other and listen before we speak. And when you can only talk by text, phone, or audio chat, communication is the most important part of your long-distance relationship. You must both think about each other if you want to stay on the same page.

Try to understand each other before you try to understand each other. In long-distance relationships, we sometimes get so excited to talk to the other person that we forget they have things they want to talk about as well. Even worse, not being close to each other could be annoying. Don’t take it out on each other. You both feel the same way, after all. All of you are in this together. Make a list of “I” statements. I think. This is different from saying “you.” You do something to me. Talk about how you feel to start building a real bridge between you. Yes, it’s possible to be 2000 miles apart!


How to Build a Healthy Relationship (Regardless of Which Type Yours Is)

You should always strive to strengthen your relationship, no matter how long you’ve been together or how many dates you’ve had. If you’re wondering what type of relationship is best for you, the answer is always a healthy one. In a relationship, the most crucial factor is how much you care about the other person.

To achieve this, you must be able to care deeply about other people. When we want someone to compensate for our own faults or sense of self, the connection becomes something it should never be. A good relationship is founded on two individuals making a genuine, honest commitment to share their lives together. It is essential finding someone you can trust and who understands your and their sentiments. Getting competent at something so important and delicate requires effort and a development mentality.

You will never “arrive” at a perfect relationship. However, if you continue to improve, what you have will always be better. That implies you must first get healthy. Before you plunge into something in the hopes of finding “the one,” you should understand that your relationships are only as healthy as you are.

You must be satisfied with yourself before you risk becoming that codependent, toxic, or distant relationship. Leslie and I have just released a new book called Healthy Me, Healthy Us, which is all about this topic. Discover how your relationship with yourself influences your other relationships (the non-romantic ones included.) Click here to learn how being healthy can improve your relationships.

Types of romantic relationships.

There are several labels that people use to describe their relationship to themselves and to others, but the following are some of the most fundamental forms of romantic relationships:


Dating is the practice of purposely spending time with someone to become better acquainted, have fun, and enjoy being romantic. Casual dating refers to dating with no aspirations for the future.

The amount of commitment suggested by the term “dating” is not universally agreed upon. Some individuals only use the phrase when they are already in a defined, committed relationship, while others use it while they are only investigating to determine whether there is relationship potential.

Committed relationship

In the context of couples, “in a relationship” often refers to a committed, long-term romantic partnership. Two or more persons agree to remain in a committed relationship for the foreseeable future. The two have agreed to continue spending time together, working to strengthen their relationship, and cultivating their bond. People in committed relationships may choose to identify themselves with terms such as boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner.

In conventional monogamous partnerships, being in a relationship also implies that a pair will be romantically and sexually exclusive; that is, they will not have other romantic or sexual partners besides one other. Exclusion is not essential in nonmonogamous unions.

Marriage is a type of committed partnership in which a couple publicly swears to be together and creates a legally binding union.

Casual Relationship

A casual relationship is one in which two or more people date, regularly spend time together, and engage in romantic or sexual activities, but do not expect the relationship to endure. These partnerships are often transitory and transient, and they may or may not be exclusive.

People in casual relationships often enjoy and are attracted to one another, but there may not be an overwhelming emotional connection or desire to strengthen the bond. Casual partners may not be as immersed into one other’s lives as those in committed partnerships. They seldom use terminology such as boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner.

Casual sex

A casual sex relationship is one in which two or more individuals spend time together solely to engage in sexual activity. They may have intercourse frequently, or they may have sex once and never see one other again. They may appreciate and enjoy one other’s company, but they are not interested in a love connection. Typically, there is no emotional connection, or the relationship is clearly platonic or friendly, as in a “friends with benefits” scenario.


7 Types of Relationships, According To Psychology.

Sternberg’s triangle theory of love, a psychological framework for romantic relationships, posits three fundamental components of love: passion, closeness, and commitment. Passion refers to feelings of excitement and attraction, intimacy to feelings of closeness and connection, and commitment to the ongoing decision to stay in the relationship and nurture it. A couple can be in one of seven different types of relationships depending on which of these three elements is present:

  • Infatuation: only passion
  • Friendship: only intimacy
  • Empty love: only commitment
  • Romantic love combines passion and intimacy.
  • Fatuous love: passion + dedication
  • Intimacy + commitment = companionate love
  • Consummate love: passion + intimacy + commitment

This relationship framework was developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg, Ph.D., and colleagues in the 1980s and 1990s and has been validated by research in 25 countries.


Types of Love

Sternberg’s Triangle of Love: Three Components

Happy couple. Woman has her arms around a man's neck.According to Sternberg (1988), there are three fundamental components of love: passion, closeness, and commitment. The presence or absence of each of these components has an effect on love relationships. The extreme physical attraction that lovers experience for one another is referred to as passion.

Intimacy is defined as the capacity to communicate sentiments, personal ideas, and psychological connection with another individual. Commitment is the deliberate decision to remain together. In the early phases of a relationship, passion can be discovered, but intimacy takes time to develop because it is founded on understanding of the partner.

Partners may decide to continue in a relationship once closeness has been developed. Although many people would agree that all three components of a relationship are necessary, many love partnerships do not have all three. Let’s have a look at some additional options..

Liking: In this relationship, intimacy or knowledge of the other and a sense of closeness is present. However, passion and dedication are not. Partners are allowed to be themselves and provide personal details. They may believe that the other person knows them well enough to be honest with them and tell them when they are incorrect. These individuals are pals. However, if you are attracted to your partner and desire a sexual relationship, hearing that he or she “considers you a friend” might be a heartbreaking blow.

Infatuation: Perhaps, this is Sternberg’s version of “love at first sight”. Infatuation consists of an immediate, intense physical attraction to a person. A person who is fascinated finds it difficult to think about anyone else. It may be difficult to eat and there may be a somewhat continual feeling of alertness. However, infatuation is very short-lived, lasting no more than a few months to a year. It is typically based on chemical attraction and an individual’s perception of what the other person is like.

Fatuous Love: However, some people who have a strong physical attraction push for commitment early in the relationship. Passion and dedication are characteristics of vapid love. There is no closeness, and the commitment is premature. Partners seldom have significant conversations or share their thoughts. They emphasize their tremendous physical desire, but one or both are also discussing a long-term commitment. Sometimes this is due to a feeling of uneasiness and a need to ensure that the partner is committed to the relationship.

Empty Love: This kind of love can happen later in a relationship or in a relationship that was started to meet needs other than intimacy or passion (money, childrearing, status). Here, the partners are dedicated to continuing in the relationship (whether for the sake of the children, a religious belief, or a lack of options), but they do not share thoughts or sentiments and lack physical attraction.

Romantic love is characterized by closeness and passion, but there is no commitment. The couple spends a great deal of time together and enjoys their connection, but they have no plans to continue “no matter what.” This may be because they are not in a position to make such commitments or because they are seeking passion and intimacy and are scared it will fade if they commit to one another and start focusing on other types of duties.

Companionate love is based on closeness and a promise to stay together. Partners love and respect one another and are dedicated to remaining together. However, their physical attraction may have never been great, or it may have faded with time. After so much time together, this may be taken as ‘the way things are’ or there may be a sense of regret and loss. Nonetheless, couples are devoted friends.

Consummate Love: This kind of love is close, passionate, and long-term. This is often the perfect form of love. The pair shares passion; the flame has not faded, and there is intimacy. They feel like best friends as well as lovers and are dedicated to remaining together.


Types of Lovers

Lee (1973) comes up with a theory of love styles or types of lovers by looking at what people have written about love over the years. As you read these, think about how they might fit into the different kinds of love we talked about above.

Pragma is a style of love that focuses on how things work in real life. The realistic lover thinks about how well they get along with their partners and how sensible they are. This person will care about your life goals, your status, your family’s reputation, how you feel about being a parent, your career, and other practical things.

Mania is a type of love that is unstable, uncertain, and possessive. This lover gets very upset during fights or breakups. When in love, he or she may have trouble sleeping and feels emotions very strongly.

Agape is a selfless, giving love. These partners give without asking for anything in return. This kind of lover cares more about their partner’s happiness than their own and is willing to give up things for their partner.

Eros is a way of loving that makes a person feel like they are being eaten alive. This type of lover cares about how they make each other feel physically and emotionally.

Ludus is a way of loving that is all about playing games and having fun. This kind of lover avoids commitment and usually has more than one love interest at the same time. This lover doesn’t tell the other anything about themselves, and they may even like to keep the other guessing. This person is easy to break up with.

Storge is a slow kind of love that grows over time. It usually starts out as a friendship and gets sexual later. Even after they break up, these two people are likely to stay friends.


Lisa Martin

Love to write about love and relationship


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