While monogamy may be a relatively recent addition to the relationship arsenal – at least in evolutionary terms – and the idea of marriage being about love rather than a socio-financial exchange even newer, it’s fair to say that when people talk of ‘traditional’ relationships, they’re generally referring to heterosexual, monogamous, private and vanilla couplings.
While this stereotype is countered in various ways by each generation, it remains the one consistent type we use as a base level against which we rebel – or try to maintain.
Yet, as we continue our journey through the information age, our ability to express, demand and consolidate a widening range of desires continues to strengthen. Relationships, casual sex, friends with benefits, marriage… all is available if we know where to look. In truth it always has been. But now it’s far easier to find.
As the public conversation expands we begin to redefine and codify relationship types to a point where we have a name for almost every flavour of romantic and/or sexual coupling.
So here is my take on a few of the more popular modern relationship types and what they mean.
Friends with benefits (FWB)
FWB’s have been around for a few decades now but have seen a resurgence post 2009 as the dating app really took hold. What began as a period of supposed sexual freedom in which we could hook up, bang and go seemingly at will without the messiness of emotional engagement quickly gave way to the need for something more, only, not too much more.
The FWB is a natural extension of the casual sex meme but with an added dash of engagement. It’s the mocha to the espresso if you will. Where the purely sexual ‘hook up’ sold itself as ‘Good to meet you… YES! YES! Bye then’, the FWB is ‘Great to see you again, how have you been, YES! YES! Giz a hug, same time next week?’
But evolution is constant and it appears the FWB is becoming the Dating Partner.
I’ll refrain from abbreviating this term for obvious google worthy reasons (try it, just not at work). The Dating Partner is the purgatory between the earthly FWB and the heavenly (?!) relationship, but devoid of moral affiliations.
Where relationships and FWB’s tend to be defined by shared desires – Property, friends, a future for the former and sex and intimacy but with someone familiar for the latter – the dating partner tends to be everything but what is excluded. I don’t want to think about a future together, I don’t want to be tied down (or to one person), I don’t want to meet your friends. What isn’t explicitly excluded tends to be included. Regular dating, hanging out, catching up for a coffee, the things that FWB’s don’t indulge in by definition, without the cloying need for exclusivity or the baggage that comes with it.
I’m struggling to come up with a coffee based definition… Um… Ah! The dating partner is your regular brew. You know, the one that your local coffee shop makes you before you ask for it, yet there’s no need not to have a hot chocolate or a cup of tea, or even go to another café should you wish.
I won’t go into too much detail about polyamorous relationships as I’ve already done so previously. But again, things have evolved.
What was once the preserve of the more philosophically amorous has become a byword for open relationship. You could be forgiven for confusing the Dating Partner with a polyamorous relationship but there is a significant distinction. Polyamorous relationships, at least serious ones, generally revolve around an existing long term relationship in which there is a ‘Primary’ partner, be it a spouse, partner etc and secondary relationships that are more akin to dating partners but with a more considered basis.
You only need to do a quick browse of dating sites and filter for those in a relationship to see how popular ‘polyamory’ has become.
As for a coffee link? This relationship is a Nespresso machine that allows you to taste different flavoured pods.
I rather like this one. Friends Without Benefits (FWoutB) generally start as some form of FWB but there isn’t necessarily that lustful spark. The time you spend together makes you both feel great, you enjoy each other’s company, often end up in bed together, act as each other’s wing person and generally do all the things couples do, just without regular sex.
This relationship is the comfortable late night hot chocolate, possibly with a Hobnob and a movie. It’s gay best friend territory without coming out.
You’ve just come out of a long term relationship. Emotions are still raw. You miss feelings of intimacy and comfort. You’ve met someone who is fulfilling your immediate needs.
A tough one this one. These relationships often occur between two people in the same situation, and surprisingly generally arise between people who already know each other.
You think you’re comforting each other and sharing all the hurt and pain while supporting each other through this difficult period, where in fact you’re both being a little selfish and fooling yourselves into thinking this is more than it is. Sorry to tell you this but the short term gain from this relationship type isn’t worth the long term pain.
In coffee terms, this is the double espresso you think you need because you’re jittery from having too much caffeine.
So that’s my pseudo-scientific analysis of some of the more contemporary relationship types. The question now is how do I turn this round so I can convince you that speed dating is the next logical step after reading this?
How about… Come speed dating and see if you can find yourself one of the above?
No? Okay, I’ll just be honest. Fancy meeting a room full of like-minded single Londoners for a really relaxed and fun night out? Step this way. I promise not only will you not regret it, we guarantee you’ll find someone you click with, regardless of what relationship type may come.
WORDS BY JOHN DAVIS