There's not always strict agreement on what exactly defines love and relationships. There are so many different types of love and types of romantic relationships, pinning the feelings and experiences down to just one sentence would be doing the magical adventure a disservice.
Yet, this uncertainty can make anyone unsure about when to call their relationship what. For all the vast ways we experience these connections, there are a few notable ones yours might fall into.
Understanding the Different Types of Love
Love, as a concept, has resisted definition for centuries. In Platonic philosophy, love is a pursuit of beauty, and in Greek philosophy, there are 8 different types of love.
- Eros - This is passionate love, which embodies all things dealing with romance and attraction.
- Pragma - This is enduring love, which speaks to commitment in your partnerships.
- Ludus - This is playful love, and it speaks to the giddy flirtatiousness of a new love.
- Agape - This is universal love, which describes the selflessness and compassion we can have for others.
- Philia - This is a love of deep, platonic friendship.
- Philautia - Perhaps the most important, this one describes self-love.
- Storge - This is the love shared between family.
- Mania - This is a type of toxic love rooted in obsessiveness and codependence.
Despite being antiquated, we can still use these definitions to categorize our feelings for different people today.
Types of Romantic and Sexual Relationships
In an age where people are more free than ever to have relationships that fall outside the 'norm,' determining what exactly a relationship is isn't clear-cut. And with gender and sexual identity language becoming more fluid and undefinable, traditional relationship categories don't always describe what modern dating and commitment practices look like.
Because of this, it's truly impossible to encapsulate every type of romantic or sexual relationship someone can encounter. But there are a number of broad labels many people use today.
Casual Sexual Relationship
Casual sexual relationships are literally what they sound like. Essentially, they're a sexual partnership between two or more people who aren't tapping into any romantic connections. Instead, in these relationships, you keep the connecting strictly on the physical.
The traditional concept of dating is continuing to evolve, and it can mean many different things to different people. It might be physical or entirely virtual. Some dating relationships are more casual and some are more serious. Generally, though, a dating relationship tends to involve an emotional connection and is one in which people intentionally spend time together as they're exploring their romantic feelings for one another.
Situationships are an interestingly modern phenomenon to describe an age-old conundrum. They stem out of miscommunication, or lack of communication, all together. Usually, two people begin talking to one another and hang out frequently outside of work or their social circles. During this period, you might see some typically romantic actions or behaviors displayed, like sending someone a cute good morning text or gifting someone something out of the blue.
However, this period's defined by its limbo-like nature and can last for weeks to months. Some might misconstrue it with a friend zone, but usually it happens between two people who are both giving off vibes that they're interested in each other.
Whether situationships turn into full-blown relationships or fizzle out, they're a valid experience that many people go through.
Committed Romantic Relationship
Committed romantic relationships are the ones that people are most familiar with and idealize as a necessary stepping stone in adulthood. They can last a few months to years, with a common social expectation that they end in marriage.
Of course, these relationships don't have to be proven with a legal document; their basis is a deep connection between two or more people for a period of time. And the most beautiful part of these relationships is that they're changing as we speak. Polyamorous relationships are gaining traction and asexual relationships that don't involve a sexual component are being validated more and more.
Although there's no rulebook that says you have to have a romantic relationship in your life, so many of us end up in one in some way or another.
A less publicized, but still important, relationship to consider is platonic relationships. Platonic relationships operate in many ways, often like a romantic one, are devoid of sex and any agreed on commitment. There's still little understanding of how to define these, but the depth of connection and emotion present makes it something akin to a romance that refuses to fit into the strictly non-romantic mold.
Other Types of Relationships in Life
People aren't limited to romantic and sexual relationships, nor can the human need for connection be satisfied by your interactions with one person. Long before you ever enter into a romantic or sexual relationship, you build all sorts of relationship bonds. These bonds support you in everyday life and are vital to your emotional and mental health.
A few of the basic types of relationships you encounter throughout life include:
- Romantic relationships
- Familial relationships
- Work relationships
- Sexual relationships
- Negative relationships (rivalries, betrayals etc.)
All of this to say that romance and sex are great, but they aren't the only relationships you should prioritize or will have over the course of your life.
You're the Ultimate Authority on Your Love & Relationships
Philosophers, therapists, psychologists, and relationship experts are constantly exploring human relationships and romance. Yet, just like we only understand a fraction of the human brain, we haven't been able to fully encapsulate love and connection. So, while you can turn to these guidelines to help define the relationships in your life, remember that you're the ultimate authority on your love, and your definition is the one that matters the most.