Thursday, August 26, 2010

Relationship Levels

As we have discussed in previous articles, there are many varieties of relationship style. There are also different levels of commitment in relationships. In this article, we will be discussing various levels of relationships. What follows is sampling of relationship levels, providing a rough framework. This is not an exhaustive list, and the specific terminology is not standardized. The purpose of this article is to make clear that there are a great variety of levels of commitment in relationships.

In this article, I will be referring to the Three Axis Model as discussed in this article.

Chew Toy (a.k.a. Hook-Up)
This term describes an extremely casual relationship which is purely on the Physical Axis. The partners are interested exclusively in physical contact and little else.

F*&%buddy (a.k.a. Acquaintance With Benefits)
This is a casual, sex-based relationship in which the participants have social contact and might even have a bit in common, but the main cohesive force of the relationship is sexual relations.

Friend with benefits
Similar to the above, but with a stronger element of the Friend Axis. This relationship has a sexual element, but the participants also get along well socially. The emotional (love) aspect is not present in any significant way. (See Friends With Benefits)

Casual Dating
This is similar to friends with benefits, but the objective is different. Generally friends with benefits relationships are not intended to develop into anything more serious. Casual dating, on the other hand, is intended as a test drive for a potentially more serious partner. One will often casually date multiple people in order to get a good idea of what they are looking for. (See The Lost Art of Casual Dating.)

Once one has selected a serious partner, they will move onto a more committed relationship. This usually starts with terms like girlfriend and boyfriend, and may progress to fiance/ee and, eventually, spouse. This is where we start moving into to more serious, three-axis relationships.

This is a polyamory term for the main relationship. Generally, this relationship is a serious, committed relationship. If it is necessary to choose between partners (e.g. one is moving across the country and the other is staying behind, what should you do?), the primary is generally chosen. The primary partner may also have some control over other relationships that their partner has.

This is a polyamorous term for relationships beyond the primary relationship. These relationships can be every bit as serious as the primary relationship or they can be relatively casual. The important factor is that it is understood that  the primary relationship takes precedence over secondary relationships.