8 Types Of Relationships You Might Find Yourself In Throughout Life

Let's make some love.

Love & Relationships

When it comes to finding the right relationship, most of us know that there's trial and error involved in finding the right fit. There's truth to the saying, "You don't know until you try." And while some of us have firm "absolutely nots" to what we won't tolerate, others of us rely on the learning curve that comes with kissing a few frogs before finding the love that loves us back the way we deserve to be loved. Luckily, these days we live in a world where thankfully the types of relationships we have are as varied and multilayered as we are.

On our site, we've covered things like attachment styles and love languages that can predicate how we navigate the relationships we maintain and acquire. So it should be of no surprise that just like there are different strokes for different folks, there are different types of relationships we can have in life too. Below are 8 different relationship types and what they entail.

The Closed Relationship Type


Most of us are most familiar with the closed relationship type, referred to more commonly as "monogamous". As its name suggests, the relationship is "closed", meaning the two people involved agree to love each other and commit to being with only one another exclusively. Partners involved indulge in one another and refrain from doing things in the relationship that threaten the sanctity of their relationship, whatever those relationship boundaries entail.

Given the distrust and infidelity that runs rampant in exclusive relationships, a lot of people against this traditional relationship type feel that it is unnatural, believing that eventually closed relationships leads to feeling suffocated, trapped, or stifled. And what do people do when they feel like they are in a cage? They rebel. Hence, cheating. Still, it's a style that is upheld for a reason and when done right, there's no doubt that there is beauty in longevity and exclusivity if that's the drum beat you wish to march to. And one that's boundaries you respect.

The Open Relationship Type

Relationships like polyamorous relationships or throuples are considered to be open relationships and are the opposite of the previously mentioned closed relationship. In open relationships, the people involved are non-exclusive and are usually sexually non-monogamous. People in open relationships often create their own rules for what the boundaries of their relationship type is so no one open relationship looks exactly the same.

For example, the people involved can decide to be swingers and invite new partners into the bedroom and only engage in sexual activity together. They could also indulge in individual relationships outside of each other, regarding one another as the primary partner, but keeping the door open (oh, puns) to other connections, be it emotional, physical or both. Those examples are just the tip of what an open relationship could look like as there can be different kinds of relationships that fall underneath the open relationship umbrella.

The Dominant-Submissive Relationship Type

kinky tv land GIF by #ImpastorGiphy

Sure, our perception of what a dominant-submissive relationship type might have gotten a little muddled with the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise (cue the eyeroll), but in reality, it's a relationship type that is out here alive and well. And why wouldn't it be? Whips and chains are exciting. However, despite all of the emphasis on sex, a dom-sub relationship is more than the props we're used to seeing. This relationship revolves around one dominant (i.e. sadist) partner and one submissive partner (i.e. masochist). As with any relationship, this partnership comes with its own rules and roles and can be applied to multiple areas of life.

The dominant partner's role is to lead, protect, and act as a guide to the submissive. Conversely, the sub's role is to fulfill the desires of their master, whatever that may be. While it can extend to sex, but the relationship is more so centered on roles and respecting rules that are in place that in turn shows respect to your partner. To learn more about the different roles of BDSM relationships, Lelo has an article you should check out here.

The Codependent Relationship Type

Taking people-pleasing to the next level is people in the codependent relationship type. Signs of a codependent relationship include unhealthy clinginess, planning your life around pleasing the other person, relying on another person for your sense of self, and being a love addict. The relationships itself are characterized as being dysfunctional, emotionally destructive and/or one-sided.

Oftentimes, the giver in the relationship has an anxious attachment style and the taker in the codependent relationship enables the giver's addiction, immaturity, irresponsibility, and/or mental health issues. In all cases, the partners act in a host parasite relationship where the partners need to feel needed by each other.

The Interdependent Relationship Type


The interdependent relationship is perhaps the relationship type we all should aspire to cultivate no matter what the relationship style we are in. What is an interdependent relationship, you ask? Interdependent relationships consist of two fully realized individuals with their own goals, their own dreams, their own hobbies, and ambitions who come together to form a relationship that they pour into but it isn't the epicenter of their existence as beings. Instead, they act as each other's complement.

In these relationships, both partners thrive in a relationship that allows them to be themselves without sacrificing who they are or their identities. Whereas codependent relationships are too reliant on the partner and independent relationships are not reliant enough, interdependent relationships represent the perfect balance between both extremes as it relates to partnerships.

The Long-Distance Relationship Type

Long-distance relationship types are characterized by partners being separated by distance. The romantic relationship unfolds like most other relationship types but sometimes blossoms at full throttle due to the nature of the relationship revolving more around the emotional connection and intimacy outside of the physical.

The distance and the length of the relationship being an LDR vary from couple to couple, but there is typically a lack of in-person face-to-face time. Long-distance relationships tend to work best with individuals who are securely attached but there are a bevy of articles that focus on ways couples in long-distance relationships can make things work, including one from our site: "We Spoke To Three Couples About What It Takes To Make Long-Distance Relationships Work".

The Casual Relationship Type


Casual relationships are relationships that are physical (and sometimes emotional) but typically comes without the expectation of an exclusive or more formal relationship. It has all of the traits of a relationship but without the commitment, which is often the allure in these types of relationships. People are able to get their physical and emotional needs met without putting in the energy and the effort required of a traditional closed relationship.

A casual relationship can encompass casual dating, friends with benefits, hook-ups, one-night stands, f*ck buddies, situationships, etc. Usually, casual relationships are one-sided with one person wanting more from the situation than the other is willing to give, which causes a lot of issues with the viability of this relationship style. For that reason, they are often short-lived. If you have to ask, "Where are we going?" to the person in your life, 7 times out of 10, it's probably just casual boo.

The Toxic Relationship 

Chiiiile, I don't even have to ask anyone to raise their hand for this one. Given the fact that in life and love, it's not abnormal to repeat behaviors we've seen from our elders, we tend to find ourselves in relationships that match dysfunction. Often, toxic relationships don't begin toxic but can become toxic as boundaries are repeatedly crossed and respect goes out the window. Dishonesty occurs, there is a lack of trust, an influx of jealousy, controlling behaviors, and resent among a host of other dysfunctional characteristics.

Toxicity is something that can lend itself to our relationships with family, with friends, and with our work life just as intensely as it can our romantic relationships. The relationships are plagued with unfathomable highs but also debilitating lows and the person riding that roller coaster can become comfortable with the chaos and not seek better for themselves. However, it is important to find and maintain healthy relationships in your life and not be afraid to leave situations when they are no longer serving you.

Featured image by Shutterstock

Mental health awareness is at an all-time high with many of us seeking self-improvement and healing with the support of therapists. Tucked away in cozy offices, or in the comfort of our own homes, millions of women receive the tools needed to navigate our emotions, relate to those around us, or simply exist in a judgment-free space.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.

Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

To be or not to be, that’s the big question regarding relationships these days – and whether or not to remain monogamous. Especially as we walk into this new awakening of what it means to be in an ethically or consensual nonmonogamous relationship. By no means are the concepts of nonmonogamy new, so when I say 'new awakening,' I simply mean in a “what comes around, goes around” way, people are realizing that the options are limitless. And, based on our personal needs in relationships they can, in fact, be customized to meet those needs.

Keep reading...Show less

Lizzo has never been the one to shy away from being her authentic self whether anyone likes it or not. But at the end of the day, she is human. The “Juice” singer has faced a lot of pushback for her body positivity social media posts but in the same vein has been celebrated for it. Like her social media posts, her music is also often related to women’s empowerment and honoring the inner bad bitch.

Keep reading...Show less

I think we all know what it feels like to have our favorite sex toy fail us in one way or another, particularly the conundrum of having it die mid-use. But even then, there has never been a part of me that considered using random objects around my house. Instinctively, I was aware that stimulating my coochie with a makeshift dildo would not be the answer to my problem. But, instead, further exacerbate an already frustrating situation…making it…uncomfortable, to say the least.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews
Latest Posts