There is often confusion about the kinds of relationship my clients are in, so let me define them here in this article. Any of these can also be stages you go through in your relationship life.
Depending on your definition of the ‘perfect relationship’ this is it. There is a high degree of mutual understanding and acceptance of who and how you are. You are in love and people around you admire you for your connection.
Something in your partnership isn’t working properly. Either you are challenged by your communication with each other, have a lot of conflict or sexual differences. Couples usually stay together as they are not as unhappy as such. This is a pretty normal stage for any relationship to move through.
In addition to something not being perfect, you are also unhappy in your relationship. The reasons to stay may be a financial dependency, social expectations or mutual children.
You might be sharing personal details or secret with someone without being physically intimate, maybe because you or the other person is already in a committed relationship. Often, one, the other or both fall in love with each other without realizing it.
You might be enjoying having sex with someone without emotional attachment or intent to take this to the stage of a relationship. More often an emotional affair is secret when you or the other are in committed relationships already. If it is an openly sexual affair is often referred to as “friend with benefits”.
You are no longer interested in having sex with your partner but otherwise more or less enjoy each other’s company, friendship or shared parenting responsibilities. This can also be a stage that you go through after childbirth or following a hurtful personal or relational situation.
You are with a partner with whom you have little or no intention to build a future. As much as you are “good for now” you know it will not last forever.
This is where you are dependent on your partner and cannot function properly without each other. You might change plans or yourself solely to have more time with your partner. Often, co-dependent couples totally forget their friends around them, more than what is normal in the honeymoon stage.
The very opposite of co-dependent is when you are mostly focused on yourself, your career, hobby, social life etc. that you are not prepared to make any compromised for each other. Love and relationship is not a priority and mostly just a convenience.
One partner has a controlling or dominating role to which the other more or less agrees. Dominating a relationship will involve your partner distancing you from your social network and making you feel frustrated, insecure and helpless.
This is where the control or domination has passed the point of a healthy relationship by a long shot. Not only when it has become physically abusive, but also with emotional abusive there is only one answer: get help and walk away. Even if you are convinced that it was a one-off incident, it almost never is.
This can also be called the “love-hate relationship” and can lead to not just verbal but physical violence in conflict resolution. As couples, you might be head over heels in love one day and at your throats the next. This seesaw of emotional outburst sooner or later needs to be addressed otherwise you will destroy your partnership.
There can be many reasons your relationship has become toxic. Here are some possible interactions that are signs: blaming your partner, dropping hints, being passive-aggressive, competing with each other, or emotional blackmail threatening the commitment to the relationship.
Both partners agree to be emotionally committed but leave each other the freedom to have sex with other people with each other’s consent. This agreement needs to be reassessed regularly to avoid jealousy or other frustrations in the relationship.
Even though you are emotionally connected, maybe Skype twice a day, the fact is that you physically live on two different continents (or cities) and therefore only share limited physical intimacy. This kind of relationship can work for certain types and not for others.
There are other types or stages or relationship to add here, but these are the main ones I often refer to. Please add any others in the comment section.