There Are 9 Basic Relationship Structures—This Quiz Helps You Find Which Is Best for You

Photo: Getty Images/Hoxton/Tom Merton
If you've ever felt pressured to conform with the rules of monogamy or casual dating, you may actually be better suited for one of nine different relationship structures, according to certified sexologist Shan Boodram. To help you determine whether or not this is the case, she's devised an online relationship quiz, which takes about 15 minutes to complete and helps you better understand your own needs, beliefs, and tendencies.

"I think it's a great entry point to starting a conversation about dating, to say, 'How do you like your love? How are you interested in partnering at this time? What feels good for you?'" says Boodram, author of The Game of Desire. The key is to let go of your expectations around the results and reactions of another person (your partner, for example). "There is no wrong response, there is no ideal response, there is only somebody's truth and your ability to get to it as fast as possible before making an investment that's not logical based on your incompatibility."

Broaching the subject of relationship structures is touchy with someone new—like the guy who told me he'd like an open relationship before we'd even met—and it's likely to be even more sensitive with a current partner. For example, I know that my boyfriend would not be super stoked read my result: "open relationship." (Oh, the irony!) But Boodram says this doesn't mean I should shy away from discussing it with him.

"We can always put ourselves back in the shoes of when we heard of something for the first time, and the first time you heard that term, you were probably like, 'That’s weird,' and it’s probably through time and exposure and conversations and asking questions that you have been able to change your perspective," she says. "So really recognize that when you’re giving your results to someone, that might be the first time they’ve heard that term, and they might come from the school of thought that everybody who loves somebody wants to be monogamous because that's the default narrative."

She assures me it's not the end of the world (or the relationship) if my boyfriend's first reaction is negative because it encourages dialogue. "You can just say, 'This is an indication that we should be talking more, and I want to learn more about your values and I want you to learn more about mine so we can continue to find ways to meet in the middle,'" says Boodram.

There's a spectrum inside of each of the nine categories. Boodram encourages people to dig more deeply into the quiz results, but also to create their own definitions, relationship structures, and terms wherever these broader styles don't fit. For example, maybe you're not a full-on moonlighter so much as you are an on-your-birthday swinger. Individuals and relationships are complicated, after all, so labeling them is going to be likewise nuanced.

Boodram is keen to point out that a quick quiz isn't something on which you should base major life decisions. Most likely, the results won't be shocking, but they may point to something you've been sublimating in yourself that needs to be brought to light, whether that's in conversation with your partner, your therapist, or just yourself. "The way you connect and communicate deserves more than 15 minutes of research, so I hope this is an entry point, a beginning into your exploration," says Boodram.

Take the relationship quiz here to find out your ideal level of commitment and then learn more about each structure, below:

The 9 relationship structures, according to a certified sexologist

1. casual dating

Casual dating involves connecting with romantic or sexual partners without any commitment or responsibility, for as long as it's fun and makes sense for both people involved. This may mean dating one person at a time or multiple people at a time but either way, it's not serious.

2. serial non-committed dating

This relationship structure involves partnership without promises. You may not be actively looking for a new person while dating someone else, but you're most comfortable knowing that if you do meet someone who interests you, you're "allowed" to pursue them ethically, without hurting your current partner. Open and continued communication around your limitations as a partner is key.

3. traditional monogamy

A traditional monogamist believes not just in partnering with one person at a time, but in partnering with one person for life. Once they've committed, they will do whatever it takes to keep the partnership together.

4. modern monogamy

A modern monogamist, on the other hand, believes in being 100 percent committed to a partnership... while it lasts. This is the most prominent form of relationship structure, culturally.

5. being monogamish

Monogamish relationships allow for things like strip club, porn, and maybe even a bit of flirting, so long as experiences outside of the relationship never going beyond that, romantically or physically.

6. a free relationship

A free relationship is one in which you are partnered, but are open to varying structures over time. In other words, you might be monogamist at one point, open at another, and swinging at yet another, depending on what makes you and your partner happiest at any given time.

7. an open relationship

Open relationships are relationships in which you have a primary partner, but you're "allowed" to have sexual and/or romantic experiences outside of them. Typically, couples establish rules around their interactions outside of their primary relationship, ensuring that the main relationship remains safe, comfortable, and each partner's priority.

8. moonlighting, aka swinging

A moonlighting, or swinging, couple is generally monogamous but occasionally engages in sexual experiences outside of their relationship. Typically, they seek out these experiences together.

9. polyamory

Polyamory is a relationship structure which allows for more than one romantic relationship at a time, with the full consent of all partners. This differs from dating in that there are actual committed partnerships involved.

PSA: Close is good, but codependent is bad; here's how to tell the difference. On the flip side, some advice on what to do when you and your boo drift apart.

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