3 Types of Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships come in many forms, so it’s helpful to know what types of relationships we prefer and what relationships feel healthy for us.

Relationship dynamics such as warmth, support, negative reciprocity, and satisfaction cluster together to form five types of relationships.

Relationship type is related to well-being and life satisfaction.

Knowing what you want and need is the most important consideration, and it may mean letting go of a relationship that doesn’t work for you.

When You Look Back at Your Relationship History, You May Have Had What Feels Like a Wide Range of Different Experiences. Some Romances Are Short. Some Are Boring. Some Are Defined by Strong Attraction and Great Struggle. Some Are Hot and Still. All of These Experiences Teach Us About Ourselves and Help Us Grow, but It’s Helpful to Know What Kinds of Relationships We Prefer and Which Ones Feel Healthiest for Us.

9 Best Relationship Goals All Couples Should Have
Relationship Goals

In a Study Conducted With Jonathan Beckmeyer, We Set Out to Explore Different Types of Relationships and How They Relate to Young Adults’ Well-being.

A Note About Science

In Relationship Science, We Often Present Participants With a Set of Choices and Ask Which is Most Appropriate for Their Current Relationship Status – Single, Casual Dating, Committed Relationship, Engaged, Married. These Labels Are Useful in Some of the Studies We Do, but They Don’t Tell Us Much About the Relationships Themselves.

Doctor. Beckmeyer and I Measured Relationship Dynamics Such as Warmth, Support, Negative Reciprocity, and Relationship Satisfaction to Better Understand What Was Going on Between Partners. We Also Measured Components of Relationship Structure, Such as Commitment, Length of the Relationship, and How Much the Partners Integrated Their Lives (Eg, Living Together, Co-owning a Pet).

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These Factors Cluster Together to Show Us Five Types of Relationships. Which One of the Relationships You’re in Feels the Best—or Do You Want to?

  1. Happy and Free

These couples were warm, supportive and had low levels of negative interactions. They thought they had a great chance of getting married, but they didn’t connect their lives too much. None of them were living with their partners, and compared to some other types of relationships, they did not spend much of their free time together. This group was slightly younger than the other participants and slightly more likely to be college students.

  1. Happy and Compatible

This was the most common type of relationship, and people in this group resembled many happy and independent couples. One big difference was how much they added to their lives. Happy and integrated groups were more likely to stick with their peers and spend more time together. They were also older and had been together for a short time.

  1. Inventor

People who fall into this group are often at the beginning of a new relationship. They hadn’t been together very long, and their interactions were slightly less positive than those of the happy and independent or happy and coherent groups. We can imagine that these people are still trying to decide whether or not they should commit to their partners. They are going through some growing pains of getting to know each other and learning what they want from the relationship.

main measure

As long as a relationship is healthy and free of abuse, there are a wide range of relationship forms and styles that work well for different people. Some of us prefer to tie our lives with our partners, and others prefer more freedom. Some of us tolerate conflict and negative interactions well, and others do not. What wasn’t working well for many people in our study were relationships that stuck—they showed higher depressive symptoms and lower life satisfaction than people in other types of relationships.

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Those in high-intensity relationships were more likely to report depressive symptoms and had higher life satisfaction than some of the other groups. Happily independent and integrated couples excelled in our measured results. Knowing what you need and want is perhaps the most important consideration, and sometimes that can mean letting go of a relationship that feels stuck or too intense for you.

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