The ultimate guide to understanding relationships

In our digital world, it's easy to lose sight of the true meaning of relationships. A relationship is more than just a connection between people. It's an agreement, a commitment, and a promise to be there through thick and thin.

On this page

Relationships - the subject of many known artworks, the topic of many famed poems, and the foundation of families. Artists, writers, and everyday people talk about them often. They’re one of the most important things in life, yet they can be so difficult to maintain and understand. What is a relationship, anyway? And how do you make sure yours is healthy and strong?

Throughout our lives, we have relationships with all sorts of people: friends, family, co-workers, and romantic partners. All of these relationships are important, but they can be difficult and challenging to navigate.

This guide will answer all your questions on relationships - what they are, what stages they go through, how to make sure you have a healthy and strong one, what to look out for, and many more! So whether you’re single and looking for the perfect partner, married with kids, and wondering where the passion went, or anything in between, this guide is for you! Read on to learn everything you need to know about relationships.

What is a relationship?

What is a relationship?

A relationship is a connection between two or more people. Relationships can be romantic, platonic, or familial. They can be between two people of the same gender or between people of different genders.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, relationships have helped humans to survive and reproduce. In fact, our brains are wired to crave social connections. Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love hormone,” is released when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone else. This hormone has been shown to adopt a central role in forming relationships in large mammals, and it likely plays a similar role in humans. 1

Romantic relationships, defined as “mutually acknowledged ongoing voluntary interactions” 2, are described with more intensity, emotion, and specific expressions of affection, unlike other types of relationships. These types of relationships play a significant role in the development of a positive self-concept, and successful establishments of these relationships, later on in life, have been described to contribute to people’s overall well-being and mental health. 3 4

Stages of a relationship

When it comes to romantic relationships, there are a variety of stages that people typically go through. Researchers have suggested that there are as many as four different stages that people experience in a relationship. 5

1. Stage: The euphoric phase

The first stage, known as “the euphoric phase,” is characterized by feelings of love, admiration, and infatuation. This is often the “honeymoon” stage of a relationship when everything seems perfect. There is little to no space for negative interaction here, as both partners are too wrapped up in each other to see any flaws. 6

When you’re in this stage, you’ll feel all sorts of physical and emotional symptoms. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world, and you may even experience changes in your sleep patterns or appetite. You might find yourself daydreaming about your partner or thinking about them all the time. 6

2. Stage: The early attachment phase

The second stage, known as the “early attachment stage” or “the post-honeymoon stage” is when people start to become comfortable with the reality of their relationship. This is when arguments and disagreements start to happen more frequently, as both partners are now more aware of each other’s flaws and shortcomings. In the previous stage, high levels of dopamine were being released, but in this stage, those levels start to decline. 6

The more evolved part of the brain, known as the ventral pallidum, becomes more active in this stage. 6 This is when people start to think more long-term and consider things like marriage and children.

When you’re in a relationship, you usually go through certain milestones that signify that your relationship is getting more serious or progressing. Here are some relationship milestones couples usually go through.

3. Stage: The conflict phase

The third stage, known as “the conflict stage” or “the power struggle stage,” is when couples start to experience more negative interactions than positive ones. This is typically the stage where people seek out counseling or therapy to help them work through their issues. The longer the relationship is, the more likely it is to have more space for negative interactions. 6

This stage will test the strength of your relationship. If you can get through this stage, chances are your relationship will come out stronger and more resilient. But if you can’t, then it might be time to call it quits.

4. Stage: The stability phase

The fourth stage, known as “the stability stage” or “the commitment stage,” is when couples have learned to accept each other’s flaws and have developed a more mature way of handling disagreements. You’ll find that the negative interactions start to decline and are replaced by more positive ones. Couples in this stage usually know how to deal with conflict in a more constructive way.

People that reach this stage in their relationship usually have a strong commitment to each other and are more likely to stay together in the long run. Because they’ve already been through the tough times, they know that they can handle anything that comes their way.

While these stages are not always linear, it’s important to remember that all relationships go through ups and downs. It’s how you deal with the negative times that will determine whether or not your relationship will be a lasting one.

4 different attachment styles and how they affect your relationship

4 different attachment styles and how they affect your relationship

You probably already know the fact that our childhood experiences shape our adult lives in many ways. But did you also know that the way you were loved (or not loved) as a child by your caregiver can also affect your current relationships?

In the 1950s, psychologist John Bowlby developed a theory of attachment that described the different ways people relate to others. The origin of the theory came from his observations of children who had been separated from their caregivers. 7 Before we go out into the world and establish relationships with other people, our first relationship is the one we have with our parents or caregivers. He believed that the establishment of a child’s first relationship with their caregiver served as a template for all future relationships.

Mary Ainsworth and her colleagues later expanded on Bowlby’s theory and developed the Strange Situation procedure, identifying three attachment styles: secure, anxious-resistant, and anxious-avoidant. 7 Main and Solomon later identified a fourth attachment style, known as disorganized-disoriented. 8

By the time you’re an adult, you’ll have amassed a wealth of experiences with your attachment figures that will shape the way you relate to others. Bowlby believed that our early attachment experiences lay the foundation for all our future relationships. 9 In addition, how you were treated by your significant others—especially during stressful times—forms your expectations, attitudes, and beliefs for how people will treat you in the future. 9

Here’s a brief overview of the four attachment styles and how they might affect your current and future relationships.

1. Secure attachment style

People with a secure attachment style feel comfortable being close to others and don’t mind asking for or receiving help. They’re also able to handle disagreements well and tend to have lasting relationships. As infants, they felt safe and secure even when their caregivers left them alone, because they knew their caregivers would always come back. 7

In adulthood, people with a secure attachment style are able to give and receive love easily. They’re also more likely to have fulfilling and satisfying relationships.

If you have a secure attachment style, you’re likely to feel confident in your relationship and trust that your partner will be there for you when you need them. You’re also likely to feel comfortable communicating your needs and working through conflicts.

People with a secure attachment style usually have positive views of themselves and their partners. They also tend to be more satisfied with their relationships and report greater levels of positive affect than insecurely attached individuals. 10 Some researchers also postulate that secure attachment may protect individuals against cognitive decline and dementia later in life. 11

2. Anxious-resistant attachment style

Individuals with an anxious-resistant attachment style want to be close to others but find it difficult to trust them. They might have a hard time being alone and may feel like their partner is never there for them when they need them. These were infants who felt upset when their caregivers left them alone, but didn’t feel better even when they were reunited. 7

As adults, people with an anxious-resistant attachment style might have a hard time trusting their partners and feel like they’re always waiting for them to leave. They might also find it difficult to be alone and may constantly seek out reassurance from their partner.

When you have an anxious-resistant attachment style, you might find yourself feeling clingy or jealous in your relationships. Because you’re afraid of being abandoned, you might have a hard time trusting your partner and feel like you’re always waiting for them to leave. Conflict resolution might also be challenging for you, as you might avoid it altogether out of fear that it will lead to your partner leaving.

Insecure attachment has also been linked to depression, specifically dysfunctional behavior. 12 This can result in lower levels of self-esteem and increased anxiety.

Building trust in your relationships and learning how to resolve conflict healthily can be resolved through a therapeutic relationship with a therapist who can help you understand your attachment style and work through these issues.

3. Anxious-avoidant attachment style

With an anxious-avoidant attachment style, individuals have a hard time being close to others and often feel like they don’t need or want help from anyone. Having difficulty trusting others and may seem distant or emotionally unavailable, these were children who didn’t seem to care whether their caregivers were there or not. 7

In relationships, anxious-avoidant individuals might have a hard time being emotionally intimate with their partners. “I don’t like commitment.” or “I don’t need anyone.” are common phrases you might hear from someone with this attachment style. While they might say they don’t need anyone, they might secretly long for closeness and feel isolated and alone.

Avoidant attachment has been associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as low self-esteem. 12 Interestingly, even though anxious-avoidant individuals may seem to have positive views of themselves and often claim to not need anyone, they might benefit the most from therapy and other forms of support.

4. Disorganized-disoriented attachment style

The disorganized-disoriented attachment style is often characterized by both avoidant and anxious behaviors. These behaviors may seem contradictory, such as wanting closeness but also pushing people away. These were infants who seemed confused and didn’t know how to respond when their caregivers left or returned. Sometimes they may even exhibit fear or aggression towards their caregiver. 8

After exhibiting disorganized attachment behaviors, these children may enter back into exhibiting behaviors of the three other categories of attachment styles: secure, anxious-avoidant, or anxious-resistant. 8

Throughout adolescence, individuals with this attachment style are characterized by an “unresolved state of mind with respect to loss or trauma”. 13 If you have this attachment style, you might feel like you don’t deserve love or support and have a hard time trusting people. When you’re in a relationship, you expect to be hurt and rejected by your partner and often find yourself feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, have been linked to disorganized and insecure attachment styles in early life. 14 It is important to keep in mind that attachment styles alone can’t determine psychopathology, as many other factors contribute to personality disorders. However, if you find yourself struggling in your relationships and feeling like you don’t understand why, counseling and therapy can be beneficial in exploring your attachment style and learning how to create healthier relationships.

What is monogamy?

What is monogamy?

A monogamous relationship is a relationship in which two people agree to be exclusive with each other, meaning they are not having romantic or sexual relations with other people. Defined as the sexual and emotional exclusivity to a single romantic partner, monogamy is often viewed as the most optimal type of relationship, and it comes with several social, financial, and legal perks. 15 16

In the US, a huge majority of heterosexual adults in committed relationships are monogamous, with one study having 99% of its participants married and 94% of cohabiting heterosexual respondents expected sexual exclusivity for themselves and their partners. 17

Monogamy is usually assumed when two people are in a relationship, but it’s not always the case. There are different types of monogamous relationships. Some couples may be more casual about their monogamy and have an agreement that they will only be exclusive with each other when time and circumstances permit, while others may have a more rigid understanding of monogamy and only engage in sexual and romantic activity with each other.

There are five types of monogamy that serve different purposes and can be practiced at different stages of a relationship. If you’re wondering if your relationship is monogamous, or if you’re considering entering into a monogamous relationship, it can be helpful to know which type you’re comfortable practicing with your partner and which type you want to steer clear of.

Other forms of monogamous relationships include platonic, queerplatonic, and long-distance relationships. Casual relationships may eventually move into more serious, committed ones, or they may remain casual throughout.

The five monogamies

There are many different types of monogamy, but they all have one thing in common: a commitment to one person. While some people may think that there is only one type of monogamy, that is not the case.

Each of the five monogamy types has its own unique set of benefits and characteristics. So, which type of monogamy is right for you? Read on to find out!

1. Physical monogamy

When people think of monogamy, they often think of physical monogamy first. Physical monogamy is when two people agree to only have physical relations with each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean just being intimate with each other, as physical monogamy can also manifest in other forms of physical affection, such as kissing and hugging.

In general, even non-sexual forms of romantic physical affection, including backrubs/massages, caressing/stroking, cuddling/holding, holding hands, hugging, kissing on the face, and kissing on the lips have been shown to increase satisfaction in relationships and your partner, improve psychological intimacy and conflict resolution, promote the development of attachment bonds, and make both partners feel understood. 18

There should be no guilt whether or not you choose to be physically intimate with your partner. Do what makes you comfortable, and make sure your needs are being communicated to your partner.

2. Emotional monogamy

When you’re in an emotional monogamous relationship, you and your partner share a deep connection. Many individuals, especially women, consider emotional accessibility as a crucial factor in maintaining a romantic relationship. 19 This includes spending time talking, sharing interests, feelings, and moments of vulnerability, being supportive, and more.

Emotional monogamy can be just as fulfilling as physical monogamy or other forms of monogamy, and emotionally secure relationships can provide a solid foundation for an individual’s health and psychological well-being. 20 Even if you’re not physically monogamous, being emotionally monogamous with your partner can still provide many benefits. Improved psychological well‐being, more positive affect, greater marital satisfaction, more positive mood, and fewer depressive symptoms are among the benefits associated with emotional monogamy. 21

If you’re considering an emotional monogamous relationship, it’s important to make sure that you and your partner are on the same page about what that means for both of you. Discussing things like how often you’ll check in with each other, what you’ll share with each other, and how much time you’ll spend together can help set expectations and ensure that both partners are getting what they need from the relationship.

3. Social monogamy

As the name suggests, social monogamy is when a couple remains committed to each other in a social sense. This can involve things like going to events together, sharing friends, or showing public displays of affection. While social monogamy doesn’t necessarily mean that a couple is physically or emotionally exclusive, it’s often assumed or a precursor to other forms of monogamy.

Individuals may engage solely in social monogamy for various reasons. For instance, monogamous couples who are married are introduced inside a network of social relations, which serves as protection against social isolation. 22 Social monogamous people also enjoy more emotional support, social and economic resources, which can provide valuable benefits. This results in a reduced risk of depression and anxiety, as well as increased relationship satisfaction and stability. 22

If you and your partner are interested in social monogamy, being open and honest about your needs and expectations is key. Topics like which events you’ll attend together, how you’ll introduce each other to friends, and your level of comfort in showing affection in public can help create an environment of mutual understanding and respect.

4. Activity monogamy

Have you and your partner ever shared a hobby or interest? Went hiking together or joined a cooking class? If so, you’ve engaged in activity monogamy.

Activity monogamy is when a couple enjoys doing the same activities together. This can be anything from going to the gym to playing video games. Doing things together helps couples bond and can increase relationship satisfaction and well-being. 23

Like other forms of monogamy, opening up about your needs and expectations is essential for activity monogamy to work. If you’re interested in pursuing this type of relationship, talk to your partner about which activities you’re interested in doing together and how often you’ll do them. You might also want to discuss any boundaries, like if there are activities you don’t want to do with your partner or if there are activities you’d like to do on your own.

5. Financial monogamy

Financial monogamy is when a couple shares their finances. This can involve things like opening a joint bank account, pooling money, or sharing expenses. Throughout history, financial monogamy has been performed to preserve wealth, pool resources, or for religious reasons. 24

Financial monogamy can provide couples with a greater sense of financial stability and security. It can also help couples make joint financial decisions and plan for their future. If you’re interested in pursuing financial monogamy, talk to your partner about your finances and what you’re comfortable sharing. You might also want to consider consulting with a financial expert to help you make the best decisions for your situation.

While there are many different types of monogamy, these are some of the most common. If you’re interested in pursuing a monogamous relationship, be sure to talk to your partner about your needs and expectations. Creating a space where you can openly communicate about your relationship can help you create a happy and healthy partnership.

Monogamous vs. non-monogamous relationships

Monogamous vs. non-monogamous relationships

When it comes to relationships, there are often a lot of misconceptions. One of the most common is that all relationships are monogamous. While monogamy is certainly one popular type of relationship, it’s not the only option. 25

Non-monogamous relationships have become more popular in recent years, and it can be very different from what we typically see in the media. 26 Non-monogamous relationships, also known as consensually non-monogamous or CNM relationships, involve partners explicitly agreeing that they, or their partners, can have other sexual or romantic relationships. 27 This is different from monogamy, where partners agree to be exclusive with each other. Consensual non-monogamy is also different from infidelity, which is when one partner breaks the agreement to be exclusive. 28

Contrary to monogamous relationships, CNM relationships are often highly stigmatized and seen as less stable or committed. 29 But, according to research, consensually non-monogamous relationships can actually be just as happy and stable as monogamous ones. 30

CNM relationships come in many different forms, and there is no one right way to do it. If you’re interested in exploring a CNM relationship, the most important thing is, to be honest with your partner and communicate openly about your needs and expectations. With a little bit of effort, you can create a happy and healthy non-monogamous relationship.

How to know if you’re in a toxic relationship

How to know if you're in a toxic relationship

Toxic relationships are no new phenomenon. In fact, it seems like we hear about them all the time in the news, in books, and even from friends and family members. Toxic relationships are so prevalent that an average of 80 percent of Americans reported experiencing emotional abuse, and 84 percent of women and 75 percent of men say they have a toxic person in their life. 31 32

But what exactly is a toxic relationship? And how can you tell if you’re in one?

Mental Health America outlines eight characteristics or behaviors of a toxic person, which include manipulation, making you feel bad about yourself, being judgmental, negativity, passive aggression, self-centeredness, anger issues, and controlling behaviors. 33

These toxic characteristics can manifest in different types of relationships, but some of the most common ones are one-sided relationships, codependent relationships, love-hate relationships, rebound relationships, and on-and-off relationships. To help you better understand these different types of toxic relationships, we’ve outlined each one below so you know when to walk away.

1. One-sided relationship

A one-sided relationship is exactly what it sounds like: a relationship where only one person is invested. These relationships are often characterized by an imbalance of power, with one person feeling like they’re always giving and the other always taking.

This type of relationship often involves another party with a somewhat narcissistic personality. The other party will frequently be left asking themselves, “When will it ever be about me?” 34 In some cases, the one-sided relationship can be salvageable if both parties are willing to work on it. But in other cases, it’s best to walk away.

One-sided relationships can be damaging because they can leave you feeling used, unimportant, and neglected. If you find yourself in a one-sided relationship, it’s important to communicate your needs to your partner. Narcissists often gaslight their partners and make them feel like they’re the ones who are being unreasonable, so it’s important to be firm in your communication. 34

If your partner refuses to meet your needs or continues to take advantage of you, it might be time to walk away from the relationship.

2. Codependent relationship

A codependent relationship is one where both parties are excessively needy and dependent on each other. These relationships are often marked by a lack of trust, communication problems, and a general feeling of being trapped. The concept of a codependent relationship was first introduced in the US in the 1940s, influenced by the Alcoholics Anonymous movement. The idea was that people who were close to the substance abuser, such as their family or friends, were also “sick” and in need of help. 35

Codependent relationships are often one-sided, with one person being more needy and dependent than the other. This can lead to the codependent person feeling like they’re always giving and the other person always taking. The codependent person might also feel like they can’t live without the other person, which can lead to them making sacrifices that are unhealthy or unreasonable.

Individuals who are in codependent relationships often find codependency as something “so real that it feels tangible and concrete, like an illness or an underlying addiction problem.” These individuals also report feeling locked in their passive and subservient roles, unable to break free from their partner’s demands and expectations. 36

When you’re in a codependent relationship, it’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for your partner’s happiness. You can’t control their behavior or make them change. The only person you can change is yourself. If you’re in a codependent relationship, it’s important to seek professional help so you can learn how to break free from the unhealthy patterns of codependency.

3. Love-hate relationship

A love-hate relationship is one that’s characterized by, you guessed it, a lot of love and a lot of hate. Hate has always been seen as an imitation of love, and also a type of relationship with others and oneself. 37 Love-hate relationships are often passionate and intense, but they can also be volatile and dangerous.

When it comes to these relationships, a lot of fighting and arguing is often followed by periods of making up. In a 2017 experiment, researchers found that participants most hated the person they loved the most previously. 38 The love-hate relationship is often one-sided, with one person being more in love than the other. This can lead to feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and possessiveness.

Love-hate relationships can be toxic and dangerous. Previous studies have shown a positive relationship between romantic love and jealousy — the more you love a person, the more sensitive you become when encountering threats to the relationship. 39 This results in a heightened sense of protectiveness, which can quickly turn into possessiveness and controlling behavior.

4. Rebound relationship

A rebound relationship is one that’s started shortly after the end of a previous relationship. It’s often seen as a way to cope with the pain of a breakup, and it can provide some degree of comfort and distraction. Rebound relationships are usually short-lived, and they often involve one or both partners not being completely over their previous relationship. People who were dumped in their last relationship are more likely to start a rebound relationship than those who were the ones doing the dumping. 40

Rebound relationships often involve a lot of intensity and drama. This is because people in rebound relationships are often trying to re-create the passionate, romantic feeling they had in their previous relationship. They also use physical intimacy as a way to repair or boost their self-esteem. 40

5. On-and-off relationship

An on-and-off relationship is one that keeps going back and forth between being together and being broken up. Couples will often go through the same cycle of breaking up and rekindling their relationship over and over again. A recent study found that on-and-off relationships are more common than you might think — about 60 percent of young adult respondents experienced being in relationships that broke up and renewed at least once. 41

On-and-off relationships have huge differences from relationships that have never broken up or have permanently ended. For one, on-and-off partners have more history and know each other better, which can make it harder to let go when the relationship ends. Additionally, on-and-off relationships tend to also have more negative aspects of the relationship than a relationship that’s never been through a breakup. 42

Partners renewing an on-again, off-again relationship often do so because of various reasons. Some of these include perceived continued attachment, communicating more effectively, increased intimacy, and dissatisfaction with other potential partners. 43 This can lead to a vicious cycle where the couple keeps breaking up and getting back together because they can’t seem to let go of each other.

On-and-off relationships can be emotionally draining and taxing on both partners. The constant breaking up and making up takes a toll on both partners’ self-esteem and can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and depression.

Frequently asked questions about romantic relationships

Frequently asked questions about romantic relationships

1. How many dates before your relationship is official?

This is entirely dependent on the couple in question and their comfort levels. Some couples might follow the 10-date rule, where you go on at least ten dates before making the relationship official. Others might wait until they’re exclusive to each other before making it official. There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s all about what works for you and your partner.

Spending time with your significant other is important in any relationship, but especially in the early stages. Planning dates, in particular, have been shown to make relationships more exciting and satisfying than spontaneous get-togethers. 44 Take some time with your partner to come up with creative date ideas that you’ll both enjoy.

Making your relationship official is a big step, so take your time and make sure you’re both on the same page before taking that next step. If you’re wondering how to know if you’re in a relationship or just dating, the best way is to ask your partner. They’ll be able to give you a clear answer on where the two of you stand.

2. What is chemistry in a relationship?

Chemistry in a relationship refers to the physical and/or emotional attraction between two people. This can manifest itself in many ways, such as butterflies in your stomach, wanting to spend all your time with that person, or feeling a strong physical connection. In the brain, chemistry is associated with the neural activity for reward and motivation, emotions, sexual desire and arousal, and social cognition. This also includes endocrine activity with the sex hormones, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, cortisol, and the nerve growth factor that make you feel those intense emotions. 45

When you have chemistry with someone, it’s hard to deny. Good chemistry is often the starting point for a great relationship. If you’re wondering if you have chemistry with someone, the best way to find out is to spend time with them and see how you feel. Do you enjoy their company? Do you feel a strong connection to them? If the answer is yes, then you probably have chemistry with them.

It’s important to note, however, that chemistry alone isn’t enough to sustain a long-term relationship. While it’s a good starting point, you’ll need other things like trust, communication, and mutual respect to keep the relationship going strong.

3. What is romance in a relationship?

Romance is the language of love. It’s what keeps the spark alive in a relationship and makes couples feel connected to each other. Romance can manifest itself in many ways, such as flowers, compliments, candlelit dinners, or even just a simple “I love you.”

As such, your partner may express their love in different ways than you do. The rise of the concept of the five love languages has helped people to understand that there are different ways to express and receive love. Chaplan’s Five Love Languages (FLL) scale has been validated and recognized as a useful tool in romantic relationships. 46 The five love languages are: words of affirmation: compliments, praise, or kind words; quality time: undivided attention, such as conversations or dates; receiving gifts: physical tokens of love, such as flowers or jewelry; acts of service: doing things to help, such as making dinner or doing laundry; and physical touch: any type of physical contact, such as hugging or kissing.

If you’re curious about what love language you and your partner speak, there are online quizzes you can take to find out. Once you know each other’s love language, you can express your love in a way that will be most meaningful to your partner.

4. What is a long term relationship?

A long-term relationship is any form of relationship that can span years or even decades. It’s based on a foundation of trust, communication, and mutual respect. Maintaining a long-term relationship requires work and commitment from all partners involved, but it can be incredibly rewarding.

Long-term relationships are often synonymous with marriages, but they don’t have to be. 47 You can be in a long-term relationship with anyone - a family member, friend, or romantic partner. If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and to make time for each other.

People in long-term romantic relationships experience all the ups and downs of any relationship, but they also have a unique set of benefits. Long-term romantic partners report more satisfying and loving physical intimacy, and emotional closeness than those in shorter relationships. 48 49

5. What is a serious relationship?

A serious relationship is often the term used to describe a relationship that is headed towards marriage or long-term commitment. It’s usually characterized by having “serious” conversations about things like finances, the future, and children.

Also called “committed” relationships, serious relationships usually involve a high level of commitment from both partners. Being committed to one another usually means that both partners are exclusive to each other and are not seeing or dating anyone else. This also entails that individuals in these relationships promote actions that serve the best interest of the couple, rather than serving their self-interest. 50

A serious relationship is not necessarily the same thing as a long-term relationship, although they often go hand-in-hand. A serious relationship can be shorter-term, lasting anywhere from a few months to a few years. The important thing is that both partners are committed to working on the relationship and are serious about where it’s headed.

6. What is considered a long distance relationship?

A long-distance relationship is any relationship where the partners are physically separated by a significant distance. This can be anything from a few hundred miles to several thousand. In mainly European literature, the term LAT or living apart together is used to describe unmarried couples who have an intimate relationship but do not live together. 51 They’re also called long-distance dating relationships or LDDRs.

Long-distance relationships are often viewed to be more challenging than regular relationships, as they require extra effort to maintain communication and intimacy. However, multiple studies have established that long-distance relationships can also have unique benefits, with some even suggesting that they can be more stable and satisfying than regular relationships. 52

Individuals in long-distance relationships often report more love for their partner, higher levels of communication and intimacy, as well as greater relationship satisfaction overall. 52 So if you’re in a long-distance relationship, don’t despair - there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it can be a successful and fulfilling relationship.

7. What is a relationship status?

A relationship status is the designation of a person’s relationship with another person or persons. It’s usually used in reference to romantic relationships, but it can also apply to other types of relationships.

The most common relationship statuses are “single,” “in a relationship,” “married,” and “divorced.” There are also many other possible statuses, such as “complicated,” “it’s complicated,” “separated,” “widowed,” and so on.

The term “relationship status” is most often used in romantic relationships, but it can also apply to other types of relationships, such as platonic friendships and parental relationships. Historically, relationship status has been deemed an influential moderator of social affect regulation. 53

8. What is first base in a relationship?

There’s no one answer to this question, as the meaning of “first base” can vary depending on who you ask. In general, though, “first base” is often used to refer to the first stage of a romantic relationship, when both partners are getting to know each other and starting to become more intimate.

In some cases, “first base” can simply refer to kissing or other forms of physical affection. In Mark Knapp’s model based on the Social Penetration Theory, the first stage - the Initiating stage - contact is made and both partners are getting to know each other. 54

So, in a sense, “first base” can be seen as the first stage of intimacy in a relationship. It’s a time when both partners are learning about each other and starting to build a deeper connection.

9. What is second base in a relationship?

Again, there’s no one answer to this question, as the meaning of “second base” can vary depending on who you ask. If we’re using Knapp’s model based on the Social Penetration Theory, the second stage - the Experimenting stage - is when both partners are exploring each other and testing the limits of their relationship. 54

In this stage, partners are starting to reveal more about themselves to each other and trying out new things. They’re also starting to make commitments to each other and establish a more serious relationship.

So, “second base” can be seen as the second stage of intimacy in a relationship. It’s a time when both partners are getting to know each other more deeply and starting to make a more serious commitment to each other.

In some cases, the “second base” of the relationship may include more physical intimacy, such as touching and exploring each other’s bodies. It’s important to communicate with your partner about what each of you considers to be the first base in your relationship.

10. What is third base in a relationship?

The “third base” in a relationship is often seen as the stage when things start to get more serious. In Knapp’s model, this would be the Intensifying stage, when both partners are deepening their commitment to each other and starting to make plans together. 54

In this stage, partners usually move on from the “friends” stage and start to consider each other as potential partners. 54 They may start to talk about things like marriage and children, and they may also start to get more physically intimate with each other.

When people talk about “third base,” they usually mean one of two things: either they’re referring to the third stage of intimacy in a relationship, or they’re referring to more physical intimacy, such as sexual activity.

Both interpretations are correct, as “third base” can mean different things to different people. If your partner is ready to move on to the Intensifying stage of your relationship, then you may start talking about more serious things together. If you’re both ready for more physical intimacy, then this third stage may mean becoming more sexually active together.

No matter what “third base” means to you, it’s important to communicate with your partner and make sure that you’re both on the same page. Only do what feels comfortable for both of you, and take things at a pace that you’re both comfortable with.

11. What is fourth base in a relationship?

Generally, the bases of a relationship end with the third base, so the fourth base can simply refer to anything beyond that. In Knapp’s model, this would be the Integrating stage, when both partners have fully deviated from being friends and are now in a committed relationship. 54 This is followed by the last stage, known as the Bonding stage.

In this final stage, a high level of trust, intimacy, and empathy has been established between both partners. 54 They may start to talk about things like moving in together or getting married, and they may also start to plan for a future together.

The fourth base in a relationship can simply refer to anything beyond the third base. It can mean different things to different people, but generally, it refers to the last stage of a relationship, when both partners are fully committed to each other.

12. What is commitment in a relationship?

Commitment is a key part of any relationship. Defined as the intention to maintain a relationship over time, it is a decision that partners in a relationship make to stick together and work through the challenges that come up. 55 In the commitment model by Stanley and Markman, two key dynamics involved in a commitment are dedication and constraint. 55

In order to be truly committed to each other, all partners involved need to be equally invested in the relationship and have a shared goal of staying together. This means that they’re both willing to put in the work to make things work, even when times are tough.

Additionally, both partners need to feel like they have some degree of control over the relationship. They should feel like they’re able to freely express themselves and their needs, without feeling like they’re being controlled by the other person.

13. What is normal in a relationship?

Every relationship is different, so there’s no definite answer to this question. What’s normal for one couple may be completely different for another, and that’s okay!

However, in general, healthy relationships tend to have a few things in common. For example, partners in a healthy relationship usually have mutual respect for each other. They’re able to communicate openly and honestly with each other, and they’re able to resolve conflict in a constructive way.

Additionally, healthy relationships tend to be supportive and positive. Partners in a healthy relationship should feel like they can rely on each other for both the good and bad times. They should also feel like they can be themselves around each other, without feeling judged or misunderstood.

Individuals in healthy relationships also tend to have a lower risk for depression than those who were in poor relationships or lack social support. 56

14. What are the most common relationship sleeping positions?

There are a few different ways that couples tend to sleep together, and each one has its benefits. In general, sleeping in pairs can have a significant effect on sleep quality, and it can also help to improve relationships. 57

One of the most popular sleeping positions for couples is the spooning position. In this position, one partner spoon-feeds the other from behind, and it’s a great way to feel close and connected to your partner.

Another popular option is the side-by-side position, where both partners lie on their sides facing each other. This position is great for couples who want to be able to talk and cuddle with each other, as it’s easy to stay close while in this position.

There are also a few less common positions that couples sometimes sleep in, such as the back-to-back position or the starfish position. If you want to know more about various relationship sleeping positions and what they say about your relationship, check this out!

  1. Carter, C. S., & Porges, S. W. (2013). The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis. EMBO reports, 14(1), 12–16. ↩︎

  2. Collins, W.A. (2003), More than Myth: The Developmental Significance of Romantic Relationships During Adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13: 1-24. ↩︎

  3. Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2008). Intimate relationship development during the transition to adulthood: differences by social class. New directions for child and adolescent development, (119), 25–39. ↩︎

  4. Arnett, J. J., Žukauskienė, R., & Sugimura, K. (2014). The new life stage of emerging adulthood at ages 18-29 years: implications for mental health. The lancet. Psychiatry, 1(7), 569–576. ↩︎

  5. Edwards S. Love and the brain. On the Brain: The Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute Letter. ↩︎

  6. Fisher, H. E., Aron, A., & Brown, L. L. (2006). Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 361(1476), 2173–2186. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  7. Feist, J., Feist, G., & Roberts, T. (2017). Theories of Personality (9th ed.). McGraw Hill. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  8. Duschinsky, R. (2015). The emergence of the disorganized/disoriented (D) attachment classification, 1979–1982.History of Psychology, 18(1), 32–46. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  9. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. Basic Books; New York. ↩︎ ↩︎

  10. Torquati, J. C., & Raffaelli, M. (2004). Daily Experiences of Emotions and Social Contexts of Securely and Insecurely Attached Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19(6), 740–758. ↩︎

  11. Walsh, E., Blake, Y., Donati, A., Stoop, R., & von Gunten, A. (2019). Early Secure Attachment as a Protective Factor Against Later Cognitive Decline and Dementia. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 11, 161. ↩︎

  12. Lee, A., & Hankin, B. L. (2009). Insecure attachment, dysfunctional attitudes, and low self-esteem predicting prospective symptoms of depression and anxiety during adolescence. Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology : the official journal for the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, American Psychological Association, Division 53, 38(2), 219–231. ↩︎ ↩︎

  13. Beeney, J. E., Wright, A., Stepp, S. D., Hallquist, M. N., Lazarus, S. A., Beeney, J., Scott, L. N., & Pilkonis, P. A. (2017). Disorganized attachment and personality functioning in adults: A latent class analysis. Personality disorders, 8(3), 206–216. ↩︎

  14. Westen, D., Nakash, O., Thomas, C., & Bradley, R. (2006). Clinical assessment of attachment patterns and personality disorder in adolescents and adults. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 74(6), 1065–1085. ↩︎

  15. Anderson, E. (2010). “At least with cheating there is an attempt at monogamy”: Cheating and monogamism among undergraduate heterosexual men. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 851–872. ↩︎

  16. Conley, T. D., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., & Ziegler, A. (2013). The fewer the merrier? Assessing stigma surrounding consensually non-monogamous romantic relationships. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13, 1–30. ↩︎

  17. Treas, J., & Giesen, D. (2000). Sexual infidelity among married and cohabiting Americans. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 48–60. ↩︎

  18. Gulledge, A. K., Stahmann, R. F., & Wilson, C. M. (2004). Seven types of nonsexual romantic physical affection among Brigham young university students. Psychological reports, 95(2), 609–614. ↩︎

  19. Wade, T. J., & Mogilski, J. (2018). Emotional Accessibility Is More Important Than Sexual Accessibility in Evaluating Romantic Relationships - Especially for Women: A Conjoint Analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 632. ↩︎

  20. Mikulincer, M., & Shaver, P. R. (2016). Attachment in adulthood: Structure, dynamics, and change (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press. ↩︎

  21. Karreman, A., & Vingerhoets, A. J. J. M. (2012). Attachment and well‐ being: The mediating role of emotion regulation and resilience. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 821–826. ↩︎

  22. DeMaris A. (2018). Marriage Advantage in Subjective Well-Being: Causal Effect or Unmeasured Heterogeneity?. Marriage & family review, 54(4), 335–350. ↩︎ ↩︎

  23. Flood, S. M., & Genadek, K. R. (2016). Time for each other: Work and family constraints among couples: Time for each other. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78, 142-164. ↩︎

  24. Offen, K. (n.d.). A Brief History of Marriage | International Museum of Women. ↩︎

  25. Henrich, J., Boyd, R., & Richerson, P. J. (2012). The puzzle of monogamous marriage. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Series B: Biological Sciences, 367, 657–669. ↩︎

  26. Moors, A. C. (2016). Has the American public’s interest in information related to relationships beyond “the couple” increased over time? Journal of Sex Research, 54, 677–684. ↩︎

  27. Conley, T. D., Ziegler, A., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J, Valentine, B. (2012). A critical examination of popular assumptions about the benefits and outcomes of monogamous relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2, 124–141. ↩︎

  28. Haseli, A., Shariati, M., Nazari, A. M., Keramat, A., & Emamian, M. H. (2019). Infidelity and Its Associated Factors: A Systematic Review. The journal of sexual medicine, 16(8), 1155–1169. ↩︎

  29. Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., Ziegler, A., Rubin, J. D., & Conley, T. D. (2013). Stigma toward individuals engaged in consensual nonmonogamy: Robust and worthy of additional research. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13(1), 52-69. ↩︎

  30. Wood, J., Desmarais, S., Burleigh, T., & Milhausen, R. R. (2018). Reasons for sex and relational outcomes in consensually non-monogamous and monogamous relationships: A self-determination theory approach. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(18), 632–654. ↩︎

  31. Carney, M.M., Barner, J.R. (2012). Prevalence of partner abuse: Rates of emotional abuse and control. Partner Abuse, 3(3), 286–335. ↩︎

  32. Mapes, B. D. (2011, August 22). Toxic friends? 8 in 10 people endure poisonous pals. TODAY.Com. ↩︎

  33. Eliminating Toxic Influences. (n.d.). Mental Health America. ↩︎

  34. Cavaiola, A., & Lavender, N. (2011). The One-Way Relationship Workbook: Step-by-Step Help for Coping With Narcissists, Egotistical Lovers, Toxic Coworkers, and Others Who Are Incredibly Self-Absorbed (A New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook) (Csm ed.). New Harbinger Publications. ↩︎ ↩︎

  35. O’Brien, P. E., & Gaborit, M. (1992). Codependency: a disorder separate from chemical dependency. Journal Clinical Psychology, 48(1), 129. ↩︎

  36. Bacon, I., McKay, E., Reynolds, F., & McIntyre, A. (2018). The Lived Experience of Codependency: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 18(3), 754–771. ↩︎

  37. Alford, C. F., & Sternberg, R. J. (2005). The Psychology of Hate. ↩︎

  38. Jin, W., Xiang, Y., & Lei, M. (2017). The Deeper the Love, the Deeper the Hate. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1940. ↩︎

  39. Orosz, G., Szekeres, D., Kiss, Z. G., Farkas, P., & Roland-LéVy, C. (2015). Elevated romantic love and jealousy if relationship status is declared on Facebook. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. ↩︎

  40. Barber, L. L., & Cooper, M. L. (2014). Rebound sex: Sexual motives and behaviors following a relationship breakup. Archives of sexual behavior, 43(2), 251–265. ↩︎ ↩︎

  41. Dailey, R. M., Pfiester, A., Jin, B., Beck, G., & Clark, G. (2009). On-again/off-again dating relationships: How are they different from other dating relationships? Personal Relationships, 16, 23–47. ↩︎

  42. Dailey, R. M., Hampel, A. D., & Roberts. J. (2010). Relational maintenance in onagain/off-again relationships: An assessment of how relational maintenance, uncertainty, and relational quality vary by relationship type and status. Communication Monographs, 77, 75–101. ↩︎

  43. Dailey, R. M., Rossetto, K., Pfiester, R. A., & Surra, C. A. (2009). A qualitative analysis of on-again/off-again romantic relationships: “It’s up and down, all around.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 26, 443–466. ↩︎

  44. Harasymchuk, C., Walker, D. L., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Planning date nights that promote closeness: The roles of relationship goals and self-expansion. Journal of social and personal relationships, 38(5), 1692–1709. ↩︎

  45. Tinbergen, N. (2010). On aims and methods of Ethology. Zeitschrift Für Tierpsychologie, 20(4), 410–433. ↩︎

  46. Surijah, E. A., & Septiarly, Y. L. (2016). Construct Validation of Five Love Languages. ANIMA Indonesian Psychological Journal, 31(2), 65–76. ↩︎

  47. Fletcher, G. J. O., Tither, J. M., O’Loughlin, C., Friesen, M., & Overall, N. (2004). Warm and homely or cold and beautiful? Sex differences in trading off traits in mate selection. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 659 – 672. ↩︎

  48. Higgins, J. A., Trussell, J., Moore, N. B., & Davidson, J. K. (2010). Virginity lost, satisfaction gained? Physiological and psychological sexual satisfaction at heterosexual debut. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 384 –394. ↩︎

  49. Jonason, P. K., Li, N., & Richardson, J. (2010). Positioning the booty-call relationship on the spectrum of relationships: Sexual but more emotional than one-nightstands. Journal of Sex Research, 47, 1–10. ↩︎

  50. Stanley, S. M., Rhoades, G. K., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). Commitment: Functions, Formation, and the Securing of Romantic Attachment. Journal of family theory & review, 2(4), 243–257. ↩︎

  51. Duncan, S., & Phillips, M. (2010). People Who Live Apart Together (LATs) – How Different are They? The Sociological Review, 58(1), 112–134. ↩︎

  52. Stafford, L., & Merolla, A. J. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24(1), 37. ↩︎ ↩︎

  53. Coan, J. A., Beckes, L., Gonzalez, M. Z., Maresh, E. L., Brown, C. L., & Hasselmo, K. (2017). Relationship status and perceived support in the social regulation of neural responses to threat. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(10), 1574–1583. ↩︎

  54. Welch, S., & Rubin, R. B. (2002). Development of relationship stage measures. Communication Quarterly, 50(1), 24–40. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎

  55. Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (1992). Assessing Commitment in Personal Relationships. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54(3), 595. ↩︎ ↩︎

  56. Teo, A. R., Choi, H., & Valenstein, M. (2013). Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLoS ONE, 8(4), e62396. ↩︎

  57. Spiegelhalder, K., Regen, W., Siemon, F., Kyle, S. D., Baglioni, C., Feige, B., Nissen, C., & Riemann, D. (2017). Your Place or Mine? Does the Sleep Location Matter in Young Couples?. Behavioral sleep medicine, 15(2), 87–96. ↩︎

Author picture of Janet Smith
Dating Expert

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a freelance writer who writes about psychology, relationships, and dating. She has always been interested in understanding the human brain and how it affects our …

Read full bio

Get the official app 😍

PumPum® app icon


For iPhone & Android
Browse all articles