Relationship diversity
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What is meant by relationship diversity?

The term ‘relationship’ covers an array of different connections we may have with different people. Most often, when we talk about our relationships, we are referring to our romantic relationships. This page will be considering diversity in romantic relationships.

Our romantic relationships differ depending on a variety of different factors. Knowledge about relationship diversity is an important part of knowing ourselves better and having fulfilling relationships. 

Being in more diverse romantic relationship (i.e. a romantic relationship that is not cisgendered, heterosexual and/or monogamous) can bring up challenges for people, as a lack of representation, general knowledge and well-informed support can be an isolating experience.

Diversity in relationships

There are a variety of factors that can bring unique obstacles within relationships, such as blended families, inter-racial couples, long distance, or disabilities. Gender, sexuality and our type of relationship are also included. The societal ‘norm’ of a romantic relationship tends to be indicated as cisgendered, heterosexual and monogamous. 

  • Cisgendered - someone who feels that they are the same gender (= sex) as the physical body they were born with

  • Heterosexual/straight - people who are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex

  • Monogamous - a sexual relationship or marriage with one person at a time

However, what is largely depicted as the ‘norm’ is not always the case. Whilst it is difficult to estimate how many transgender or non-binary individuals are living in the UK, due to past censuses not providing an option, Stonewall estimate around 600,000 people in the UK identify as trans or non-binary. 

In terms of sexuality the UK’s ONS revealed 6.4% of the population did not identify as heterosexual.and according to a study from 2016 1 in 5 Americans have been or are involved with a type of consensual non-monogamy. Support and knowledge surrounding relationship diversity is important and what Welldoing.org aims to offer. 

How might you or your partner identify?

Gender identity 

  • He/him

  • She/her

  • They/them

  • He/Them

  • She/them

Our pronouns can be an important part of our identity and whether you identify as one specific gender or not, our gender identity does not define how we may wish to express ourselves. For example, someone who is non-binary may wish to express themselves in a feminine way, even if they do not use she/her pronouns. 

Our gender identity and expression is unique to us, but can be confusing at times. Talking through feelings with a counsellor can greatly help alleviate any confusion and inner tension you may be experiencing, perhaps due to your family environment or upbringing. 

Sexuality 

Our sexuality is unique, and as our knowledge around sexuality widens, so does our awareness of different sexual preferences. Someone’s sexuality can change throughout their life, or not at all – it is personal to each individual. 

Some prefer not to label their sexuality, whilst others may find it helpful as it can be a way to describe and understand their preferences. Sexual orientations that are not as well-known but are just as relevant and shared by many people are asexuality and demisexuality.

  • Asexual - someone who does not have a sex drive and is not interested in sex or sexual acitivties

  • Demisexual - someone who requires an emotional connection with another person in order to potentially be sexually attracted or sexually interested

Acknowledgement about these sexual orientations can provide feelings of acceptance instead of abnormality, just as knowledge surrounding those of us who identify as gay, bisexual or pansexual helps us to educate ourselves and those around us. 

Relationships 

In terms of relationships, the traditional monogamous relationship can face non-consensual non-monogamy in the form of infidelity. According to research, 15-20% of married couples in America have cheated on their partner, with the data not including non-marital relationships. 

For some, monogamy is how they wish to build a relationship and for many this works. However, consensual non-monogamy can also work. There are a variety of different terms associated with non-monogamy including:

  • Polyamory - where three or more individuals are engaged within a relationship. This involves a sexual, romantic and/or emotional connection.

  • Open relationship - a relationship where one or both individuals engage in sexual activity with another/other individual/s and both people in the relationships are aware

  • Swinging - a form of social sex, where couples engage in consensual sexual activity with other couples

A benefit of consensual and ethical non-monogamous relationships, is that clear communication is vital in order for understanding and acceptance between activity or relationships that occur outside of a couple. This way, a couple become in tune and aware of each other’s feelings and desires in a healthy way where boundaries remain respected. 

Can counselling help?

However we identify or wish to engage within a relationship/s, counselling can be a brilliant way to start clear communication between ourselves and a partner, or people close to us. Whether you are wishing to explore new ways of connection or are wanting a safe space to discuss your sexuality, counselling can be incredibly beneficial.

Finding a counsellor who has experience and knowledge within the diversities of relationships can be helpful so you don’t feel as though you have to explain yourself. A counsellor who specialises within relationships can also be a guide for you individually or as a couple, helping to answer any questions you may have. 

Find a therapist who specialises in relationship diversity here



References

  1. Dictionary.cambridge.org. (2021) [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2021]. 

  1. Stonewall (2021) The truth about trans. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2021]. 

  1. Ons.gov.uk (2021) Sexual orientation, UK - Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2021]. 

  1. Time (2021) What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships, According to Experts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2021].

  1. LGBTA Wiki (2021) Demisexual. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 October 2021]. 

  1. Divorce.lovetoknow.com (2021) [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 October 2021]. 

  1. Poly Coach (2021) The Difference Between Open Relationships, Polyamory and Swinging. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 October 2021].


Last updated 7 April 2022


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