It’s common to hear the term “relationship” used so often that people assume it has a single definition. The truth is that the word “relationship” encompasses many types of human connections, both romantic and nonromantic. No two people probably have the same definition of what makes a relationship. Here’s a quick guide to the basics.

What is a relationship?

A relationship can be any connection or association between people, whether intimate, spiritual or positive. When people refer to “being in relationship, ” they usually refer to a particular type of romantic relationship that involves both emotional and bodily intimacy, ongoing commitment, and monogamy. Monogamy is romantic and sexual exclusivity where members have no other relationships. However, romantic relationships can come in many forms: from casual dating to marriage to ethical nonmonogamy.

There are four main types of relationships: friendships, family, acquaintanceships and romantic. Work relationships, teacher/student relationships and relationships with members of the community or groups are some other examples of more complex relationships. These relationships may overlap or be inseparable. For example, close friends and colleagues can both be work colleagues. 

These are the basic types of relationships:

  • Familial relationships are also known as family members and relatives
  • Friendships
  • Acquaintances
  • Sexual relationships
  • Work and professional relationships
  • Relationships between teacher and student
  • Relationships between groups or communities

Different types of romantic relationships

People use many relationship labels to describe their relationships with others. Here are some of the most basic types of romantic relationships.


There is no consensus on the level of commitment implied by two people stating they are “dating”. Some people use the term only when they have a committed relationship, while others indicate that they are just exploring the possibility of a relationship.

Committed relation

When referring to couples, “in a relation” often refers to being in a long-term, committed romantic relationship. A committed relationship is when two or more people agree that they will continue to be in a relationship for the future. The two of them agree to continue spending time together, working on their relationship, and continuing nurturing their relationship. People in committed relationships might use identifiers such as boyfriend or girl to signify their commitment to another person.

Traditional monogamous relationships mean that a couple is romantically and sexually exclusive. This means they will not have other romantic or sexual partners. Exclusiveness is not required in non-monogamous relationships.

One form of a committed relationship is marriage. It’s when a couple publicly swears to be together and forms a legally binding union.

Casual relation

A casual relationship is one in which two or more people are dating and spend time together. They may also engage in sexual or romantic activities, but there is no expectation that the relationship will last. These relationships are more temporary and may not last for long.

Casual relationships are often characterized by a strong attraction and a mutual liking for one another. However, there may not be a deep emotional connection or desire to strengthen the relationship. People in casual relationships might not see themselves as life partners as people in committed relationships. They won’t often use terms like a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner.

Casual sex

A casual sex relationship involves two or more people who spend their time together solely to have sex. They may see one another regularly for sex or just once. Although they may enjoy each other’s company, they might not be interested in a relationship. 


Situation ships are romantic relationships that have not been defined explicitly, often by omission. Although the relationship might have the same characteristics as a committed or casual relationship, the people involved have not placed labels on it. This could be because they are still trying to figure out what they want or because they don’t want to make things too complicated.

Generally speaking, situation ships usually have more emotional involvement than a friends-with-benefits scenario but not the explicit romantic feelings and commitment of a committed relationship.

According to psychology, there are 7 types of relationships

  1. Passion only: infatuation
  2. Intimacy only: friendship
  3. No love at all: commitment only
  4. Romantic love, passion and intimacy
  5. Unfaithful love: passion and commitment
  6. Companionate love – intimacy + engagement
  7. Consummate Love: Passion + Intimacy + Commitment

How to define a relationship?

Couples must communicate their desires and goals regarding dating and romantic relationships.

These are some questions you can ask one another to help define your relationship.

  • What are you looking for in a relationship? A casual, in-the-moment relationship? Perhaps something more forward-oriented? Are you unsure and want to find out now?
  • Do you want a long-term relationship with someone? Do you see the potential?
  • Do you see other people?
  • Do you feel romantic? Do we want to explore those feelings or keep it casual?
  • How often do you want to see and talk with each other?

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