In Australian society, most people are socialised that the ideal relationship has one format. You date, get engaged, get married, buy/rent a suitable home for a family, have children and live happily ever after in a monogamous relationship (exclusive sexual and emotional fulfillment from your husband/wife). This definitely was the case when the church had more involvement in people’s lives, however in the current day, relationship values have changed. For example; many now choose to be married outside of a church, with weddings conducted by a celebrant, rather than a priest. Many people experience sex prior to being married. Some people have children, before getting married, and some with no marriage in mind. Although some people follow the traditional rules of marriage, it could safely be said that a majority pick and choose different components of traditional marriage but add their personal preferences.
Even up until the 1970’s, divorce was viewed negatively by many, and now the current rate of divorce is 1 in every 3 marriages. If this rate of 1 success in every 3 marriages applied to entering agreements in any other areas of our lives, it would be analysed, legislated, and advice and warnings would be given to ‘engage at your own risk’, or even protests and maybe even health promotion initiatives in favour of the behaviour being avoided. However people still enter into marriage with the view or hope that their union is different and they will be one of the lucky ones.
There is no set standard of a relationship that anyone must follow. As mentioned many couples have been pre-programmed by parental, family and societal influences and automatically adopt a ‘one size fits all’ model to base their relationship on; Monogamy.
Dave Wells holds the view that a relationship should represent the values and capabilities of the people in it. By using the term ‘capabilities’, most people enter into a marriage in love with the person who they are dedicating their life to, with full intention of being faithful and living by their expectations of each other. Unfortunately many know deep inside that they have unmet sexual curiosities and fantasies, or even thoughts of wanting more sexual experiences, but they also believe that they can put these desires to rest because they have found the person of their dreams, and the person who they envisage spending the rest of their lives with. This is not to say that people who hold the values of monogamy are wrong, if they hold this value, they deserve to have it respected by a partner who holds the same values. However, “cheating on a partner” or “having an affair” happens way too often, and does damage to ourselves, as well as our children, families and friends.
To understand why this happens, we need to dissect what sex provides people with. Firstly, although society often places ‘sex’ and ‘love’ together in unity, they are both separate entities. In other words, you can love someone and not have sex with them, or you can have sex with someone and not love them. In our society, the highest reward is when you have sex with the person who you love.
Sex is not just about love and reproduction, although for a minority it is. Asides from people who identify as ‘A-Sexual’, we all have sexual arousal, which is sometimes better known as “being turned on”. Sex is about release, it provides; ‘ego stimulation’ by being found attractive by another, it is about ‘curiosity’, and sometimes it is about the ‘chase’, ‘challenge’ and ‘achievement of conquering’. Physically, arousal creates endorphins that makes us feel good. For people who are monogamous, all of these attributes are expected to be provided by one person for the entirety of our lives. For some, they can have these needs met by the person who they dedicate their life to through marriage. For others, the challenges of being aroused by external factors takes over from the monogamy that they initially thought that they could respect. Many value the principles of monogamy but are unable to commit to them long term which can cause shame, guilt, and the feelings of failing.
Dave Wells holds they view that a relationship should meet with the true values and capabilities of its participants. If someone holds the value of monogamy, and has the capacity to fulfil its values, then they deserve to have them met and respected by a partner who shares similar values.
We all hear that for a relationship to be successful there must be communication, and this is very true, however many adopt monogamy and other relationship values that are regarded as the ‘norm’, without communicating openly and honestly and forming agreements that complement each person in the relationship. For example, some love and expect a lot of intimacy, others feel smothered by it, some want their lives complete merged with the other, and some need their independence. There is no right or wrong in a relationship as long as each person’s needs are met and respected by their partner/s. Some partnerships have negotiated their relationship to meet their needs and desires, and these relationships do not always fit with what society regards as normal or healthy, however where communication and negotiation has taken place, different styles of relationships are formed. For example:
- Open relationships (A relationship held between two people which allows for external sexual experiences which are communicated to each other).
- Closed (Monogamous) relationships A relationship between two people which is exclusive to the two Individuals and doesn’t allow for any external sexual/emotional experiences.
- Negotiated-agreement relationships (A relationship in which the members have negotiated an agreement to have sexual/emotional experiences with external people but with agreements that differ from completely open).
- Polygamy (Three or more participants in a relationship, or having more than one romantic partner at a time).
- Fuck buddy/buddies (A relationship where an individual’s meet only for sexual reasons).
- Special friendship/Friends with benefits (A friendship which includes sexual liaisons without any other relationship qualities/commitments).
- Platonic Relationships (friendship, affection or love without sexual relations)
This section of the web site will explore the varied types of relationships, as well as the different relationship dynamics that exist in Australian society. Remember no relationship is wrong if it meets the needs of its participants, and doesn’t harm anyone.