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Types of Relationships

People form romantic and sexual connections in many different ways. The world is diverse in terms of types of sexual relationships.



Communication is important in every relationship. Talking about what you can offer and what you are looking for with current or potential partners can make all the difference. This communication should be ongoing, since your needs and the needs of your partners may change over time.

It is also important to never assume that your partners / potential partners understand what you want or need. The only way to be sure that everyone understands is to talk about it.

Fluid Bond

A fluid bond is when partners make an intentional decision to have unprotected sex.

In a fluid bond, partners may exchange bodily fluids such as semen, ejaculate, secretions, blood or saliva. The risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy is higher in a fluid bond, because barrier protection (such as condoms and dental dams) is not used during oral, anal, or vagina/internal genital sex. Some people choose to have STI testing done before entering a fluid bond.

It’s a good idea to talk about what a fluid bond means to you and your partners so you’re on the same page. Some things you might want to talk about are:

  • Who is currently in the fluid bond (ie other sexual partners).
  • How and when people are added to the fluid bond.
  • Getting tested for STIs including window periods.
  • If it’s relevant, discuss how to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or how to plan a pregnancy.


People can have sexual and romantic relationships with one or multiple people, while others are not attracted to, or interested in, having a sexual or romantic relationship with other people at all. Here we describe some common relationship styles.

Monogamy: Having a romantic or sexual relationship with only one person at a time. Generally, this means committing to one person emotionally, romantically and sexually.

Non-Monogamy: Having more than one romantic or sexual relationship at the same time. These relationships may be open, where partners can seek out new relationships with other people, or closed, where the relationship is limited to a specific group of people.

While these approaches may not work for everyone, they are both valid ways to create relationships if all involved are fully aware of which type of relationship they are joining.

The type of relationship a person wants can change over time. Regular communication with partners to discuss relationship preferences can be helpful.


Non-monogamy is the practice of having more than one sexual or romantic relationship at the same time. There is a wide range of non-monogamous relationship styles. These relationships can include:

A committed relationship where one or both partners may be free to have sex with other people individually, or the couple may invite other people to have sex with them together.

When couples (“swingers”) get together to have sex with other couples. The groupings may be two or more couples who swap partners, or have sex only with their partner in the same room as other couples (called “same room”), or everyone may enjoy sexual play together.

Members of the relationship can form more than one romantic or sexual relationship with full awareness of all involved. Some people form hierarchical relationships, with different degrees of commitment at each level. These levels may be called “primary” (often a marriage-like relationship with living and financial commitments), “secondary” (fewer commitments than primary) and “tertiary” (more casual). Polyamory differs from polygamy, the custom of having more than one husband or wife at a time.

A type of polyamory where a person sees themselves as their own primary partner, rather than part of a couple or other type of relationship. They may form committed and meaningful relationships with other people, but these relationships do not necessarily lead to living together or getting married.

All forms of love and relationships are seen as equal, whether or not they are romantic or sexual. There are no limits to how a relationship should look. The only rules are those that have been agreed on by all those involved. Love and respect form the foundation of relationship anarchy.

One person in the relationship may be monogamous while the other person is polyamorous or has other sex partners.

Why Non-monogamy?

There are many reasons why someone might practice non-monogamy. For some people, being sexually or emotionally exclusive with one person just does not feel right for them. Other people may have left long-term relationships and now want to explore different types of relationships now that they are single. Others may be in a relationship but want to open things up. For some people, non-monogamy is the chance to build more than one meaningful emotional and/or sexual relationship. For others, it is the chance to have several sexual partners without the added emotional commitment.

Non-monogamy choices can differ between individuals and between partners in a relationship. Non-monogamy can allow each person to fulfil their needs and desires, while also taking some of the pressure off partners who do not have the same needs or desires.

If you are exploring non-monogamy, either as a single person or as part of a couple, it can be helpful to take some time to explore your own needs, desires and motivations.


Health Considerations

Individuals in non-monogamous relationships may want to keep the following important health considerations in mind.

Sexual health

Talking about sexual health and safer sex is a good idea in every relationship. There is no single way to practice non-monogamy, so it is helpful to make sure that each person in the relationship has the same understanding of what the agreements and expectations are for safer sex.

For example, two or more people in a relationship may choose to fluid bond. They commit to using protection (like condoms or dental dams) whenever they have sex with other people outside that bond. In this type of agreement, it is good for everyone involved to know what kinds of sex (like oral, anal, vaginal/ internal gential) they are expected to use protection for.

STIs and testing

Some people believe that non-monogamy may increase the chances of getting or passing an STI. Safer sex can reduce these chances and regular STI testing is a good way to take care of your sexual health. How often a person should test for STIs depends on how many partners they have and the types of sex they are having.

STI screening is recommended:

  • Every 3 months for someone with many casual or anonymous sex partners.
  • Every 6 months for someone with a few casual or ongoing sex partners.
  • Between each relationship.
  • Once a year as part of an annual health check-up.

If you are concerned about getting or passing an STI, learn about ways to talk to your partners about STIs and testing.

If you feel comfortable telling your health care provider that you are non-monogamous, this will help to make sure that you and your partners get tested for STIs at the right times. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about non-monogamy with your family doctor, you can use the clinic finder to find a different health care provider or you can talk to an expert on the Options for Sexual Health SexSense line (1-800-739-7367).



  • Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships (Author:Tristan Taormino)
  • The Ethical Slut (Authors: Dossie Easton & Janet W. Hardy)
  • More than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (Authors: Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert)
  • Sex At Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships (Authors: Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha)


Monogamy is the practice of having a sexual relationship or marriage with only one person at a time. In general, it means committing to one person emotionally, romantically, and sexually. Monogamy is the most common relationship style in North America.

Being monogamous can mean different things to different people. Some people may be open to their partner forming a close emotional bond with someone else as long as the relationship does not become sexual. Other people may want to include their partner in all social activities but not want their partner to develop close emotional relationships with other people.

Today in North America, it is common and generally socially acceptable for a person to form multiple, monogamous relationships over their lifetime. This is sometimes referred to as “serial monogamy”.

Some people find it difficult to practice monogamy. This may be due to differences in sexual or emotional desires and needs. Other individuals find it quite easy to practice monogamy. Every person is different in what they want and need in a relationship.


Health Considerations

While people in monogamous relationships may not be sexually active with anyone other than their partner, there are still some important health considerations.

Sexual health

Sexual health is a key part of a person’s health and well-being. Talking with a partner about sexual and emotional needs before and throughout a relationship can help improve each person’s sexual health.

STIs and testing

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can still be passed between partners in a monogamous relationship. For example, one partner (or both partners) may have had human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes simplex virus (HSV) before starting the relationship. These viruses can stay dormant in the body for a long time, and may be passed to another person at any point in the relationship. A person can have one or more of these viruses and not know it until their partner shows symptoms.

Sexuality and relationships can also be complicated, and talking about sex can be difficult for some people. Sometimes a person (or both people) in a monogamous relationship may have sex with someone outside of their relationship (often called “cheating”). When this happens, it is possible for the person to get an STI and pass it to their partner.

Regular Pap testing is recommended for anyone with a cervix, regardless of their relationship status. This means that a person with a cervix who is in a monogamous relationship should have regular Pap testing, even if they have not been having sex. 

STI testing is recommended:

  • Between each relationship (monogamous or otherwise).
  • Once a year as part of your annual health check-up, since regular STI testing is an excellent way to take care of your sexual health.

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