collaborative post // We’re living in the 21st century, and as such, many conventional and traditional norms no longer apply. Queer people can get married and are increasingly given the exact same provisions as anyone else (it’s about time), and even in our professional lives, working for a company remotely is more than possible no matter what strict managers might tell us post-Covid.
As such, many people are figuring out a way forward in life that will suit them, rather than suiting themselves to a standard that may have never been appropriate and applicable to begin with. That much is worthwhile to consider, and we can thank these trailblazers for giving us the chance to think that way.
It may be that you’re thinking about being flexible in your own relationship too, such as moving in with someone you love and trust but not feeling as if you need to get married at all. Alternatively, you may think that moving in with a friend, or even being part of a polyamorous lifestyle is for you.
All that is great – more power to you. But like any relationship, it’s important to note that flexibility is not necessarily the same thing as a lack of responsibility. You likely already know this, but let’s talk through some areas where this can rear its head, so you can be more prepared for the realities of life as well as the awesome and flexible upsides:
You May Still Have Legal Commitments
Of course, just because you’re in a relatively open or flexible relationship – or perhaps live with someone where any mutual commitments outside of leasing a rental property is the extent of it, you may still be liable for one another in some ways.
For example, if you live with someone for enough time, it’s important to consider that your personal assets in de facto relationships may need to be divided if you ‘split,’ or move apart from one another.
Understanding this can help you avoid nasty surprises that you may not have been expecting, as in the eyes of the law, a cohabitation arrangement like this does begin to have its own legal validity and set of mutual protections as you bind your lives together.
Never Say Never
One advantage of open, less strict relationships are that they can be defined in many ways, from life partners to best friends to those who simply come together out of convenience. But the truth is that it’s very easy to say, in strict terms, what your relationship may be now.
But it can sometimes be the case that people move apart, or move together, or one may wish to connect more officially with you than the open relationship you have right now.
As such, it’s important to lay out everything, with clear and consistent communication. Make sure to check in on one another, and ensure the arrangement is working for both of you. Relationships, even the best of them, are a work in process. So it may be that the context of your relationship shifts over time.
For example, it might be that you both wish to adopt children with one another, but marriage can help you bind together and provide a more stable household in the eyes of those who may verify you as an adoptive set of parents. As you can see, sometimes limiting yourself artificially can be harmful, or just may not work for the lifestyles you’re both hoping to pursue.
There’s A Higher Risk Of Disagreements & Difficulties
Relationships are difficult between two people. In larger relationships such as in polyamory, which outside of certain religious communities is quite a new focus, can take more negotiation to get right, and there’s a greater chance of disagreement the more parties there are here.
This might not be a problem at all. But it’s important to be realistic about your prospects and understand that flexibility often means working harder, not less, to make sure everyone is on the same page. This may be totally fine on your behalf, but is it fine on behalf of those who may not wish for that?
In other words – sometimes non-committal relationships require more attendance and upkeep than commitments and monogamy. This doesn’t make your particular arrangement inferior or superior to others, but it does mean you need to keep both eyes open and be sure to communicate more, as discussed.
You May Need To Explain Your Arrangements To Others
Not everyone will understand the exact nature of your relationship. Let’s say you choose to leave your current partner, and then move in with your best friend who becomes a life partner you don’t marry or necessarily share a romantic relationship with.
This can be tremendously valuable for both parties and a lovely way to bind your life with someone. But it might be hard for people to understand that you’re not actually together for the purpose they expect.
In some cases, open relationships, or those that don’t conform to the norm, can be hard to understand or even easy to dismiss for those of an older generation, or those who may not be as open-minded as you are. Does this mean those people are bigoted? It could be, or it might just be that they find it hard to identify the value in what you’re doing. Does they have to understand it to approve, or do you need them to approve if you’re happy? Most likely not.
But it’s true that you can expect to go through one of these conversations at some point. Standing firm in your approach if it makes you happy is important – don’t let others dictate what’s right for you.
Think of how many women have been pressured into having children by their grandparents or parents when they knew this was never meant for them. Does their relative’s misunderstanding make said women’s position any more valid? Of course not – even if it can be hard for them to deal with such social interactions. So, don’t be afraid to take a step back there where you can.
It’s Okay To Seek Advice, Too
It’s everyone’s first time through life, so you don’t have to feel ashamed at being out of the loop or finding it hard to understand how to make something work. It takes time to learn a new arrangement you may not be used to You may decide to seek online advice or visit groups committed to such efforts, for instance.
For example, it might be that you’re dating a transgender person for the first time, and this may mean overcoming some biases from your family so they accept them as wholly as you did. While this is in no way abnormal, some older generations have never been exposed to an arrangement like this. Speaking to those who have already gone through this process and know how to stand by one another may have some pressing advice to give – allowing you to live and love as appropriate.
Or, perhaps you’re now dating someone enlisted in the military and you’re not used to being home for such long stretches without your partner as they deploy. Discussing this with military spouse forums or meetings can help you cope and make friends that help you through this newer arrangement.
Love Is Enough, But It’s Good To Have Structured Plans
Starting a relationship with someone because you love them isn’t a bad place to start. But it’s also true that the honeymoon period often lasts for a temporary period, even if it’s a few years. Sooner or later the passionate, bright flame of love turns into enduring love that requires practicality, friendship, and mutual cooperation to work.
So – this is why people recommend getting married when that honeymoon period is over, if you can. So, don’t dismiss your relationship simply because you worry about it becoming less exciting as it is in the beginning, but also make certain that you do set those plans in place.
For example – if you’re going to opt for a joint account, what expenses will this cover? What kind of accommodation do you hope to go for – do you hope to move in with one another? If you have children from previous relationships, when will you introduce them to one another, and when will one potentially be known as a step-parent?
While you may initially wish to eschew labels, over time they can become more relevant so you can put worthwhile steps in place, and in the best possible context.
Sometimes, you just wish to understand the plans you’re making and there’s no harm in that. So – let love be the fire from which you forge a more enduring connection, even if you’ve decided to be flexible, or even if you wish to operate on a more open timeline than the ‘get married in three years!’ approach.
With this advice, we hope you can feel more confident in your own choices, by formatting even unique decisions around common relational wisdom, as well as keeping financial and legal obligations in mind. We’re certain you’ll make it work.