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Spectrums, Part Three: Relationships

Updated: Sep 8, 2018

So many rainbows! So many spectrums! Do they ever end?


Welcome to part three of my mini-series on spectrums. This is the final post of the series (sad), so be prepared to buckle up and say goodbye to the spectrum conversation. Here’s part one and part two if you happened to miss those (um, where have you been)?


The focus of this week’s post is relationships and attraction: how do people choose to manifest their sexualities, genders, and multiple other factors into choosing partners? Let’s explore that question. This is a preconceived notions-free zone!


When most people think of the word “relationships,” I doubt that anything related to spectrums pops into their minds. Relationships are relatively well-defined in the greater collective thought of our culture: two people meet, they date, they fall in love, they get married, they raise a family, they die, and the cycle repeats all over again with their children. That’s just how things have always been.


But think about how many deviations there are from that norm. That’s where the idea of putting relationships on a spectrum comes into play. I’m going to ask you all to open your minds again when you read this post, as I’ve asked you to do for each post in this series, because I will probably be talking about things that you have never heard of or things that may make you uncomfortable, simply because they are different than the norm. You know what they say: discomfort creates change! (Does anyone say that? I don’t know. But I do).


First, let’s talk about the obvious deviations from the norm. Most relationships occur between one male and one female. Some relationships occur between two females or between two males. Those are the “basics.” Most people can wrap their minds around that concept, except maybe a good majority of the extremely conservative population (but we won’t go there… not today. Not today).


Then there are those who are “polyamorous,” which means that they have more than one romantic partner. Most people reading this right now likely immediately associated that concept with the idea of outdated religions, based on stereotypes of men in certain religious groups taking multiple wives. And that certainly occurs. But I’m talking more about people who don’t limit their attraction to a relationship between two people - this is a relatively modern concept, much different than the idea of one man having 17 wives.


In a typical polyamorous relationship, all partners involved are aware that there are more than two people in the relationship, and all parties have agreed to that. Not everyone in that relationship has to be of the same gender; often, there are multiple genders involved.


Then there are “open relationships,” which are fairly common in the LGBT community. All you need to do is log on to Grindr for 10 seconds and you will likely encounter several profiles that say something along the lines of “fun couple looking for a third!” These are slightly more conventional relationships: the main romantic attraction is typically reserved for the two main players in the relationship, but they’ve both agreed to occasionally invite a third (or more) to join them for sexual or romantic fun. Other times, these couples agree that they can see other people (either romantically or sexually) while still being in a relationship with each other. Believe it or not, this type of relationship happens fairly often among straight couples as well.


Then there are all those loose, undefinable relationships. These are the ones I am most excited to talk about. I am of the firm belief that we all experience many relationships that are completely unique to us and the other people involved in them. Society likes to pigeon-hole relationships, just like it likes to pigeon-hole… literally everything. We are told that relationships are either casual (co-workers, friends-of-friends, etc), familial (mother, father, sister, best friends, etc.), or romantic.


But. Relationships cannot be pigeon-holed. I think there’s an entire spectrum (ha) of complex relationships that don’t fall perfectly into any of the above categories. I think there are deep friendships that share qualities of romantic relationships. I think there are romantic relationships that act more like friendships. I think there are casual relationships that serve needs from romantic relationships or friendships. And I think we all experience relationships differently, depending on how we connect with the other person.


Because that’s all relationships are, at the end of the day: they’re connections. Those connections literally cannot be defined, because they aren’t tangible. They vary greatly depending on each person’s background, identity, world views, education level, and so many other variables. If you really think about it, that’s a huge part of what makes life so interesting.

You just never know what kind of goodies will be made when two people mix the ingredients that make up their lives and create something entirely new in the process.


So, yes, relationships exist on a spectrum. Just like sexuality and gender. There are many, many other things that exist on spectrums - I’d argue that most things do - but I don’t want to bore you all by ranting about spectrums for the rest of my life.


The point of this mini-series is to get someone, anyone, to think about things as spectrums. If we can learn at such a young age that the world isn’t black and white, then we should be able to understand that sexuality, gender, relationships, and so many other things exist on spectrums - flexible spectrums that grow and change as we do. Everything is a shade of gray, and nobody should be judged for picking a different shade than someone else.


The more people understand this, the better (and safer) the world will be for everyone. Open your minds. Think about things differently. Let a little love into your hearts - I promise it will help to stifle the fear.


This week’s post was brought to you by The Unknown by Imagine Dragons, because if there’s one thing we can all take away from this series of posts, it’s that a fear of the unknown does nothing but hold you back. Plus, something about this song always gets my creative juices flowing.


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© 2018 by Evan McCoy