Have you ever cheated on your partner on been cheated on by a partner? Perhaps you have not cheated, but you’ve met someone with whom you have an incredible connection. You want to explore a relationship with this person but feel guilty about being attracted to someone other than your husband/wife/girlfriend, etc. Alternatively, you could be in an open relationship, but at some point you could begin to feel that you want to be with your partner exclusively.
These are just a few of the many issues that couples face at some point in their relationship, sometimes resulting in the end of the relationship. Marriages have a 40 to 50 percent divorce rate, and the stats for second and third marriages are even higher. In fact, the latest data shows that more couples choose not to marry at all because they don’t believe that they can be with only one person for the rest of their lives. There is an epidemic in the unnecessary failure of relationships. This failure is caused by the limited and restrictive approach to creating a romantic relationship found in society and in most people’s current paradigm. A new approach to creating a romantic relationship is needed.
The framework I am introducing has the potential to transform the way we relate to one another romantically and bring an end to this epidemic. It can eliminate many of the common challenges that couples face resulting from a lack of self-awareness, honesty and communication. This approach or way of relating gives everyone involved access to the greatest amount of freedom, flexibility and self-expression.
If you are in a relationship and would like to experience something more or different, it does not need to end. If you are not in a relationship, this framework will give you a fresh approach to creating your next relationship in a way that gives it a greater chance of thriving.
In this article I introduce a relationship framework in-which you can explore all of your desires and emotions without fear of alienating your partner, suppressing your emotions or damaging your relationship.
A meta-frame for relationships
This new approach provides a meta-frame for how to design your relationship from the beginning in a way that gives it the greatest chance of succeeding. When you can say I want to create my relationship in a way that’s most empowering for myself and for my partner and for the relationship, and you set about asking, how do I do that? That’s what this new relationship paradigm is all about.
To understand this approach, you must first set aside, if only for a moment, all of your pre-programmed ideas about how relationships should be, the ideas or paradigms you got from your parents, your friends, religion or society. This approach gives you freedom from all of those things. So in order to truly understand and see what is possible for yourself and your relationship you must step into this conversation with an open mind. Here are some key ideas underpinning this meta-frame.
There is no right way to be in a relationship
The first premise of this approach is that a romantic relationship doesn’t have to be any certain way. You have the power to create whatever feels best for you and you can explore what that is.
The paradigm I am presenting to you is a construct. It’s a new and fresh way of thinking about relationships that doesn’t limit any person to any one given way of being in a relationship.
Often a person may have only been exposed to one type of idea of what a relationship should be, like monogamy for example, and they may be very limited in what they know about how to relate to somebody in a romantic way. So, the idea I am bringing forward is that there are many ways of relating to somebody else romantically and that there’s no one right way.
People change over time and relationships need to accommodate change
Most people identify with one model of relating be it open, monogamous, polyamorous etc. but one model alone is not sufficient over a long period of time. This approach eliminates the common problems people experience when coming from different models, or when people inside of one set model have different desires or when two people who are in one model feel like they want to shift over into another model.
Because people change over time, they need a relationship framework that allows their relationship to change and grow with them. This is a way of creating a relationship which best supports you and your partner which you can adjust as your relationship evolves.
This is a meta-frame for relationships and not a new relationship model
This framework is not about subscribing to any conventional or even typically unconventional relationship model. What I am describing here is a framework or a meta-frame for creating your relationship rather than an established model like monogamy, monogamish, polyamory or open.
This new approach to relationships encompasses all different relationship models. It is a way of thinking about relationships that gives you the freedom to draw from all the relationship models and design your own relationship.
Identifying with a given model of relating basically tells you how you should operate in a romantic relationship whereas this framework is for people who want access to a greater level of self-expression and creation. It gives them the freedom to create their ideal relationship derived from their true desires and through clear agreements.
Modern relationships are more fluid
According to the APA “About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” The situation in the United Kingdom reflects a similar trend where the percentage of marriages that ended in divorce declined from 45 to 42 percent between 2005 and 2010.
According to the 2015 census, more people are choosing to stay single for longer, or indefinitely. The PEW research center tells us that “a rising share of births are to mothers who are not married, meaning that marriage is no longer seen by many as the only gateway to parenthood”.
Furthermore, 70% of Americans do not believe that there is one person who you are meant to be with. The dating app Zoosk found that both men and women use the word honest the most while describing what they’re looking for in another person.
The way people relate to one another in romantic relationships is changing. There is more focus on love, happiness and honesty and less focus on lifelong commitments with unrealistic expectations. Hence the need for a new framework.
To paint a picture of what this fresh approach and meta-frame of relationships could look like, here are a few scenarios.
It could be that you are in a committed relationship and are only sexually intimate with each other. After a period of monogamy you may decide to bring other people into your relationship and perhaps you stipulate that you only have sex with other people when you’re together, or when you’re on vacation, etc. These examples are all points in time. This new structure gives you the ability to create your relationship as you desire it to be and the flexibility to have it change over time as best serves each individual and the relationship as a whole.
Whatever it looks like, the beauty of this approach is that you and your partner/partners can follow your hearts and your own desires. You have the freedom to explore your feelings for your partner in addition to any desires or feelings you may have for someone else. It all starts with knowing your own desires, communicating those with your partner, and making clear agreements about what is acceptable. More on that in the following section.
What’s necessary for this relationship framework to work?
This framework is rooted in freedom, commitment, communication, trust, honesty, integrity, love and honor. Over many years of being in relationships I’ve explored and studied numerous different relationship models. Monogamous, monogamish, open relationships, polyamorous relationships and everything in between. I have spent over 10,000 hours reading about, researching and experimenting with relationships.
In that time I’ve learned things about myself, about others and about relationships in general. In addition to the insight that a new approach to romantic relationships is required, I have also realized that there are a few key ingredients that are essential for all healthy relationships.
In this framework, there are no assumptions. Two people enter a relationship with no expectations of how the other person should be operating. For example, you’re not assuming that your partner is or is not sleeping with other people. From the very beginning you create how you want your relationship to work.
This is a core component because when people are operating within a certain relationship model they come with predetermined assumptions or expectations based on that model, which creates problems from the start. Even if you’re operating in the same framework of monogamy for example, there are still variations of what’s acceptable or not and that creates problems. If you start with no expectations or assumptions, you get to create the terms of your relationship together.
This is something that most people struggle with, no matter what relationship model they’re in, so communication is a fundamental component of this new relationship framework. When people have trouble communicating it can be tied back to how deeply they have loved themselves and given themselves permission to communicate and to listen. Self-love is the core that unlocks all these components; self-awareness, communication, your willingness to be with your own feelings and the willingness to receive what your partner is feeling. When there are open lines of communication and there is a high level of trust between yourself and your partner, you feel safe enough to share what you truly desire.
Self-love as the core of this new relationship paradigm
If there was a starting point for the creation of a successful relationship, I would say it is self-love. Loving yourself deeply and fully leads to self-awareness, which is your own awareness of how you feel about different things. It also gives you permission to feel whatever it is you feel and be honest with yourself about your desires; and if your desires differ from your partners, you are able to love yourself through any feelings of embarrassment or shyness to a place of being comfortable with your own needs.
You may have an awareness about how you feel and you may know how to communicate but do you have the courage to communicate what it is you want or how you’re feeling to your partner? Many people lack the courage to say what they really want. This ties back to self-love because self-love can give you the courage to speak your truth.
Then there is the willingness to be with your own emotions, which ties back to self-love too. If you are feeling jealousy or desire or frustration, being able to be with your emotions is just as important as self-awareness and communication.
Finally, there is the willingness to receive however your partner is feeling. This is the openness to feel and experience what your partner wants, needs and desires. Unfortunately, this is where most relationship breakdowns occur, it’s the unwillingness to acknowledge that your partner finds somebody else sexually attractive. Lots of people can’t even hear that because it challenges their own internal self-esteem and self-worth. Once again, self-love helps you to feel through these emotions.
Once you and your partner are in the right space emotionally and once you have a level of trust and honesty and a desire to create the relationship that supports both of your needs; it is useful to create a relationship agreement. This can be a written agreement or it could be as simple as talking about your relationship and having a verbal understanding of each other’s commitments and intentions. Talking things through and having a mutual understanding are really what matters most.
It has been my experience that men and women hear things so differently. A guy can say one thing but his partner will understand something different. So, having it written out can help make things so much clearer. However, even when things are written out, there can be misunderstandings, so it’s important to communicate often and keep making things as clear as possible. If you do opt to have a written agreement, think of it as a living document which gets reviewed and updated regularly.
Agreements and intentions are at the heart of this new relationship paradigm. You and your partner create your intentions and agreements together and if you want to change those agreements and intentions, you do it with integrity and communication.
A relationship agreement can have several components. Apart from commitments and boundaries with each other, a relationship agreement should also stipulate your intentions for being together.
I think writing an intention or a mission or finding clarity around why you and your partner are actually together is very powerful. For example, you could say we are here to explore love, enjoyment and fulfillment through being together in this way… This serves as a reminder of why you’re together.
A relationship agreement is helpful, especially when you’re not operating from any of the existing relationship models. However, I would encourage anybody in a relationship to clarify intentions, agreements and commitments because it just makes your relationship that much more powerful.
Thinking outside the box–the importance of flexibility
This new relationship paradigm solves some of the many challenges people in typical relationships experience.
Individuals taking this approach feel free and safe to express their needs in the moment. If you meet someone you are sexually attracted to and you would like to explore a sexual relationship with that person, that is something you can talk about. In this way nothing gets hidden, held back or suppressed.
There are all these different relationship models, such as monogamy, polyamory, open relationships etc. and each of these have different structures in terms of how they work. Taking this new view is not saying oh I’m monogamous or I’m polyamorous because that already puts you into a box.
This new relationship paradigm allows a couple to shift as needed. If for example you are relating to each other in a monogamous way and you decide you want to shift to be more polyamorous, that is something you and your partner can discuss and do. If after some time you decide you would like to shift back, that can also be facilitated within the relationship.
Having this flexibility to shift is an advantage. Whenever you create a label for yourself you get stuck with that label, I’m polyamorous or I’m open or I’m monogamous, people identify themselves as that and that identification prevents them from having the flexibility to be something different even if they or their partner wants it.
So, this new relationship paradigm provides a context of not having to identify with any particular relationship type. That in and of itself solves so many challenges.
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.Arthur Schopenhauer
The ideas presented here are not foreign. There are many relationships that are structured to some extent in a variation of the above. However, sometimes in many of these relationships communication, intent and honesty are lacking which leads to challenges and conflict.
This framework requires a high degree of honesty, communication and integrity – personally and between lovers. Adopting this paradigm means that the parties involved talk about what they want and deliberately set out to create a relationship that supports their needs and desires, so there is intent, communication and acceptance.
To operate within this new framework requires a whole new level of skills. It requires self-love, self-awareness, and the ability to communicate at greater depths. It also requires both people to face insecurities, fears and discomfort and to communicate through that.
This is the next step in the evolution of romantic relationships and brings an end to the epidemic of unnecessary relationship failures. This paradigm has the potential to transform our approach to relationships in a way that enables us to treat each other with more compassion, kindness and understanding. It is a framework that creates the greatest amount of freedom and self-expression within a relationship to support what is best for the individual and the relationship as a whole.