By: Miranda Abild
For as long as I can remember, the prescribed family format has been Father, Mother, 2 children, big house, picket fence. This is a social script reinforced early and seen nearly everywhere you look.
Nowadays, we all understand that there are many exceptions to this rule. Some families have two mothers. Some parents are married, some remarried, some never married at all. Some have 5 children, some none. That said, given that this social script has existed for so long and with such veracity, our society is built around it and variations can prove challenging from issues of social acceptance and stigma to insurance coverage.
I’m here to tell you that you have an option!
Ok, I know you KNOW you have an option. The challenge is when social scripts run so deep, we can sometimes be unaware of our own blinders or biases.
But if you take anything away from this article, I hope it is this: The relationship that pays as little attention to outside pressures as possible or finds ways to work despite these pressures; the structure that, at it’s core, acknowledges the thoughts, beliefs, needs, and values of each participant. Now THAT’s a family.
My time as a person living on the fringe of normalcy has taught me that these social scripts are dying. In other words, those relationships that communicate openly and honestly (even when it’s hard) very often begin to deviate from the prescription. That said, without examples of what options there can be, it can be hard to ask for what we need.
I want to be clear, I don’t bring all of this up to stir the pot or flaunt my progressive views (and they do be progressive). I say this as a child of an ugly divorce fraught by unmet needs for all parties. I say this as a witness to the end of countless relationships because they were simply not able to squish the square peg that was the needs of their relationship, into the roundhole that was what they thought the relationship was supposed to look like. Finally, I say this because I believe the next generation of relationships will look different and that this difference will be their virtue not their downfall.
So, let’s talk about some things you might ask yourself to begin to create the relationship you want regardless of what society says it should look like. No need to wait until you are in a relationship. Thinking about these things now can help you take steps to manifest what you are looking for. I’ve also included more in-depth discussions of the topic for you to peruse. Off you go!
-How important is sexual exclusivity to me and why? Is it possible that non-exclusivity or monogamish-ness might actually serve a relationship rather than break it? Check out: https://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=11412386
-Would I like to have a relationship with just one person or would I be open to having relationships with multiple people at a time? How do I find out? Do I want a primary partner or for all partners to be viewed equally? Will we all live together? Apart? Food for thought: https://www.healthline.com/health/polyamorous#is-it-right-for-you
-Do I truly want to share a bed with my partner(s)? Am I able to get the sleep I need when I do? Would I like to be able to have the option? Do any of the parties in the relationship view this as an important component of a relationship? Why? Here’s more: https://ideas.ted.com/is-sleeping-in-separate-beds-bad-for-your-relationship-a-sleep-scientist-answers/
-Is sex an integral component to our relationship? What kind of sex? How often? Am I able to provide my partner(s) with the type(s) of sex that will ensure they feel fulfilled and validated. What we can learn from the asexual: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-asexual#desire-vs-attraction
-Do I want to get married? How important is marriage to me? To my partner(s)? To our families? Is it the ceremony? The tradition? Can these wishes or needs be met in ways that serve all parties? Taking a different look: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/case-against-marriage/591973/
-Do we need to have kids? Do we want to have kids? Why is this the case? Would kids change our relationship into something that one of the parties would find unbearable? Don’t mind the biased title: https://theconversation.com/have-children-heres-how-kids-ruin-your-romantic-relationship-57944
-Do I need to live under the same roof as my partner(s)? In the same city? And if not, can we afford the number of visits that would be sufficient in making the relationship work? Loving separately: https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/healthy-home/loving-separately-when-living-together-isnt-working/#:~:text=No%20law%20obliges%20either%20living,not%20go%20on%20as%20is.
-How importance is love in a relationship? Respect? Can a relationship exist without these emotions and what would they look like? Some interesting thoughts on love: https://markmanson.net/love
What do you think? Find yourself residing in the grey areas of relationship formats? To further help you wrap your head around your options, here are some relationship examples that live in opposition to the typical script.
1. After being married for 20 years, this cisgender couple decided to move apart. They get together almost every day and they live in the same town. They each have their own house and car and accompany each other to the engagements of the other but without expectation – they always ask because they know the other might have plans. They remain married and see no need for a separation agreement. They feel living apart is what allows them to maintain their relationship.
2. A dominant-submissive couple where the cis-woman wears a collar and refers to her partner as “Sir”. They live together and share the responsibility of the house and of raising the children. In the bedroom, they engage in the dom-sub rules they have both consented to, including non-consent. This woman is regarded as the primary partner. There are other submissives who come to the home to help around the house and to engage in sex. Each party feels confident and happy in the role they play in the relationship.
3. A young couple – the ciswoman being straight, the cisman being bisexual – decide to open their relationship up to allow both parties to explore sexual encounters with other people. They agree that they can both engage in sexual encounters with men and that they will tell the other beforehand that that is what is happening and when, for safety. They also agree to share stories of their experiences as they both find this arousing. They agree not to meet with anyone within the people they know and choose not to share this information outside of the relationship.
4. A cisman and a transwoman have been dating for several months. The transwoman is bisexual while the cisman is straight. They have decided to keep their sex within the couple. They answer many questions, in particular around the cisman’s sexual orientation – The transwoman is pre-op. In this scenario, the cisman is straight – his target of sexual arousal has always been the feminine. When the couple have sex, he simply pays no attention to the masculine genitals of his partner.
5. An asexual man wants to be a father. He does not want to have sex nor does he want to have a romantic or sexual relationship. To become a father, a couple he is very close to agrees that he will act as an equal parent. After many conversations, they decide that he will live in the same residence, though the asexual man will not be a part of the couples relationship. They will seek a three-parent adoption (more popular in the context of a same-sex couple and their sperm donor), and the child will take on all three last names.
6. A couple have been together for 43 years. One lives 4 hours away from the other. They see each other on long weekends and holidays. They are happy and have no plans to get married.