‘Are we just friends?’: Here’s how you define various kinds of Relationships

From family to friends to something more, it is important to know what defines the kind of relationship you have with your loved one

Youth Extra Lens Relationship-Advice

The word “Relationship” is very common these days. People often use this word. But everyone assumes it's one universal definition of its being a romantic bonding between a boy and a girl. In reality, though, the word encompasses such a massive variety of kinds of human connections, both romantic and unromantic, and it's likely that no two people share the exact same understanding of what defines a relationship.


Typically when people talk about "being in a relationship," the term is referencing a specific type of romantic relationship involving both emotional and physical intimacy, some level of ongoing commitment, and monogamy.


The basic type of relationships are:

  • Family members or relatives
  • Friendships
  • Acquaintances
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Work or professional relationships
  • Teacher/student relationships
  • Community or group relationships
  • Place-based relationships, such as neighbours, roommates, and landlord/tenant relationships
  • Enemies or rivals
  • Relationship to self


Few of these are Unromantic relationships and few are Romantic relationships. Unromantic relationships consist of understanding but the level of intimacy is less, Whereas in Romantic relationships there is a level of understanding but a little more than in unromantic relationships and also the level of intimacy is also high.


But there are many different relationship labels people use to define their relationship to themselves and to others.



Dating is the process of intentionally spending time with someone to get to know them better, have fun together, and enjoy being romantic. Dating can sometimes be about seeing if there's potential for a more long-term relationship, or it can just be about having fun without expectations for the future, which is sometimes called casual dating.


Committed relationship

In the context of couples, the phrase "in a relationship" usually means being in a committed, long-term romantic relationship. A committed relationship is one where two or more people agree to continue being in a relationship for the foreseeable future. There's an understanding that the two will continue to spend time together, work on growing their relationship with each other, and continue nurturing their connection. People in committed relationships may choose to use identifiers like boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner to signify their relationship to others.


Casual relationship

A casual relationship is a relationship where two or more people may be dating, regularly spending time together, and engaging in romantic or sexual activities—but without any expectations for the relationship to last into the future. People in casual relationships usually do like each other and are attracted to each other, though there may not be an intense emotional connection or desire to deepen the connection. They won't use terms like ‘girlfriend, boyfriend and partner’.


Friends with Benefits

This is a casual relationship where two or more people spend time together primarily to engage in coitus with each other. Usually, there's no emotional connection, or the connection is distinctly platonic or friendly, as in a "friends with benefits" situation.



A situationship is a romantic relationship that hasn't been explicitly defined, usually by omission. The relationship may have many of the same qualities as a committed relationship, a casual relationship, or dating, but the people involved have simply not put labels on it—usually intentionally, whether that's to avoid making things too complicated, because they're still figuring out what they want from each other, or because they're too afraid to bring up the "DTR talk" (aka a conversation defining the relationship).


Ethical non-monogamy

Ethical non monogamy is a broad umbrella term for any relationship where people can have multiple romantic and sexual partners at the same time. It includes polyamory, open relationships, relationship anarchy, and many other types of relationships between more than two people.


Sometimes people are confused to figure out what kind of relationship they are having these days. Here are a few questions to ask each other to define the relationship: 

  • What do you want from this relationship? Something casual and in-the-moment? Something more future-oriented? Not sure yet and just want to explore for now?
  • Are you looking for a long-term relationship? If so, do you see potential here?
  • Are you seeing other people?
  • Are there romantic feelings here? Are we interested in exploring those feelings, or do we want to keep things more casual?
  • How often do we want to talk and see each other?


And remember: Defining the relationship does not necessarily mean you need to enter into a serious or committed relationship. Defining the relationship is simply about clarity.