6 Types of Romantic Relationships and How to Make Yours Healthy

“How did we get here?”

You and your partner just had a fight, and you find yourself sitting alone, asking this question. Where did the happy days go when connecting with your significant other was easy? Maybe you’ve just gone through another breakup and are beginning to doubt if you will ever find a relationship that’s right for you.

Every person is unique. Therefore, every relationship is also unique.

Let’s break down what kind of relationships are out there.

Some need work. Some are entirely toxic. But throughout our examination, we will find what makes a healthy relationship. Because no matter who you are, a healthy relationship is exactly what you need when you’re looking for a partner.

What Are The 6 Different Types of Romantic Relationships (And How to Know Which Yours Is)

1. Codependent Relationships

A codependent relationship means that one (or more likely both) of you are reliant on the other to function.

It’s hard to imagine life without a spouse or someone you have been with for a long time.

We aren’t saying missing your spouse is a bad thing or that losing your partner wouldn’t be one of the hardest things you had to go through.

That’s not what we mean here by “codependent.”

A codependent relationship totally forfeits the independence of the individual to become whatever the other person needs.

Yes, relationships take compromise and empathy but totally giving up who you are as a person is never healthy. 

We all need some alone time. We collect our thoughts and organize the tons of information we have to process every day.

We develop into our own individuals as we do this. A codependent partner doesn’t understand the needs of personal space.

The danger is that codependence may become oppressive and possessive.

2. Independent Relationships

The flip side of the codependent relationship is the independent relationship.

Like we said, independence is a good thing, but again, it’s about finding a balance.

If your partner is totally left in the dust by your independence, something isn’t healthy.

Being in a relationship is about building trust and finding compromises to begin blending your lives together.

If you both are totally independent of each other, you may even forget you’re in a relationship at all!

If you are totally independent of your partner, you may be entirely lacking empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself into the shoes of another person.

And over independence can bypass that ability in a relationship altogether.

You can come off arrogant, insensitive, and uninterested because you are completely wrapped up in yourself.

Another foundational piece of a relationship is honesty.

Both parties need to be able to hear and understand the truth about themselves.

When you forgo building trust with each other, those honest conversations are next to impossible. 

Every relationship is different, so you need to find what works for you, either for a future relationship or the one you are in now.

Be independent enough to have the freedom to be yourself without codependence but not so unavailable that you are never there for your partner.

Find the balance together. 

3. Dominant/Submissive Relationships

The unhealthy version of our first two entries takes the negative sides of both to an extreme. One person in the relationship exerts total control over the other.

There are two sides to this unhealthy story.

One person has zero empathy and sees the relationship as a means to get whatever they want.

The other has no self-confidence and sees the relationship as a means to complete themselves.

Before we get into a relationship, we need to have an accurate view of ourselves. If we don’t, this kind of relationship is often the result.

If you try to find someone to complete you, rather than finding that in yourself, you will end up being a relationship chameleon.

We need to find wholeness with ourselves before we enter a relationship. Otherwise, we constantly try to change who we are to fit in place with someone else.

Your self-respect needs to come from you and you alone. Don’t ground your self-respect in someone else.

4. Open Relationships

An open relationship is another version of an independent relationship. Both partners have agreed that both of you can see people outside of this relationship.

Typically this is a sign that both participants aren’t emotionally ready for a serious relationship.

A relationship needs trust and time to grow and become something that can bring about happiness like nothing else can. That takes honesty and intimacy.

True intimacy is impossible with other people involved.

Jealousy is the most likely thing to crop up first. Jealousy doesn’t lend itself to trust, confidentiality, and honesty. 

For a relationship to go deeper and work in the long haul, two people have to start developing deep roots with each other.

That requires a deep emotional commitment. This can’t happen in an open relationship.

Often open relationships begin because one or both participants fear genuine emotional connection.

5. Long Distance Relationships 

This one stands out as unique on the list.

There are more physical barriers, at least on the surface, compared to the emotional hurdles of the other types of relationships here.

Whether you are hours away from each other or on opposite sides of the country, communication is more vital than ever.

There are not many couples that would say communication isn’t essential in the relationship. Yet, it’s still what most couples need to work on.

Even with more than 25 years of studying and talking about relationships like Leslie and myself, we still need cheat sheets from time to time.

These are little reminders to pay attention to each other and listen before we want to be heard.

And when your interaction is all through text, calls, and voice chats, communication is the absolute lifeblood of your long-distance relationship.

To stay on the same page, you both need to be thinking of the other. Seek to understand each other before being understood.

In long-distance relationships, we can be so excited to talk to the other person we forget they have things they want to share too.

Even worse, it can become frustrating not being near each other. Avoid taking that out on each other. After all, both of you are feeling the same way.

You are in this together. 

Build a vocabulary of “I” statements. I feel. This is in contrast to “you” statements. You make me feel.

Express your emotions to begin building a bridge of sincerity with each other.

Yes, that’s even possible 2000 miles apart!

6. Toxic Relationships

The complete opposite of a healthy relationship is a toxic one.

There is no compromise from either person in a toxic relationship.

Both are damaged emotionally and cling to each other for fear of losing something that is only a reality in their mind.

Often relationships get toxic because of the total sacrifice of your own wants or needs for that of someone else.

Love isn’t about giving up all autonomy of yourself. Selflessness is a virtue that adds value to the relationship only if both parties participate in it. 

Love also means loving yourself. 

On top of this is another complete lack of empathy.

This couple can’t or refuses to put themselves in each other’s shoes. They cannot see beyond their own wants that create constant friction in the relationship.

The goal of empathy is to understand the feelings, desires, ideas, and actions at a meaningful level of the other person.

A toxic relationship sees only taking and no giving.

How to Build a Healthy Relationship (Regardless of Which Type Yours Is)

No matter where you are in your relationship, whether a few dates or 30 years into a marriage, you should always seek to grow into a healthy relationship. 

If you are looking to see what kind of relationship is right for you, the answer is always a healthy one.

What a relationship comes down to is the ability to care about someone else at a deep and meaningful level. This requires the ability to be genuinely empathetic. 

Once we seek to find someone else to complete our own limitations or sense of self, the relationship becomes something it should never be.

A healthy relationship is a genuine, honest compromise to join two lives together. It’s about finding a trusting love that understands each other and the feelings that both of you will have.

Something so precious and precarious takes practice and a growth mindset. You will never “arrive” at the perfect relationship. But if you constantly grow, you will always be improving what you have.

And that means getting healthy yourself first. Before you rush into something hoping to find “the one,” you need to understand that your relationships are only as healthy as you are. 

You need to find completion in yourself first before risking becoming that codependent, toxic, or distant partner.

Leslie and I have recently released our new book called Healthy Me, Healthy Us, that dives into this very topic.

Discover how the relationship with yourself affects every relationship in your life (the non-romantic ones included.)

Click here to see how being healthy yourself will bring a new joy to your relationships too.