Here’s a universal truth we probably don’t discuss enough: There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to love and relationships.
From affordating to situationships to daterview to textationship and sober dating, it looks like Gen-Z has finally figured things out when it comes to finding the perfect partner — even if it may be for only a particular phase of their lives.
One new relationship term that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately is the fluid one, but what does it really mean? Basically, if you’re in a fluid relationship, you and your partner are open to having a third person enter and exit the relationship as they please. Beyond that, the rest of the "fluid relationship rules" are totally up to you and your partner.
If this sounds like something you might be interested in, but aren't quite sure whether it’s the right option for you, keep reading to learn more about what a fluid relationship entails.
What Is a Fluid Relationship?
What does fluid mean in a relationship? Well, there is no one definitive definition of a fluid relationship, as different people may have varying understandings of what it means to them.
Generally, a fluid relationship is one where you are allowed to have multiple partners while already in an existing, fulfilling relationship. Other people are welcome to enter and exit the relationship on their own terms, but the core partners never stop being partners. The nature of their relationship, however, keeps changing.
A partner needs a shoulder to cry on, the core partners become best friends, or when the feelings give way into attraction and heat, they become passionate lovers. The status of the relationship may change from time to time, but they never stop being each other's partners or priorities.
While the core couple may introduce other people into their relationship using dating apps like Ashley Madison, allowing for different sexual or platonic partners to be part of their existing bond, they still stay connected and part of each other's lives.
It is different from a monogamous relationship, where the partners are committed to each other exclusively, or a polyamorous relationship, where the partners have multiple stable and long-term relationships with others. A fluid relationship is more flexible and does not follow any fixed rules or expectations.
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Sexual Fluidity: Is It the Same?
Fluid relationships are not to be confused with sexual fluidity. You don't necessarily have to be sexually fluid to be in a fluid relationship.
So what’s a sexually fluid definition? Sexually fluid definition basically pertains to a fluid sexual orientation, i.e., your preference for a specific gender is subject to change depending on the situation or the person, notes Healthline
For instance, you may have identified as gay all your life but now find yourself falling for a woman. While the changes in your sexual identity can be unexpected, they may be temporary or lasting.
What’s It Like to Be in a Fluid Relationship?
Here's what you should consider before changing your relationship status to a fluid one.
The Relationship Is Ever Changing
Your relationship may go with the flow, evolving as needed. It is like water, changing, adapting, and running its course. This water may join other streams together or depart ways as it flows.
And because the relationship is so flexible, the definition of your relationship also keeps changing. You and your partner(s) can decide what works best for you at any given time and change the rules or boundaries of your relationship as you go along.
You Can Love an Infinite Number of People
Fluid relationships allow you to love an infinite amount of people without the need to define them. These relationships can be purely platonic, sexual, or romantic. Or it may just be with someone you dance or vibe with!
A fluid relationship lets you have multiple partners who can fulfill different needs for you and explore varying aspects of yourself with different people. You don’t have to limit your love to just one person.
Contrary to popular belief, being in a fluid relationship does not mean you love your primary partner less. It simply means that you have more room for love, want to explore your sexuality, or are just looking to spice up your relationship, according to Healthline.
You Aren’t Necessarily “Sexually Fluid”
Fluid relationships are for anyone who wants to have multiple partners and not limit themselves to just one. Being in a fluid relationship doesn’t mean that you are sexually fluid — a term that typically describes someone who experiences changes in their sexual orientation over time.
You can be in a fluid relationship and still identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or any other sexual orientation. Your sexual identity is not dependent on your relationship status or structure.
You Don't Sleep With All Your Partners!
Fluid relationships aren’t all about sex. Sure, sex certainly can be an essential part of fluid relationships, but it is not the only factor.
Although a fluid relationship generally centers around multiple partners, you don’t necessarily have to feel sexually attracted to all of them.
Some people in fluid relationships may have platonic partners whom they don’t have sex with or whom they have sex with less frequently or differently than their primary partner.
Your feelings may or may not change with time, and that's okay because fluid relationships allow you to adjust according to your feelings and go with the flow. The point is that there is no one way to be in a fluid relationship; it depends on what you and your partner(s) want.
There Is Nothing Wrong with Your Existing Relationship
People usually have this misconception that getting into a fluid relationship means you’re not satisfied with your existing partner. Well, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The only way you can choose to be in a healthy fluid relationship is because your existing bond with your core partner is already fulfilling and whole on its own. You just want to experience other forms of intimacy or connection without limiting yourselves to a single person.
Being in a fluid relationship also doesn’t mean you are looking for an escape. You're not in a fluid relationship to "fill a hole" or fix something in your existing relationship. It simply means that you are honest about your desires and respectful enough of your partner's feelings to not go behind their back.
Research shows that individuals typically engage in polyamorous relationships because of a need to belong to a community or a group with whom they share similar values, interests, and attitudes.
While this study was done on polyamorous relationships, the same logic applies here. So it's nothing strange if you want to have a relationship with someone you click with, apart from your core partner.
Your Love Is Stronger Than Ever
Being in a fluid relationship can actually strengthen your bond with your primary partner, if you do it right, that is. By allowing each other the freedom and space to explore other options, you can show each other trust, respect, and support. It will also help you appreciate each other more and grow together as a couple.
And if you think that a fluid relationship won’t be as satisfying as a monogamous one, think again. Research suggests that there is no significant difference in relationship satisfaction between people in monogamous and open relationships. So fellas, if you're feeling like asking other people to join your relationship, go for it!
Entering Fluid Relationship as Someone New
What does fluid mean in a relationship when you’re new? Entering a fluid relationship as someone new can be an exciting experience, but it also comes with some challenges.
If you’ve just entered into a fluid relationship or are thinking of getting into one, here are a few things you should expect.
You May Have Threesomes
When entering a fluid relationship, you may become sexually involved with both partners. It is also possible that you may make love to them at the same time. This can be a fun and pleasurable way to explore your sexuality and bond with your partner (s).
Keep in mind this is all consensual, and the relationship will adapt according to each partner's comfort zone and sexual preferences.
Speaking of sex, you should never assume you have permission to engage in any sexual activity with either of the partners in a fluid relationship. So it’s best to err on the side of caution and, ask for consent, and respect the answer, of course!
Also, remember that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and you should keep checking in with your partners to make sure they are having a good time and are comfortable.
You May Only Like One of Them
As someone who's entering an already established relationship, there is a chance you may find yourself attracted to only one of your partners. Feelings with the other partner may develop over time, or it may not happen at all.
You might also have different types of relationships with both partners. So while you may be sexually attracted to one of them, you may only share an emotional bond with the other. This can lead to feelings of jealousy and resentment between the core partners, especially if they expect you to be equally involved with the two of them.
Try being honest about your feelings, and avoid playing favorites. You should also respect the primary relationship of the couple and not try to interfere — or worse, break them up.
You May Become a “Villain”
If the couple is already having problems in their relationship, you might end up escalating it through no fault of your own.
Before becoming too invested, consider looking for warning signs that the relationship is over, like a lack of communication or constant tension between the primary partners. Otherwise, you may become the villain and a target of blame for why things went wrong.
Some people in fluid relationships might not be fully honest with their primary partners about their involvement level with you. They may lie, cheat, or hide things from them and end up blaming you for any potential problems that arise in their relationship.
Expect Lots of Sex, Love, and Attention
One of the things (and might we say, the best one, wink-wink) you can definitely expect when entering a fluid relationship is that you will get to enjoy the intimacy and affection of two people.
Having multiple partners increases your chances of getting lots of sex, as well as love and attention. They may be eager to please you and make you feel welcome and appreciated.
You’ll feel heard and content while all your emotional and physical needs are met. In fact, a study reports that individuals with multiple partners have been shown to have better mental well-being than people in monogamous relationships, resulting in overall happiness and improved physical health.
While you should feel free to enjoy the perks of being in a fluid relationship, make sure you’re mindful of your partners’ needs as well.
You May Get Jealous
When you join a fluid relationship as a third person, you may experience feelings of jealousy and envy at some point. If your partners spend more time together or celebrate milestones or events that you are not part of, it might make you feel left out or neglected. You may also wonder if your partners love you as much as they love each other or if they would rather prefer someone else over you.
Verywell mind claims it’s important to remember that these feelings are totally normal and natural. Though, they can be harmful if you let them consume you or affect your behavior. Not to mention, nothing can destroy a relationship more than acting as the typical jealous partner.
Start by communicating with your partners openly and honestly about your feelings, and work together to find a solution that’s suitable for everyone involved. You should also work on building your self-esteem and keep reminding yourself of your worth and value in the relationship.
Entering a fluid relationship can be a wonderful way to explore your sexuality and connect with different people, but it also requires a lot of responsibility. If you are interested in joining a fluid relationship, you should do some research, talk to your partner, and make sure you are ready for the adventure.