How Millennials are Creating a Relationship Culture of Empowerment

All these new terms show a generation that are doing relationships better.


“Friends with benefits” may have been coined around a decade ago, but it was an insight into an era that wanted to start addressing the realities behind relationships. The terms before had struggled to really look at relationships beyond sex and romance. Yet, relationships are as varied as people’s sexualities. They have all different make-ups. Millennials now are starting to address this, and starting to demand that all relationship types get recognition.

At the core though, there is usually some sort of attraction between people. This too has often been described in generic terms but actually, there are many different ways to experience attraction and some relationships may contain them all or none of them. Being able to differentiate between the types of attraction matters because it helps build an inclusive dialogue, and makes it easier in particular for asexual and aromantic people to express their feelings and desires when, in terms of relationships, their identities are often silenced the most. People may experience sensual attraction (wanting intimacy, touch, hugging etc.), aesthetic attraction (seeing someone as beautiful), sexual attraction (not always wanting to have sex, but a sexual desire is present) and/or romantic attraction (being attracted someone in a romantic sense) or other forms of attraction. These foundations help inform people of how to build a relationship. For instance, someone who experiences sensual, aesthetic and romantic attraction to someone may have no wish for that relationship to become sexual and so the people involved may shape their relationship to suit all parties desires.

“These foundations help inform people of how to build a relationship”

By addressing what we want, and being able to communicate openly, relationships have a much more equal footing and work in a way that’s best for everyone involved. Different relationship types have started to gain prominence as a result. Polyamory is still shrouded in stigma, but it is getting more attention. It’s not remotely about being greedy. Poly relationships are for people who recognise that they can be attracted to multiple people but are willing to explore that. It’s not morally better or worse, it’s just a different way to do relationships to what is conventionally expected. It’s also okay to recognise that you may be someone who experiences attraction to multiple people at once, but that monogamy just happens to work best for you.

Alterous relationships deserve more recognition and respect too. Alterous simply means neither strictly romantic or platonic. Romanticism is on a spectrum, much like other identities and feelings. It makes sense that many relationships wouldn’t adhere to a strictly (allo)romantic or non-romantic binary. A relationship might not quite be friends with benefits – hell, there might not be any sex at all – but it might not quite be entirely romantic either. Relationships are complicated, but they’re often made more complicated because we’ve never really had a culture that allows us to express how we truly feel. There are so many pressures around relationships but recognising the different options available gives us some empowerment. Alterous relationships aren’t settling, nor are they more likely to fail. They’re completely up to the individuals involved, and for a lot of people, (especially aromantic people) they’re a format that works best.

Queerplatonic relationships are also deserving of more respect and also equal rights. Queerplatonic relationships are rarely romantic, if at all. Basically, romance isn’t the element that is centred. There are wide varieties of QP relationships. Many are partnerships formed with friends, some are based also on sexual/sensual/aesthetic attraction. People should be free and able to choose to spend their lives, or however long they want, with who they want and in whatever capacity they want. Queerplatonic partners often are denied basic rights such as being considered next of kin, or as a valid format to be able to explore adoption. As our generation pushes different relationship types into the social consciousness then we also have to demand a distribution of rights so that all consensual relationships are equal under the law.

Perhaps though the fundamental relationship ideology that has been the most radical to gain attention is relationship anarchy. RA is essentially about the people within the relationship fully setting any and all boundaries. There are no preconceived notions of romance or, for instance, what constitutes cheating. Those involved address every element from boundaries, to how its defined, to what other people know. It puts the ownership of the relationship fully in the hands of those practising it. RA relationships can also follow the traditional romantic/sexual set up, they can also be queerplatonic or they could be alterous. It’s just about what people themselves want, instead of making assumptions or following norms without any real consideration for whether they’re helpful or harmful.

Millennials are opening up new dialogues around relationships and, in turn, are helping to create a society that approaches relationships with greater understanding and flexibility. Millennials aren’t snowflakes. In fact, we’re the ones willing to address the complicated topics and life and go after what we want.

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