Cus­tom re­la­tion­ships are the fu­ture

Liv­ing apart but to­gether, liv­ing to­gether but sep­a­rate, co-moth­er­ing and more trends

North Toronto Post - - Currents - DR. JESS

The times they are a chang­ing and re­la­tion­ships are evolv­ing along with them.

Not only are younger folks de­lay­ing mar­riage or re­ject­ing it al­to­gether, but they’re also em­brac­ing the real­ity that there is no one-size-fits-all for­mula for last­ing part­ner­ships.

Rewrit­ing the rules of re­la­tion­ships al­to­gether is the trend — re­gard­less of age.

“I want love and com­pan­ion­ship, but I have no plans to be a mother again,” says Val, who reen­tered the dat­ing mar­ket in her 60s. “All the men I was dat­ing wanted a mother — a cook, a cleaner and a nurse in some cases. They were clear about their ex­pec­ta­tions and even joked about the ‘good old days.’ When I met Paul three years ago, I was up front about not want­ing to move in to­gether and it has worked out well.”

Val and Paul both live in High Park, but they’ve main­tained sep­a­rate res­i­dences. The liv­ing-apart-but-to­gether (LABT) ar­range­ment has be­come more com­mon as cou­ples ac­knowl­edge that re­la­tion­ships need not be lin­ear.

Twenty-nine-year-old Veena agrees and in­sists that she has no plans to co­habit any­time soon.

“I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years, and things are go­ing great. Why move in and dis­rupt what we’ve cre­ated? Nei­ther of us wants kids, so I don’t see why we need to be room­mates.”

Although more in­ti­mate part­ners may be opt­ing into LABT, oth­ers are choos­ing to move in to­gether to re­duce ex­penses and share par­ent­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Co-moth­er­ing ar­range­ments al­low moth­ers to pool time, fi­nan­cial and emo­tional re­sources — all of which tend to be scarce for sin­gle par­ents.

Ben­e­fits of this non-sex­ual re­la­tion­ship in­clude re­duced costs — not only do you share hous­ing, util­ity and food ex­penses, but also in­ci­den­tal ex­penses in­clud­ing toys, sports equip­ment, kitchen tools and even cloth­ing to some de­gree.

The chil­dren also ben­e­fit from the sup­port of an ad­di­tional car­ing adult (who likely has more pa­tience be­cause they are able to ac­tu­ally get some alone time) and the ca­ma­raderie of their in-house “sib­lings.”

And of course, the emo­tional ad­van­tages are shared by the kids and adults alike.

“It’s way eas­ier with my best friend on board. It’s the first time I’ve felt some­one re­ally has my back. But it’s also em­pow­er­ing,” says Shelby who lives down­town. “Be­cause we’re tak­ing sin­gle mother­hood back — it shouldn’t be stig­ma­tized, and my kids shouldn’t suf­fer be­cause their fa­ther is no longer here.”

Sin­gle par­ents aren’t the only ones pool­ing emo­tional and fi­nan­cial re­sources to sup­port them­selves and their kids.

Di­vorced and sep­a­rated par­ents are also de­fy­ing con­ven­tion and opt­ing to live to­gether de­spite no longer be­ing ro­man­ti­cally linked.

Beach res­i­dent Stan­ley has con­tin­ued to live with his part­ner in their fam­ily home since their di­vorce. They have two teenage sons and can of­ten be found shar­ing a laugh and a drink on their ter­race with their new part­ners — they seem to get along as well as any other group of friends.

Liv­ing-to­gether-but-sep­a­rate (LTBS) is yet an­other trend that flies in the face of re­la­tion­ship — and breakup — ex­pec­ta­tions.

And fi­nally — though not a trend per se — non-sex­ual, af­fec­tional re­la­tion­ships are also be­com­ing more com­monly ac­knowl­edged.

Th­ese re­la­tion­ships might in­clude love, in­ti­macy, cud­dling and other forms of phys­i­cal af­fec­tion but pre­clude sex­ual en­coun­ters (i.e., no goal of arousal or orgasm).

It makes sense that some folks who iden­tify as asex­ual may pre­fer af­fec­tional re­la­tion­ships (although asex­ual needs and de­sires are highly var­ied of course), but they’re not the only ones.

A polyamorous friend ex­plains to me that she has mul­ti­ple part­ners: a par­ent­ing part­ner, two sex­ual part­ners, a life part­ner and an af­fec­tional part­ner with whom she shares ev­ery­thing ex­cept sex. Dif­fer­ent part­ners ful­fill dif­fer­ent needs, and it re­duces the pres­sure for one per­son to be your ev­ery­thing.

As so-called trends be­come more vis­i­ble and ac­ces­si­ble to more peo­ple, it’s im­por­tant to note that some of us have more priv­i­lege to chal­lenge so­cial con­ven­tions and/or be re­warded for do­ing so — but re­la­tion­ship norms will con­tinue to evolve.

And as our op­tions for cus­tom de­sign­ing our re­la­tion­ships to suit our in­di­vid­ual needs ex­pand, I see a bright fu­ture for love, in­ti­macy, re­la­tion­ships and sex: a fu­ture in which va­ri­ety is cel­e­brated and cer­tain types of love are no longer rel­e­gated to the fringes.

As re­la­tion­ship norms evolve, non-sex­ual cou­ples are be­com­ing more com­mon

Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, au­thor and sex­ol­o­gist (

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