Explained: Is Marriage Limited To A Man And A Woman? What Are Different Types Of Relationships?

A woman from Gujarat announced she would marry herself in India's first 'sologamy' out of self-love. Here we explain various kinds of relationships.

Representative image of a wedding

Kshama Bindu, a 24-year-old woman from Gujarat's Vadodara, is set to marry herself next week in what's being called India's first act of 'sologamy'.

The wedding will take place in a temple with traditional 'feras' and 'sindoor'. The wedding is her "unconditional love for oneself" and she is setting "an example of self-love in our country", said Bindu in an interview with The Times of India

While the common perception of a relationship or marriage is usually between a man and a woman, that has changed in recent years with increasing awareness and acceptance of same-sex relationships. However, the types of relationship dicussed in this piece go beyond the sex- or gender-based identities of people involved to look at the nature of those relationships. 

The 'nature' of relationships can be understood under various parametres, such as the number of participants, their level of intimacy and commitment, their social or inter-personal dynamics, etc. 

Here we explain different types of relationships ranging from monogamy to sologamy and open marriages along with their legal and cultural aspects.

Monogamous, non-monogamous relationships

Monogamy is what we are most familiar with. It's when a person is in a relationship with only one person at a time.

There are multiple kinds of non-monogamous relationships too in which there are more than one partners of a person.

Polygamy is when a person has more than one partners. It's called polygyny when a man has multiple partners (such as multiple wives) but these partners are exclusively in a relationship with that man.

History across cultures mentions kings and prominent figures with more than one wives. This is a prevalent and accepted practice in contemporary cultures too.

Psychology Today notes, "Worldwide, Muslims are most likely to be polygynous, with the highest concentrations of contemporary polygyny in the Middle East and parts of Africa."

Polyandry is a marriage of one woman with multiple partners. It's far more rare than polygyny as marriages between one woman and multiple men have received less social, political, and cultural support than have polygynous relationships, according to Psychology Today.

An example of this would be Drauapadi's marriage with the fiva Pandav brothers in the Hindu epic Mahabharata.

Polyamory and open relationships

There are two other types of polygamous relationships — polyamory and open. 

Open relationships are those in which both the partners agree to have more romantic or sexual partners beside themselves. It's the practice of, or desire for, having a loving and/or intimate relationship with more than one person at a time, with the consent of all people involved, according to psychologist and author Liz Powell.

Polyamory is the practice to have multiple consensual relationships at the same time. Open and polyamourus relationships appear to be overlapping in their nature, but some expert say it's not the same. 

The Cosmopolitan magazine explains, "Polyamorous relationships can take on a lot of different forms, but they typically involve a core relationship. The people in that core relationship are free to explore other sexual and romantic relationships with the understanding that the core comes first."

Healthline says open and polyamorous relationships are not the same. It says, "While loving and romantic relationships with more than one person are explicitly allowed in polyamory, that’s not necessarily the case in open relationships."

Some of the well-known people who have been in open relationships are actor Will Smith, actor Jada Pinkett Smith, singer Akon, actor Bella Thorne, and actor Kabir Bedi. 

Journalist Mark Tully has also been in a non-monogamous relationship. A BBC article noted, "Mark Tully's private life is complicated. In Delhi, he stays with his girlfriend, Gillian Wright, while in London he stays with his wife, and mother of his four children, Margaret."

Other types of relationships

While relationships discussed above were based on the number of partners, relationships are also understood from the level of intimacy or commitment people involved have.

The following are the types of relationships based on this criteria:

Friends with benefits is a relationship in which two friends are in a sexual relationship without an emotional or romantic element. They are friends, they like each-other's company, and they sometimes or regularly have sex. 

Then there are serious relationship where you are exclusively in a relationship with one person. Different people call this differently. Some say they are 'committed', whereas some people get serious when they start referring to themselves as boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners. Exclusively dating a person is also understood to be a serious committed relationship.

"You’re still exploring your relationship as you were previously—by, like, going on dates and having fire sex—but there’s “a commitment present and an expectation to not explore dating other people," says marriage and sex therapist Adrienne Michelle in a Cosmopolitan story.

The final stage of a committed relationship is marriage.


Power-dynamics in a relationship

Relationships have also been defined by power-dynamics and established roles of people involved.

In a "dom/sum" relationship, short for dominant-submissive, people involved have a consensual dynamic of taking on a dominant or submissive role in the relationship, as per Cosmopolitan.

These dominant and submissive roles can be in any domain of their relationship, be it romantic, sexual, platonic, financial, or psychological, explains Cosmopolitan

What's sologamy? What's its acceptance?

Sologamy is a commitment to yourself and not necessarily to singledom or celibacy, explains

The idea has acquired acceptance in many people in recent years because many feel they are losing themselves in today's fast-paced lives and they need to love themselves more.


"Many of us have lost sight of who we are and most people are not used to just sitting with themselves, therefore, looking in the mirror to acquire inner knowledge, rediscover what we are and what we want to reflect to others is crucial," quoted Monica Manzano as saying.

The article adds, "Sologamy is a cathartic declaration of self-compassion and a promise to give to yourself what you often seek from other people. The idea is to hold your own heart and care for it as much as you would someone else’s; a lifelong commitment to loving yourself fully."


Gujarat's Kshama Bindu also spoke of her sologamous marriage on similar lines.

She told The Times of India, "Self-marriage is a commitment to be there for yourself and unconditional love for oneself. It’s also an act of self-acceptance. People marry someone they love. I love myself and hence this wedding."

The first publicised solo-marriage was of American dental hygienist Linda Baker in 1993, according to The Indian Express

Some other people who married themselves are writer Erika Anderson, author Sasha Cagen, and Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima.