Artist: Isaac Curran, Perth

Different Types of Relationships

Recognising that relationships come in all forms can be useful to help communicate what you want from a healthy relationship, or to help you recognise that unhealthy relationships can also come in different forms.

Particularly in LGBTQ+ communities, there can be less pressure to have relationships based on more traditional models.

However, there are healthy traits which are important to all relationships, such as trust, feeling secure, consent, communication and respect.

If you are concerned about whether your relationship is healthy or not, take our quiz here.

In my State (QLD)

Marriage/Civil Unions:

Same-Sex marriage became legal in QLD (and the rest of Australia) in December 2017. Civil Unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships are also legal in QLD and have been since 2011. In 2012, the Newman Government amended the law to remove aspects that “mimicked marriage”, such as the option of an official ceremony, to “avoid offending conservative religious groups”. During the Newman government the terminology was also reworded as “registered relationships”. However, in 2015 the PaIaszczuk government introduced the Relationships (Civil Partnerships) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2015 which would legalise same-sex marriage, revert the terminology back to civil partnership, and allowed any couple the option of participating in an official ceremony prior to having their relationships registered.

Queensland automatically recognises civil unions, civil partnerships or marriages from other states in Australia, and from December 2017 all overseas same-sex marriages are also recognised in the state.

Adoption, Foster and Kinship Care:

Currently in Australia, laws around adoption and fostering by LGBT people differ by state/territory. For the most part, laws covering adoption and adoption practices in Australia are oriented towards heterosexual couples. However, most jurisdictions allow for onshore adoption for same-sex couples (excluding the Northern Territory). Inter-country adoption by same-sex couples remains the prerogative of the country of origin of the child in question. Currently, South Africa is the only country with which Australia has an active inter-country adoption agreement allowing lesbian or gay couples to adopt jointly.

There are no laws in Australia that explicitly ban lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and/or transgender people from becoming foster parents. However, this does not mean that the law comprehensively protects LGBT foster parents either. In particular, religious-based foster care agencies may appeal to legal provisions allowing them to refuse to assess LGBT applicants.

In 2016, the government announced it would introduce a bill in the parliament later in the month to remove the ban on same-sex adoption, to allow single people and couples undergoing fertility treatment to adopt, to allow people to adopt their same-sex partner’s children and allow more information to be readily available to potential adoptees. The legislation was divided (43 votes for the bill from the Labour government and 43 votes against the bill from the LNP) and the decisive vote was given to the Speaker (Independent MP Peter Wellington) who voted for the bill. This went into effect in November 2016 becoming the Adoption and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016.

Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART):

Currently in QLD law, women who identify as Lesbian are permitted to access ART such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment. QLD Law also allows fertility clinics to refuse to provide ART based on the relationship status or sexuality of those seeking such services. Eggs, sperm (gametes) and embryos not used in a treatment procedure (ART) can be stored for future use. In QLD, gametes can be stored for a period of 10 years, with an additional time allowable as long as the service storing approves, and there is written consent by the person who produced the gametes. Embryos are able to be stored for 5 years, with an additional 5 years allowable as long as the service storing approves, and there is written consent by the person who produced the embryos.

Donation of Sperm/ Eggs and Embryos in QLD:

In QLD sperm is accepted from all healthy men aged 21 – 44. Egg donors ideally should be aged between 21 and 35 years of age, and embryo donors can be anyone who has completed IVF and chooses to donate their remaining embryos to someone else (this can be anonymous). Through the Status of Children Act 1978, the donor of the sperm, eggs and embryos have no rights, no financial or legal obligation or liabilities in relation to the child born as a result of the procedure, now or in the future. At registration of the birth of the child the recipient, if registered, is the legal parent. Any offspring may request identifying information about their donor when they reach 18 years old and it is a requirement of the donor to be open and willing to have contact with any children born through donation.


Since 1988 all forms of surrogacy, formal or informal, paid or altruistic, have been prohibited in Australia. Any advertising in relation to surrogacy was also prohibited, and it became a criminal offence for any QLD resident to enter into a commercial surrogacy contract anywhere in the world. In 2009 a new bill was drafted that outlined that commercial surrogacy remain legal, but legalized surrogacy, as long as the courts are satisfied that individuals have undergone counselling, received independent legal advice and have an established medical or social need for surrogacy. This bill would not restrict who can enter into a surrogacy arrangement. This means a couple (same-sex or heterosexual) or a single person (male or female) may be the intended parents in a surrogacy and apply for parental orders. This law also recognizes two mothers as parents. This law took effect in 2010, allowing singles and couples to enter into surrogacy arrangements and to become the parent/s of a child. It is still illegal for QLD residents to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements anywhere in the world.

  • Monogamy

    Monogamy is a relationship involving two people, with no other negotiated lovers or partners at the same time.

  • Open Relationships

    Open relationships are generally when two people in a relationship agree to not be entirely monogamous. How open a relationship is can differ significantly across relationships. In some relationships, partners decide to open up for brief periods of time and return to monogamy at a later point.

    Like all healthy relationships, trust and communication are critical to making sure that both partners (and everyone else involved) are comfortable. No one in the relationship should feel pressured or uncomfortable.

    Without clear arrangements, relationships can become unhealthy. Couples should consider speaking about different parts of an open relationship, such as:

    • “Playing” separately or together
    • The level of disclosure both between partners and with those outside of the relationship
    • The level of romantic involvement with other people
    • Boundaries around types of sex or intimate activities they engage in with others
    • Commitment to their sex and romantic lives together
  • Polyamory

    Polyamory is a type of open relationship, where people may have more than one ongoing romantic partners.

    Often, a person may have a primary partner, meaning that although they have other partners  their main commitment is to their primary partner. However, this is not always the case – some people have multiple partners of equal status.

    In some relationships, there may be three or more people involved with each other  known as a “thruple”, or “quad” when there are four people.

  • Asexual Relationships

    Some people experience little to no sexual desire or sexual attraction to others.

    Some are both asexual and aromantic, meaning they do not have romantic nor sexual feeling towards others. However, many individuals will develop romantic feelings for another without a desire to have sex with them.

    Romantic attraction can be for a single or multiple genders. These relationships are founded on romantic, physical and emotional attraction and companionship.

    Like all relationships, the relationships of people who are asexual come in all shapes and sizes. Some individuals are partnered with other asexual people, while others may be partnered with a sexual person and may be in an open relationship or have other approaches to maintaining their relationships.

  • Casual

    A casual relationship is where the people involved see each other regularly or semi-regularly, but there are minimal expectations on the people involved.

    These relationships range from being romantic or semi-romantic to purely sexual in nature. Like all relationships, it is important to communicate clear expectations early on so people do not get hurt.

  • Dom/Sub

    A dominant-submissive relationship is where one partner is dominant and the other submits to their partner. Both dominant and submissive partners are equal in having their boundaries respected by their partner, regardless of their role.

    Trust, communication, boundaries and consent are crucial to having a safe and healthy sub/dom relationship.

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