The norms we have internalised around relationships are usually the expectations that people and society place upon us.
What we think makes an "acceptable" or a "good" relationship hugely depends on the stories we've been told from the media, our friends and our family.
It can also come from the music we listen to, the movies we've watched and the books we've read.
What is a "normal" relationship?
A "normal" relationship is usually seen as a monogamous relationship between a cis man and a cis woman.
Society tells us that this is the default, and to stray away will make us deviant.
As queer people, this signals to us that who we are is inherently wrong, since we don't fit into this archetype.
Queer relationships inherently disrupts the norm.
Lesbian & gay relationships disrupt the norm of a relationship between a man and a woman. Trans relationships disrupt the idea of a relationship between cis people.
Polyamory disrupts the idea that relationships should be monogamous, and only between two people.
Asexual and aromantic relationships disrupt the idea that relationships have to be sexual or romantic.
Without realising it, some of us might then try to make our relationships as "normal" as possible.
Since we're straying away from the default by being queer, so perhaps we might feel pressured to have kids to be more alike to cis-heteronormative couples.
Or we might be afraid to explore polyamory or open relationships even if we might be curious.
We might also be averse to kinks. We might judge others for their sexual preferences.
But disrupting cis-het norms doesn't mean that who we are is not okay, or "unnatural".
The truth is that queer people have always existed, and so have queer relationships.
It's our attitude to human sexuality and relationships which have changed in recent times.
We can learn to observe the inner stories we tell ourselves about relationships — and think about whether these inner scripts suit us anymore.
Instead of viewing relationships in a binary, it can be helpful to view them and our preferences on a spectrum.
For example, it isn’t always monogamy versus non-monogamy. We can view it on a range. How we would like to explore norms surrounding dating and romance should be up to us to define.
This can be a liberating experience and allows you to find out what works best for you.
As adults, we can unlearn heteronormativity and learn to understand our own needs and wants in a relationship.
We’re free to decide the type of relationships we’d like to have, and re-define it as we grow, meet new people, and explore new experiences.
Many of us have internalised ideas about relationships, and so it takes practice to stop policing our thoughts and our desires.
“Exploring Relationship Norms” is one of the guided therapy programs available on Voda.
Designed with leading psychotherapists, Voda combines mindfulness with cognitive behavioural therapy to develop digital therapy programs centred for the LGBTQIA+ community.