Guardian article – Relationship FAQ

Guardian article – Relationship FAQ

Yesterday The Guardian interviewed a bunch of sex and relationship bloggers to find out our answers to our most frequently asked questions. The article is here and you can read my answers below – hard to capture all the complexity in 130 words a piece!

Question 1: What kinds of relationship are most successful?

I write a lot about different possible ways of doing relationships: monogamous, monogamish and openly non-monogamous relationships; living apart together and long distance relationships; sexual and non-sexual relationships. Something I’m often asked is whether a certain form of relationships can be successful. My question back is always ‘what do you mean by successful?’ It generally turns out that people mean longevity. While studies have found that all these forms of relationships can last over time, I question whether that is the best measure of relationship ‘success’. Perhaps that is something else that is worth thinking about.

Question 2: Will things get easier if I change how I do relationships?

When people contemplate a different kind of relationship – such as an open relationship or polyamory – they often imagine that it will solve all of the problems they’re currently having. I’ve called this the ‘poly grail’ (although it happens with all kinds of relationships). Sadly the answer is that any different way of doing relationships has its own challenges. It’s tough to be in monogamous, it’s tough to be single, and it’s tough to be non-monogamous (whether you do that openly, or secretly in the form of affairs). It’s well worth finding a kind of relationship that works for you, but it’s far too much pressure to expect to find the ‘one true way’ of doing relationships, just as it’s too much pressure to expect to find ‘the one’ partner who’ll fulfil all your needs.

Question 3: How do I go about finding the kind of relationship that works for me?

Instead of searching for the perfect relationship, it’s helpful to figure out what’s important to us, and to communicate about that. For example, where do you stand between wanting just one very close person in your life and wanting lots of friends or partners who are equally close? What about between sexual exclusivity and having many sexual encounters (online or offline)? Is it important to have a clear agreed contract for how you do relationships or for everyone to be free to make their own decisions? Do you like to be private or are you keen to share everything with partners? Communication won’t resolve all the differences we have in relationships, but it definitely helps to be open about such things from the start and to accept that people can feel very differently about them.


Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).


  1. Wendy Brown

    20 March

    Hi there,

    I’m a psychotherapist and I love your website! I always think of lots of comments and today I have the time to write a bit. I don’t agree with the answer that the definition of success in a relationship is longevity. I’ve seen some long-lasting and very disturbing relationships of all types. Sure, the individuals remain attached to each other because there’s something they don’t understand or feel capable of leaving. Is that success? Well, thankfully, therapists don’t give clients solutions, so it’s up to them to decide about success, continuation…that sort of thing. In my experience, success comes in many forms: resolving an issue that’s dogged a person, getting sick and tired of something negative and giving it up, finding inner integrity, feeling appreciation and respect…I could go on and on. Now, in my opinion, success in a relationship is the result of having enough spontaneously produced love in the first place and the wisdom to handle it with care. Not all relationships have the stuff for longevity and learning how to nurture loving connections is a lifelong project.

    Wendy Brown

    • megbarkerpsych

      20 March

      Thanks so much for taking time to respond Wendy. I hope what I was saying was clear enough – it is that when people ask me what makes a successful relationship they often assume that ‘successful’ means ‘staying together for a long time’. I’m completely in agreement with you that longevity isn’t the best measure of success. People sometimes stay in very unhappy and unfulfilling relationships. I like your suggested alternative definitions of success a lot more – and I really love your point about learning how to nurture loving connections (of all kinds) being a lifelong project.

      • Wendy Brown

        20 March

        Hi Meg, Yes, I should have been clearer; I know you’re not the one defining relationship success by longevity. I can’t resist commenting further: I find a lot of people don’t even try to nurture love, partly because they don’t understand love itself and partly because it’s a lot of work. Instead they hope that the magic and the mystery of the feeling itself will carry them through. When it doesn’t work, often enough they blame love, their luck or what’s meant to be. While they might have a point with some of that, in my mind there’s no escaping the need to learn how to nurture a loving connection. Wendy

  2. Melissa Bridges

    25 March

    Thank you Meg for bringing such an understated voice to the world of relationships.