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Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  381 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Contemporary relationships are in a state of rapid evolution. These changes can and should empower people with the opportunity to develop partnerships based on their own sexualities, understandings, and agreements. This makes it possible to create what Kenneth Haslam, founder of the Kinsey Institute’s Polyamory Archive, has called “designer relationships.”

Designer relation
Paperback, 168 pages
Published September 8th 2015 by Cleis Press
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  381 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Jacki Yovanoff
Nov 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
There are more and more books all the time on relationship styles, polyamory, open relationships, etc. What sets this book apart is the authors are not endorsing one "style" over others. This book encourages us to go mindfully into whatever relationship we would like to have. They give us the tools to design our own relationships. What if we weren't told what kind of relationships we *should* have? It's a good way to spark some introspection.

This is a great smaller book. It is not overwhelming a
Jack Bruno
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A lovely little book that made me think a bit.
Elizabeth Wood
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Designer Relationships is an excellent handbook for anyone seeking to create intimate relationships that are mutually fulfilling, loving, and full of passion. Michaels and Johnson have created exactly what they set out to create: an accessible, quick-reading guide that works for just about any kind combination of partners regardless of number, gender, or sexual proclivity. It’s not a guide for polyamorists, or a guide for same sex couples, or a guide for kinksters. Its a guide for lovers of all ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This book does a really great job talking about the conscious ways relationships can be structured around monogamy/nonmonogamy and the many facets that includes. I really appreciate how it breaks down some different kinds of monogamy and acknowledges that these are also valid options for relationships.

The book doesn't do as much to talk about all the other areas where people can design relationships to suit them, like choices about sex, marriage, children, and cohabitation. I've been looking for
Maya Reid
Oct 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Not much in this book felt "new" after having read a handful of the books they list in their "other resources" guide in the back, but in the authors' introduction, they said they wanted this to be the kind of book you could pick up in an airport and read during the flight and come away having learned something, and I think they succeeded in that effort. ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
As a queer person I feel missed by the book. It probably does a good job at introducing straight couples to ways of opening their relationship and to explore beyond the culturally hegemonic concept of straight monogamy. But for someone who lives in an environment where most people I know are in some kind of nonmonogamous setting I feel missed.
The book is written as an introduction to the topic to people who aren't familiar with the topic and as such some of it feels like making loooong baby ste
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book reads like a very brief cheerleading session for open relationships. While the last two chapters had some good advice and a few good questions to discuss in any kind of relationship, most of the book was spent defending open or non-traditional relationships from misconceptions which could be plucked from a Fox News talking head. I think most people who pick up this book they will be beyond that already. I felt the book mostly passed over the difficulty inherent in non-traditional relat ...more
Louisa Leontiades
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: polyamory-books
(Star rating 3.75)

There is little else more fun than being the author of your own life and whilst I adore Tolkien, he reserved his authorship for elves, hobbits and wizards. As much of a stupendous achievement Lord of the Rings is, I’ve gotta admit; I want to live that magical life… not just write about it.

The buzz around The Law of Attraction proves that people have a deep desire to truly design their own lives. And last week riding gracefully on the back of this popular concept and into my de
Olena Pastushenko
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I liked this whole concept of “Designer relationship”. Sometimes it is so difficult to agree on the meaning behind the words and labels, so why do we even have to. There is no “right” way to do a relationship, the most important thing is to make sure that it works for everyone involved, and that it is ethical and consensual. So why don’t we consider it just a designer relationship, whatever you consciously make it to be, and not following the usual steps of the relationship escalator because tha ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “We need to learn how to love ourselves before we can love another.” The real question is what is love? Once we know the real answer to that question, we can begin to understand how to truly love, and what to do when love shows up in different shapes and shades.

designer_relationshipsThe book Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships begins by explaining that there is a sexual revolution happening.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was a bit underwhelmed with this book. It has some good information in it, and I'm sure it will be helpful to a lot of people out there, but there's nothing in it that to me makes it stand out more than other books on similar topics available on the market right now.

There were times when it felt like the subject jumped very quickly, and sometimes even seemed incoherent, with quotes in places that didn't seem to have anything to do with the content of the rest of the book around it.

I know the
Kelly Hogan
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very good read. They aren't advocating any particular relationship style, but the idea of mindfully choosing what works for you and those you love. Although they don't completely avoid their own biases, they do a good job of addressing many different perspectives without judgement, and with respect. ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is probably a very helpful book for someone. I found this very 101 and lacking in practical applications, nuance, and deep theoretical discussion. A good airport read to get someone thinking about this subject matter who hasn't yet before. ...more
I mean, they're not wrong. ...more
Pontus Enander
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: relationships
At first I gave three stars but that’s not a truly guiding rating really because Designer Relationships is better than “just three stars”. It is however a book with limitations, which is both a bit frustrating and nice at the same time. And perhaps fitting for its subject of limiting oneself to one person versus opening up towards multiple people, or opening up to one person and limiting oneself from multiple people.

The book is a great overview of both monogamy and multiple relationships and a s
Giulia Goldston
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book, as many of these books do, spends a lot of time talking about outsider stereotypes of what the authors call "Designer Relationships" and other nontraditional relationships look like, but don't, to my taste, spend nearly enough time discussing the positive and negative elements that are unique to these relationships. Perhaps this is always the problem of reading work designed to introduce outsiders into a realm of thought.

The writers are clearly smart, and may do great work, but this bo
Justin Gayle
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
By the time I finished this book I realized how futuristic it is. Designer Relationships, in my opinion, takes a carful look at the dynamics of intimate relationships, through a scientific lens, and offers perspective on what faithful or meaningful relationships can look like, and relieves tension around taboo subjects like polyamory and open relationships.
I think this book explores and simplifies, for the reader, challenging conversations around alternative relationship styles, as well as clas
Annie Frazier
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I would recommend this book to people that are in monogamous relationships, and are thinking about opening up (or are thinking about staying monogamous, honestly). Other than that, it's a little too broad for folks already in open relationships (which, to be fair, they make pretty clear at the beginning). I did like the beginning section on monogamy (funny enough), because I thought it was a great relational point to demonstrate that every relationship has both monogamous and nonmonogamous aspec ...more
Sylvia Simioni
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Three stars well deserved. Both the title and the chapter on relationship skills for everyone, whatever their color or stripe, are on their own worth five stars. Would recommend to anyone interested in thinking critically of our more common relationship models, including but not limited to monogamy. Would recommend to lovers, friends, strangers, and anyone interested in cultivating their capacity for profound interest. Go read the damn thing.
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Michaels' book (which I received through a Goodreads Giveaway) stands out as a simple and understandable guide to the gray world of relationships beyond the monochrome dichotomy of single/monogamous. Although it's not a read for everyone, those who dare read will learn a little more about the complexities of the human condition. ...more
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Michaels & Johnson have penned a non-judgmental, accessible booklet for that friend couple in your life who blushes when you mention "The Ethical Slut" but wants to explore something beyond monogamy. This little book shares a little bit about a lot of options while also validating coupledom and acknowledging it as a dominant paradigm among a variety of also valid relationship structures.

Lisa Butterworth
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: brain-books
I have lots of clients interested in opening their relationships, and this is a good basic primer, it's quick and easy to read, they take pains to be open about a variety of choices and preferences. lots of good basic info. ...more
Rashida Knight
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Highly recommend for anyone explaining relationship styles.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty amazing- overall. Very 'matter of fact' in the way that we relate, and how there is so much more than we allow ourselves to feel about each other! ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it
A little slow to get into, but once I got into it a bit, I found this book to be interesting and informative.

My biggest takeaways:

Our attitudes about sex are enormously influenced by the cultural and religious environments we grow up in. Many things I have assumed were inherently right/wrong in approaches to sex are not things that are inherent for everyone. This has been an interesting thing to ponder, and I appreciated this book challenging some beliefs that needed questioning. My values have
Sarah Rogers
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Honestly, I was a bit let down by this book. Despite it being only 5 years old, it seems dreadfully out-of-date, focusing on sex, couple-dom, and assumed relationship heirarchies—not what I expected from a book that sounded more all-encompassing from the description. The couple- and underlying hetero-/cis-centrism aside, this book was a very quick, direct refresher on all things [more mainstream] non-monogamy. I wish there was more space given to emotions and day-to-day logistics (living togethe ...more
Winter Arcane
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a fairly good book for those who want to take a more conscious approach to building relationships rather than doing the common thing of coasting by on inconsistent societal assumptions and just letting relationships happen without thought. While it didn't tell me much that I hadn't already learned through a quarter century of exploring non-traditional relationship styles, I find this to be a solid packaging of valuable advice for those towards the beginning of their own explorations. The ...more
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Very brief primer on developing relationships with self and others based on courage, agreements, exploration, and our own styles of loving. Much of the book is dedicated to addressing misconceptions and the material is fairly basic; the best chapters were those with practical advice on how to go about setting up and exploring relational dynamics. I would have liked to see more practical exercises and prompts, as well as stories that illustrate the possibilities discussed. The book also felt some ...more
Kara Sabbagh
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really love and associate with this books discussion of empathy vs. compassion, the right and wrong times to be honest in a relationship, and ways to examine if your honesty is productive of not. The “relationship skills for everyone” chapter is amazing, even if you just read the sections where they highlight certain tips in boxes. I love the discussions about sense of self as well as intimacy. I find the bit about emphasizing verbal communication less and focusing more on nonverbal, such as b ...more
Amber Sparks
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very useful overview of the different relationship modalities and terminology. Some helpful entry-level advice when it comes to monogamous relationships, primarily centred around opening up, exploring sexually, and navigating moving through more non-traditional changes. The book does use a lot of personal experience from the writers as evidence for some of its statements, either because they haven't done research on the topic or because the research simply hasn't been done by anyone yet, which ...more
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5 likes · 1 comments
“Designer relationships are based on egalitarianism and mutuality, not on proprietary thinking. From this perspective, if people decide they will have multiple partners, the approach is the antithesis of cheating. In the conventionally monogamous model, each party owns the other (a modern variation on the more antiquated view of woman as property). In designer relationships, each party voluntarily owes the other transparency, some measure of emotional loyalty, and a determination to abide by agreements.” 1 likes
“Recognizing that open relationships work for some doesn't threaten anyone else's relationship; it won't discourage anyone from choosing to be exclusive or from forming pair-bonds. We expect the majority will do just that and that dyadic and exclusive relationships will remain the predominant model. While we'd like to see people in those dyadic and exclusive relationships thinking their decisions through more carefully than they often do, we're not encouraging them to do anything that feels wrong. The simple answer to those who object to nonmonogamy is "Then be monogamous.” 0 likes
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