Book Review: Designer Relationships

Posted On: August 13, 2015

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. This is a time when we get to decide for ourselves what kind of relationships work for us.

What has been common is monogamy by default, or going from one exclusive romantic relationship to another, otherwise known as serial monogamy. However there are many more relationship models; this may leave us confused. On one level, Designer Relationships is a field guide of what exactly is out there.

You’ve probably heard of friends with benefits, swinging and open relationships. How about people who choose to be single by choice, identify as Asexual, or choose to be non-sexual? The book also explains terms like monogamish (people who have occasional infidelities), polyagmory (people with many loves), and swolly (people who feel they are somewhere between swinging and polyamory) etc.

The book goes on to debunk myths around mono-normative beliefs (monogamous relationships are the only way), as well as misconceptions around consensual nonmonogamy. It highlights the difference between cheating and nonmonogamy and explains more about jealousy. Authors Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson, who are in a nonmongamous relationship, make it clear that they are not advocating that all of us ought to be in nonmongamous relationships, but rather are encouraging us to figure out what works for us as individuals.

As a sexologist who works predominantly with heterosexual couples who are monogamous, I found myself nodding my head at all the points in chapter five. It imparts a useful framework of the type of relationship skills all of us should have, regardless of relationship type or preference.

I liked how Designer Relationships not only had an easy and logical flow in its structure, but is also clear in its language. I happened to be running a group session on relationship as I was reading the book. So I decided to use its structure as a framework for my workshop, and incorporated several of the points in the book. It all went very well, which gave me a greater appreciation of the amount of work and thought that went into the writing of this book.

Designer Relationships does a great job of explaining what is probably alien to many readers, and talks about the process of opening up in chapter six. The last chapter covers ethical considerations in such relationships. I felt more emphasis needed to be placed on how opening up a relationship is not a substitute for saving one which is already on its hind legs; the triggers, complexities, vulnerabilities and challenges that would continue to come up; as well as the importance of ongoing communication. No one book can cover everything. I encourage readers to use this as a starter guide and delve more into this subject if inclined.

Who is Martha?

Dr. Martha Tara Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and relationship coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. She is the author of the books Love, Sex and Everything In-Between, and Orgasmic Yoga. She is also the host of the weekly radio show Eros Evolution on OMTimes Radio. For more, visit or email

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