Opinion: Sex educator Shawna Scott on why she believes Ireland needs to celebrate and recognise non-traditional relationships.

Four years ago, Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of equal marriage between two partners of any gender, becoming the first country in the world to do so by a popular vote. It showed that we were much more compassionate and fair than we often gave ourselves credit for.

And while it was the correct and just thing to do, we should now look at expanding our ideas of what a family and romantic partnerships look like, especially since one of the biggest arguments in favour of marriage equality was that we have a huge variety of family configurations in the modern age.

nuclear family
The nuclear family is not the only type of familial structure 

The nuclear family - with two partners, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence - made sense to a lot of people in Western society, because it suited where we were economically in the latter half of the 20th century.

However, as we’ve evolved to become more socially inclusive and we’re seeing huge wealth inequality globally, more people have found that non-monogamous relationships work best for them for a variety of reasons. Just as sexuality and gender exist on a spectrum, so too do non-monogamous relationships.

Some people have two or more partners they are equally committed too, while others prefer to have one committed partner and other casual partners. Some people choose not to meet their partners’ partners, while others need to have an emotional connection or friendship with them to feel comfortable and safe.

Whatever way we choose to configure our romantic lives, monogamous or not, we should all be respected and be able to have our committed relationships recognised as it affects everything from hospital visitation, child custody, inheritance - all the same things we fought for in the marriage equality referendum.

lgbt couple
We should all be respected and be able to have our committed relationships recognised

When we think about what we want for ourselves when we become pensioners, often our biggest necessities are support and companionship. It is almost inevitable that one partner will die before the other, and many of us will become primary carers or be cared for by our partners at the end stages of life.

It can be painful and lonely for all involved but, hopefully, if we make moves toward recognising and being more inclusive of non-monogamous relationship structures, we can relieve some of that burden - both financial and emotional.

More love means the potential for more support when we need it the most, and celebrating the variety of ways in which love exists, in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, can only make our country even stronger and kinder.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ.