Among some of the words that I have been running into are

Beziehungen which I understand to be the general translation for the word relationship.

Verhältnis which in some places seems to mean a love affair but most others use the word to indicate ratio and proportion.

Verwandtschaft which seems to be used more for family relations.

So I am wondering what the best word for romantic relationships would be. Also I understand that American dating and dating in Germany has a few different dynamics. So that makes me wonder if there are words for this. For example, during the initial courting phase, then the phase where the two people have taken a liking for each other and have dated consistently, then the point where they are exclusive, and then when they are engaged to be married. Are there various words that would help to tell the story better? just saying relationship can mean many things.

  • Seitensprung, which means fremdgehen. There you got two terms.
    – c.p.
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 22:16
  • Remember e.g. "Geschäftsverhältnis/-beziehung"; these are general words. Their meaning in context of relationships between people depends on, well, that context.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:39

4 Answers 4


Yes there are many ways to describe your relationship with someone in german.

A Beziehung is in general could be every kind of relationship you have with someone. You can have family relationship with your parents or uncle which means that you have a relationship due to your "blood".

I'll try to sum up the several kinds of relationships you can have:

  • Freundschaft Plus means that your relationship is just physical, you are friends and have coitus but nothing more; its English equivalent it "friends with benefits".
  • Romanze could be translated into romance or romantic affair and is usually used for the early stage of a relationship when you are in love but it's not very serious (at the moment; see early courting phase)
  • Partnerschaft is a serious relationship, I would translate it to partnership where you (may) live together. It is (usually) not a physical based relationship, since the interpersonal harmony is also very important and matches with your partner. It is some sort of "grown up" relationship. A married couple would usually say that they are in a Partnerschaft.
  • Freundschaft is friendship and is commonly a non physical relationship with someone.
  • Platonische Liebe or agape is a relationship where two people love each other but there is absolutely no interest in getting it physical (maybe Sheldon and Amy from The Big Bang Theory are an example).
  • Verhältnis just translates in relationship. It can be used if you have a girlfried (or boyfriend) and have (mostly physical and / or non-physical) relationship with another person. May cause some trouble with your partner, since he / she doesn't want to have a rival and is affraid of loosing you. BUT it can also describe a regular relationship to someone. (e.g.: you have a business relationship to a customer which would translate into Geschäftsbeziehung)

Be aware of the words Freund and Freundin which mean friend (male and female) and boyfriend and girlfriend at the same time. You have to give the right context.

To hopefully answer your question I would not say that a romantic relationship would be a Liebesbeziehung because that could be misunderstood as an affair. I'd rather just say that you are in a Beziehung with her / him. To describe it a bit better you could say frisch verliebt or junge Liebe which implies that you are in an early stage of your relationship and that the "fire is still on".

Hope that helps. If you have a more specific question just ask.

  • 3
    Some comments. 1) "Partnerschaft" is also (more often, imho) used if you are partners in some enterprise. 2) "Platonische Liebe" applies more to love between family and very close friends; I'd label it "unromantic love". People who are in love romantically but don't have sex are not in "platonischer Liebe". (I'm not sure which Shamy are.) 3) "Verhältnis" is general; in the context of this question, it's a synonym of "Affäre". 4) How do use "Freund/in" properly is worth a whole question on its own; there are several phrasings you can use to disambiguate elegantly.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:35
  • (Also, "friends with benefits" has other translations. I only know "FB" (short for "F***beziehung") which is usually used dismissively, but I'm sure there are more.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:38
  • 1
    Some more words: Techtelmechtel, Liebelei, Liebschaft, ... -- there's a neverending supply. :D
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 20:07
  • 1
    While "Beziehung" can in general mean any kind of relationship between two entities, when you say a couple has a "Beziehung" that's imho always a 'typical' romantic relationship. While some properties could be attached, like it could be an "open relationship", but that would in most cases be conveyed if known in the context. At the core a "Beziehung" excludes non-romantic relationships. If uncertain asking back if it's really a "Beziehung" or something more loose (locker) would always be understood to be about whether it's romantic and could be simply answered by yes or no. Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 23:11

The three words Beziehungen, Verhältnis and Verwandtschaft you got right. They mean exactly what you think. But not exclusively.

Additionally I think for romantic relationships we would also say Beziehung or Liebesbeziehung.

I can't recall any German words for the initial courting phase and also for the phase where they have dated consistently there's no special word. When they are exclusive / become a couple they are boy- and girlfriends which translates to Freund and Freundinn. The information if a Freund is just a friend or a boyfriend comes from the context.

Engaged translates to verlobt and married to verheiratet.

If you have something specific you would like to translate I could help you with that.

  • Thank you Tom. That definitely helps and I will have to make a few edits to what I wrote. I appreciate your offer about help, when you have a moment I wrote this post on my own blog any corrections welcome. Thank you.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:47

Instead of the nouns used to describe several levels of a relationship, I'd rather focus on "titles" as these are used more often and can cause confusion. Roughly ordered from least to most serious:

  • Bekannte(r) -- an acquaintance; can be used for everything from "we've met before" to "we talk in the gym every day but never met otherwise".

  • (der) Kumpel -- a buddy or mate; a person you know and do stuff with but that is not quite (yet) a friend.

  • Freund(in) -- a friend. Can be strengthened by adding "gute(r)" or "beste(r)".

  • (der) Schwarm -- a person you are (often secretly) in love with; usually used for teenage love interests.

  • (die) Affäre -- a person you have a sexual relationship with that may or may not involve romantic feelings; typically used if you are in a committed relationship with another person (who may or may not know about the Affäre).

    I don't know a good alternative for specifically casual sex partners, esp. if you are single. "Spielgefährt(e|in)" maybe?

  • (feste(r)) Freund(in) -- (boy|girl)friend, a person you have a romantic relationship with. Due to the available alternatives, it's mostly used for teenage relationships and such between adults that are fresh or less comitted (e.g. not living together).

    Disambiguating between "friend" and "(boy|girl)friend" is not always trivial; if you want to know more about that, I recommend you ask a new question.

  • (Lebens-)Partner(in) / Lebensabschnittsgefährt(e|in) (LAG) -- a person you are in a committed, long-term relationship with that often (but not necessarily) includes living together, with or without children. Only used if the couple is not married.

    Neither is used often nowadays, I think. Most uses of "Partner(in)" I can think of are for homosexual or senior couples. Usage may drift towards moving directly from "Freund(in)" to "Mann/Frau" as marriage becomes less obligatory.

  • (Ehe-)Mann/Frau / Gatt(e|in) / Ehepartner(in) -- spouse. "Mann/Frau" can also be used in "eheähnlichen Lebensgemeinschaften" (cf. "Partner/LAG") and "eingetragene Lebensgemeinschaft" (a weaker form of marriage).

Note that I consciously skipped over a myriad of colloquial (and often deragotory) terms for sexual partners, and a bunch of pet titles for (boy|girl)friends (e.g. "bessere Hälfte").

  • one comment regarding "Affäre", there is a more specific meaning of having a mistress / second lover behind the back of a wife as well. Which one your conversation partner will understand, depends on the general context and their socialisation (which usage is more common in his/her circles). So, I'd advise to use the word with caution^^ Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 23:14
  • @FrankHopkins Fair point. I tried to clarify with an edit.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 8:00

It seems to me you are looking for contemporary ways to talk about different stages in a romantic relationship in German.

First – there is no concept like dating in Germany. While we like to import things from the States, dating in the American way is not really popular.

Then, Germans do not like the word Beziehung (sounds quite unromantic), but still the word is very often used to describe that you are in a romantic relationship. Sometimes, to make clear one is talking about a romantic relationship, people say wir haben eine feste Beziehung (we are in a lasting relationship).

Verhältnis will imply that this is not very serious. It might imply adultery, but is also used when both partners see this as a passing phase. It normally implies that the relationship is more sexual than romantic.

Verwandtschaft has nothing to do with a romantic relationship.

Typically, people will say something like wir sind zusammen (we're together) or wir gehen miteinander (literally: we go together) or wir haben was miteinander (we have something going on) or just das ist mein (fester) Freund/meine (feste) Freundin (this is my boyfriend/girlfriend).

This will be much more common than the words given in other answers here.

There is a long catalog of different ways to express the seriousness of a relationship. Not sure how much information you would like to have.

  • Regarding your last comment, as much as you are willing to write. This is a topic that I write about extensively but am having a hard time translating into German because of context.
    – JGallardo
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:01
  • 1
    Willing to write: yes. But my time is limited. If you're not under time pressure, I'll see to write some more during the week.
    – Zane
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:08
  • "feste Beziehung" is not necessarily "lasting" but it certainly is "committed". Also, *Verwandtschaft.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:46
  • @Raphael: right, committed is much better than lasting in this context. Nothing lasts forever anyway.
    – Zane
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 7:52

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