Aside from the traditional Aussie friends or comrades, a mate is a partner in the equivalent of marriage or some other de facto relationship in the furry community. There are different levels of mateship and different species have slightly different views on these matters. However, here I will deal specifically with those particularly referring to the Chakats. These people believe in a three tier system, as follows:
A Companion can range from a very good friend to a lover. Frequently, young chakats will find themselves someone who shares their interests and provide companionship and physical comfort. This can include, but is not primarily for the purpose of, sexual relationships. Because chakats are very social and tactile people, this level of mateship fulfils their emotional and physical needs. As they grow older, chakats will still form Companionships, but these are more likely to grow into deeper relationships. While still young though, they are usually temporary and are dissolved on a mutually amicable basis as their goals or needs diverge. The emphasis on this level is a mutual pleasure without commitment. Quickpaw and Bronzecoat are an example of a Companionship.
Denmates are Companions or lovers who formally mate into the family. They share in the joys and responsibilities of their family, and are mindful of the needs of their co-mates and any cubs already in that family. These relationships are sometimes born out of need, but always are based in love, as otherwise that person would just be a burden on that family. The Denmates usually, but not always, have a strong sexual relationship, often with the goal of having children. Cubs are not brought into the world unless it is within the security and loving environment of a family. The emphasis on this level is love of one's partner and hir family, and the relationship lasts at least until any offspring are grown and ready to fend for themselves. At this time, the partners may choose to renew or dissolve the mating. Lupu and Goldfur are examples of Denmates.
Lifemates are Denmates who have such a depth of love and need for each other that they can no longer conceive of living without each other. They share a soul-deep bond that transcends physical relationships, but an active sex-life is always a part of it. This, however, is merely icing on the cake as Lifemates can be extremely happy just being in the company of their mate. A Lifemate's needs and wellbeing are always held as the highest priority, even above one's own. It is felt that if the Lifemate is content, then this happiness filters down to the rest of the family, bringing benefits to all. You cannot become a Lifemate until you have spent at least one full year as declared Denmates. It is considered that this is such a serious decision to make that much time is needed to consider all its aspects. Once a Lifemating is declared, it cannot be dissolved and lasts the lifetime of the partners. However, this does not exclude the forming of bonds with other people and as many as four may share in a Lifemateship. While not forbidden, any more than that makes relationships too complicated and two or three are the norm. Goldfur and Garrek are examples of Lifemates, as are Forestwalker, Kris and Trina.
There are other terms for relationships formed with Chakats, but they all fall within the three categories listed above. One example is Mate of the Heart and refers to a deeply loving but unconsummated bond. This falls within the Companion category. Forestwalker and Admiral Kline had such a relationship until the time they declared themselves Denmates. Obviously, non-consummation does not mean non-physical and there can be a high degree of physical intimacy between such partners.
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