What is an Open Relationship?

As the generations shift, so do the ideas of what a typical relationship is. Monogamy and closed marriages are known as the expectations of all relationships. Television and other forms of media often portray monogamy as the one and only way to navigate through a relationship or marriage, and often condemn any other type of relationship. When someone in a relationship would like to pursue sex outside of the relationship, it is often portrayed as cheating, which is seen as the ultimate sin. Nowadays, however, many types of consensual non-monogamous relationships are becoming more common.

What is an Open Relationship?

An open relationship is perhaps the most common type of consensual non-monogamous relationship where both partners will consensually pursue sex, company, and sometimes emotional connections with other people. Open relationships differ from Swinging, where partners in a relationship will have sex with others, with or without their partner. People often resort to Swinging when pursuing romantic attraction to a different sexual orientation, or to explore different fetishes and fantasies that their partner cannot provide.

Open relationships also differ from Polyamory which includes more than two people in one relationship: commonly known as a Throuple. These relationships are often closed like monogamous ones, but they just include more parties inside of the closed relationship. Open relationships is a balance between Swinging and Polyamory, for those who maybe want a bit more than sex, but also don’t want to be restricted at the same time. 

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Is an Open Relationship right for me?

With media and most relationships being strictly monogamous, it may be hard to break from the idea that an open relationship may not work for you. Let’s look at common scenarios where an Open relationship may work for you:

  • You’re both interested in having sex with other people 
  • You have a solid foundation of honesty and trust in the relationship 
  • You are both able to have open communication with each other
  • You and/or your partner have different sexual needs or orientations from each other
  • You and your partner develop crushes on other people 
  • You are not jealous people, or are able to cope with jealousy in a healthy manner

Something to note: Most of these points require both parties to agree to. If you are both not on the same page, then an open relationship will most likely not work.

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How do I open the discussion of an Open Relationship?

Initiating the conversation of having an open relationship can be daunting. When entering a relationship, because of monogamy being the societal norm, your new relationship could be seen as monogamous to your partner. That’s why it’s best to discuss intentions from the beginning. Discuss whether you’re both interested in the idea of having an open relationship somewhere down the line. 

If you’re already in a monogamous relationship, and want to bring the idea of an open relationship to your partner, it could bring some complication to your primary relationship. Before you do this, ask yourself why you want an open relationship to begin with: do you just want to have sex with others? Is your current partner not pleasing you enough physically and romantically? Have you or your partner cheated and this is a way to fix what already broke? If so, while open discussion is always good, prepare for some turmoil and consider whether this person is the right person to have an open relationship with. Open Relationships should begin with positivity, trust, and optimism. Any sign of negativity or jealousy will always bring stress and anxiety.

The downside of Open Relationships

Every relationship, monogamous or non-monogamous, come with risks. Open Relationships definitely have potential for more risks since there can be more people involved and more emotions at stake. One major risk, however, is jealousy. Jealousy is a normal human feeling that many people will experience in one way or another, whether it be envy of career, physical appearance, money, belongings, experiences,  or even FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Since you or your partner will be spending a portion of time with other people, jealousy plays a key factor in the failure of open relationships. It can lead to a slew of negative emotions including self-esteem issues, anger, sadness, and potentially lead to revenge or secrecy. 

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Tips on making an Open Relationship work

While jealously is a key issue, there are ways to avoid, cope with, and handle jealous emotions in an open relationship if it’s still something you’re interested in pursuing:

  1. Boundaries: Setting clear boundaries in an open relationship is vital to keeping things in check. Remember to always practice safe sex with other people. Are there people you do not want your partner to date – Coworkers? Family members? Celebrities? Do you want to avoid emotional attachment? Give each other a list of what and what isn’t off the table when it comes to your open relationship.
  2. Scheduling: Since you’ll be spending time with other people, how much time do you consider appropriate? Are you okay with your partner spending a few days with other people without seeing you? Or do you prefer only a few hours a week? Will Friday night be your night with your main partner? Try creating a workable schedule for both of you to make time management easier.
  3. Communication and Honesty: While being a jealous person, sometimes you just want to know what’s going on to avoid spiralling with anxiety in your own head. If you’re going out to meet someone, remember to let your partner know that that’s exactly what you’re doing. The more you practice communication, the less anxious you or your partner will get. 
  4. Patience: While Open Relationships may be easy for some, for others it is not. Be patient with each other and move at a pace that works for both of you. Remember, if you’re both not on the same page with each other, eventually you will lose balance and things may get out of control.

Benefits of an Open Relationship

If you’re able to work with each other, Open Relationships can help create bliss within your primary relationship. You’ll be able to have new experiences, pursue new interests, explore your different sexual needs and desires, and ultimately keep your main relationship fresh and exciting.

It will also help aid your communication skills, as well as your trust, self-esteem, and ability to overcome jealousy and dependency on a single person. Through open relationships, you not only learn more about your partner, but you get to learn more about and work on yourself in return.

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Overall, only you know what you want and need. If you want to try an Open Relationship, go for it. If you don’t think it’s something you’re ready to, or willing to handle, then that’s fine too. Sit down with yourself and examine what you want from a relationship. Remember to be honest with yourself and your partner(s). Being true to yourself is the key to make any type of relationship work.

5 comments

Open relationships are not held by just LGBT persons; it’s just generally straight people don’t talk about them much for fear of judgment versus LGBT persons tend to celebrate them more because they are not often seem negatively, as exposure to them leads to more acceptance, funny how that works!!?

I myself have been in one for years and it works for us because we do communicate and we remember that our partner is the primary commitment, so any time away from that cannot interfere with time that would otherwise be spent together. If we happen to be apart (e.g. if one is working and the other is not, or one is visiting family and the other is not) then this is prime time for exercising the openness and in fact it is encouraged.

JT August 30, 2021

I think it’s really interesting that queer people feel the need or pressure to open relationships. Not that there is something wrong with open relationships, but I find it seems rare to find someone queer and monogamous.

Logan August 28, 2021

Thank you for this. This is extremely informative.

Jerry August 27, 2021

Thank you for that post very informative

Alan August 27, 2021

Good read and very useful tip! Keep it up 🍍

Jae August 27, 2021

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