Relationships are like a great pair of vintage jeans: If they don't fit, they won't make you happy. One thing we know for sure is that, also like amazing denim, there are lots of different types of relationships. Love is definitely not one-size-fits-all. One type of relationship getting a lot of buzz lately is an open one, but what does that really mean?
What Is an Open Relationship?
An open relationship is one in which both parties aren't exclusively dating each other. In other words, both people are openly allowed to have other sexual and/or romantic partners.
Basically, if you're in an open relationship, you're okay with you and your partner having other love interests. Other than that, the rest of the "rules" are up to you and your partner. In a psychological study conducted by the University of Guelph, author Jessica Wood pointed out, "We found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships."
If this sounds interesting, but you aren't quite sure if an open relationship is right for you, keep reading to learn a little more about what being in this type of coupling entails. Here's what you should consider before opening up your relationship.
Say Goodbye to Monogamy
Look, all relationships are different, but the one thing that defines them is whether or not both parties are exclusively seeing each other or not. The whole point of being in a relationship is to enjoy yourself and your partner in whatever context works for you. If you both feel like your relationship would do better if you open it up, go for it.
If you've spent your whole life in monogamous relationships, an open one may feel a little strange, but don't worry, you'll get used to it (and might even wonder why you never tried this earlier!) You may feel a little guilty the first time you hook up with someone who isn't your main man or lady, but try to let those feelings go because you're not doing anything wrong.
Lawrence Josephs Ph.D., explains, "[Some] individuals may feel that monogamy is a prison that traps them in a permanent arrangement that is sexually frustrating and devoid of emotional intimacy." If you can relate, that doesn't make you a bad person incapable of love; it just means that you may need different things from different partners.
Honesty Really Is the Best Policy
The only way an open relationship will work is if you're both totally honest with each other. Like a monogamous relationship, you'll discuss what you're both comfortable with when you define the relationship. People who don't really understand the concept of open relationships may make you feel like you're just getting permission to cheat on your partner, but here's why they're wrong: Open relationships grant both of you the freedom to pursue other people in a way that's based on mutual respect, open communication, and total honesty. In other words, you fully trust each other.
While you still have strong feelings for your primary partner, you're still able to have different sexual needs met with different people, all while being completely truthful and open with one another. We truly believe that the hallmark of a successful relationship is being able to tell each other anything.
Clear Your Schedule
No matter how many or few partners you have, you'll need to be able to make time for all of them. Regardless of whether you're going out for a long and leisurely dinner or just heading to their apartment for a quick hookup, you will probably need to keep a few nights open every week. Just like any other relationship, an open one requires time and effort.
For some couples, it means one main partner and other less significant partners, and for other couples, it means that both parties can have other full-blown relationships. Take some time to figure out what works for you, but either way, open relationships are a time commitment.
Feel Your Feelings
Even if you're super open-minded, accepting, and trusting, you may still feel a pang of jealousy when your partner comes home after a night spent with one of their other lovers. Jealousy is a strong feeling that may be hard to ignore, so don't try to pretend you're fine if you're not.
Believe it or not, it's not uncommon for people in an open relationship to feel a bit threatened or intimidated by the different people their partner may pursue. "Some of us might aspire to be successful at consensual non-monogamy and that, too, requires certain personality dispositions and interpersonal skills like overcoming jealousy and insecurity about consensual partner sharing," Dr. Josephs explains.
If you are experiencing negative feelings about your partner, talk to him, your friends, or a therapist about it. Sometimes merely acknowledging the way you feel aloud to another person can help alleviate the negativity.
Don't Expect a Quick-Fix
Whether it was on television or in real life, we've all seen a couple have a baby in the hopes of repairing their relationship, but that never works. If a relationship is doomed to fail, nothing will be able to fix it because it's simply not meant to be.
Like a baby, an open relationship can't save a failing connection. In fact, opening up a weak relationship will probably destroy it. If you want an open relationship to have any chance of succeeding, you need to establish a strong and sturdy foundation first. Trust us, if you're already feeling pretty insecure about where your connection stands, hooking up with other people won't help.
University of Guelphi. Open Relationships Just as Satisfying as Monogamous Ones, U of G Study Reveals. Updated July 3, 2018.