What Is an Open Relationship? Healthy Rules and Potential Problems

Written by Harini Natarajan

“And they lived happily ever after” – movies and love stories have ingrained this idea of happily-ever-afters in our minds. Two people meet, fall in love, fight the bad people, and finally end up together. What if you don’t just want the one? What if you desire more?

Over the years, these ‘what ifs’ have found many answers, and an open relationship is one of them. This concept is not new but is gaining more limelight and acceptance with the rise of the internet and dating apps. More people are open to explore their feelings and go beyond monogamous relationships. If you are curious about open relationships, read this article to gain insight.

What Is an Open Relationship?

What Is an Open Relationship?

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An open relationship is an umbrella term that includes all forms of non-monogamous relationship, where you can date other people with your partner’s consent.
This definition may change based on the rules and boundaries set by you and your partner. For instance, one open relationship may just include sexual freedom but not emotionally intimate relationships.

However, some open relationships may even open doors to romantic relationships. This is one reason people often consider open relationships to be a form of polyamory. There is a simple difference between the two discussed later in this article, but first, let us determine who can go for open relationships.

Is An Open Relationship Right For You?

Being in an open relationship can be messy if you and your partner are not on the same page. To clear the clouds of doubt, consider these factors or questions:

1. Do you and your partner genuinely wish to try non-monogamous relationships?

Talk to your partner and learn if they are also interested in having an open relationship. The consent should be genuine and not forced in any way. Communicate openly with your partner and be honest. Pursuing open relationships should be based on mutual respect, trust, and strong communication.

2. Is it just because you have different sexual needs, or is there a lack of trust in your relationship?

Consider the reasons for trying an open relationship. If you are exploring the possibility of an open relationship due to a recent heartbreak or trust issues in your relationship, take a step back and think about it. Open relationships are built on a strong foundation of trust, honesty, and communication. So, make sure you weigh your decision before taking any step further.

3. Can you imagine your partner physically involved with someone else?

Even if you feel ready for an open relationship, there are chances you may feel jealous or possessive about your partner. Jealousy is a strong emotion that you cannot ignore. Consider this facet of an open relationship, your feelings, and discuss it with your partner.

4. Can you and your partner handle jealousy and ego?

Feeling jealous is one thing but handling it is another game. So, take some time to evaluate if both of you can prevent ego and jealousy from cropping up. If yes, how are you going to handle that?

Once you consider these factors, you will realize whether or not you can handle an open relationship. Being in an open relationship is different for all couples. There are no rules as you set your rules for the relationship. Here are a few types of open relationships that might work for you. However, the choices are not limited to these.

Types Of Open Relationships That May Work For You

Types Of Open Relationships That May Work For You

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1. Casual Dating Outside Your Relationship

If both of you are fine, you can start by casually dating multiple people. However, there will be more rules regarding sexual and romantic involvement, which both of you have to set before involving in an open relationship.

2. Getting Physically Intimate With Others

At times, couples in open relationships opt for it just because they want to explore their sexuality. Thus, they agree on having multiple sexual relationships with others. However, it is purely based on physical intimacy (no-strings-attached type) and not emotional or romantic attachments.

3. Freedom To Pursue Romantic Relationships With Others

This goes one step extra, and that is often compared to polyamory. In this type of open relationship, both of you can bond with others physically and romantically. However, such a relationship can turn messy if both of you do not talk it through and set the boundaries. Moreover, it also requires strong understanding and trust.

Couples often get into an open relationship to bring more excitement to their lives, for pleasure, love, emotional intimacy, physical satisfaction, a combination of all these factors, or some other benefits. We have listed a few of them below.

Benefits Of An Open Relationship

1. Freedom To Explore Different Sexual Experiences

Relationships are complicated. Sometimes, the partners may not be able to appease each other’s sexual desires. An open relationship can take the pressure off each other, allowing both to get the most of their wants and needs. Once that pressure is off, you may explore other aspects of your primary relationship, leading to overall satisfaction.

2. Give Way To Better Communication

Open relationships also open the windows to better communication with your partner. You can express your desires and talk about your feelings, hopes, expectations, and boundaries without the fear of judgment.

3. No Space For Cheating

When you are truthful to your partners, there is no need to weave a web of lies. Instead, you and your partner will know where you have been and whom you are seeing. This type of openness also leads to better trust and comfort among partners.

In marriages, an open relationship can reduce the fear of infidelity and give a sense of freedom instead.

4. No Pressure To Meet Expectations

Being in a monogamous relationship comes with a lot of responsibilities and commitments. But with open relationships, you have to be less wary of that. You do not have to go the extra mile to fulfill your partner’s expectations. Instead, both of you can look for other partners to satisfy your needs and interests.

Open relationships have multiple benefits when done with consent and mutual respect. However, they can get messy if you do not talk to your partner and set the boundaries.

Rules Of Open Relationship And How To Set Yours

Rules Of Open Relationship And How To Set Yours

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Setting some ground rules and boundaries will give a clear direction to your open relationship. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules for open relationships, and you can set them as per your convenience. Here are a few areas where you can think of setting some relationship or boundary rules:

1. Physical And Sexual Boundaries

Begin with the simple questions related to how open a sexual relationship can be. If there is sex involved, what should be the limit? Some other areas to explore are:

  • How many sexual partners are allowed at a time?
  • Should the other partners be strangers or within the closed circle or known group of people?
  • Also, include questions related to safe-sex practices and regular checkups for STIs.

Be as specific as possible. This may get weird after a point, but this will also prevent future floodgates that might ruin the whole partnership.

2. Define Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries and rules are harder to define. But that does not mean you should skip them.

Discuss things that can make you jealous or how both of you may deal with romantic connections with the other partners. Often, people may feel emotional pain when they see their partner feeling happy and emotionally satisfied with others. Be clear about these issues.

3. The Time Split

An open relationship isn’t just about dedicating all your time to the other partner. In doing so, your primary relationship may suffer, especially if you are married and have kids. Set a schedule for proper time management so that none of the relationships hamper the other ones. Ensure that you have time for your kids, family members, friends, partner, or spouse.

Despite the benefits, open relationships can come with their own set of issues. Things may always appear sunny and rosy from afar until you get into the situation. Here are some potential pitfalls you should consider.

Disadvantages Of Open Relationships

Disadvantages Of Open Relationships

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1. Jealousy

Jealousy can negatively impact your relationships. When you spend more time with someone else, your partner may feel jealous. They may feel neglected and experience other feelings, such as loneliness and sadness. To avoid this, talk to your partner. Understand why they are upset and what they are feeling. If necessary, re-establish the boundaries and rules.

2. Higher Risk Of Contracting STDs

A higher number of sexual partners increases your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. This can happen even when you use protection.

3. The Social Stigma

You do not need societal approval to be in an open relationship if you and your partner are fine with it. However, there might be situations where you may struggle to explain the concept to others, especially the elders in your family.

In such a situation, you need to pre-decide if you will keep your relationship status private. In case you reveal the status, be prepared with the answers.

Open relationships are often confused with polyamorous relationships. While both are non-monogamous relationships, there is a slight difference.

Difference Between A Polyamorous And An Open Relationship?

Difference Between A Polyamorous And An Open Relationship?

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In polyamory, emotional connection and romantic feelings drive the relationships. People in polyamorous relationships can “fall in love” with multiple people and may or may not involve physical intimacy.

However, in open relationships, people usually explore physical intimacy outside their core relationship (more like the no-strings-attached relationships). They may or not be involved emotionally and romantically.

Conclusion

An open relationship is a great way to explore your feelings and beliefs but requires maturity and compassion. Non-monogamous relationships can be beneficial as long as they are consensual and involve honest and open communication. In addition, they give you a chance to learn more about your insecurities and vulnerabilities. If you want to give it a try, consider all factors before you initiate the journey. This will help you avoid pitfalls in your primary relationship.

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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.