What is an open relationship?
An open relationship is one where all people involved agree that it is okay to be involved with other people. There are different kinds of open relationships. Some people are involved with a primary partner and agree that their spouse can have sex with other people, but other forms of intimacy, such as dating, are not allowed. Others agree that another person can have sex, but only when both partners are there, either as participants or as voyeurs.
Here are a few kinds of open relationships:
Non-Monogamy: In non-monogamous relationships, people are in a primary relationship with one person, but are allowed certain kinds of sexual contact with others. For some, this might mean they can engage in BDSM activities that don”™t include sex, they can make-out with others, but not have genital sexual contact, or they may be allowed to have sex with another person, as long as it is only sexual and not another relationship.
Swinging: In popular culture, swingers are often portrayed as having “key parties,” parties where people come and throw their keys into a bowl and go home with the person whose keys they fish out. Whereas there is some truth to the social aspect of swingers and the communities they form, choice of sexual partners is usually more deliberate and not so random. Swingers are usually involved in a primary relationship with their spouse and enjoy sex with others as more of a recreational activity or sport. They may consider themselves to be emotionally monogamous, but not sexually so. Most swingers belong to a group or community where they can socialize with other like-minded people and meet partners.
Polyamory: Polyamory is different from the other types of open relationships because it assumes that people will have sexual and emotional relationships with more than one partner. The relationships are considered both sexual and loving. Many people in polyamorous relationships believe that it is unrealistic for one person to meet all of your physical and emotional needs. People in polyamorous relationships sometimes have one primary partner, but others reject the notion of one partner being more important than the others. There are many ways to be polyamorous.
Polyamory Versus Polygamy: There are some fundamental differences between polyamory and polygamy; the biggest being that in polygamy, at least how some Mormon sects practice it, is a set up where one man has multiple wives or partners. In polygamous relationships, there are often issues of power and consent. Men have control of their wives and the women do not have the freedom to have outside relationships of their own.
Cheating or infidelity are not the same as being in an open relationship because both partners have not given consent. Cheating involves breaking a commitment. Open relationships often have their own rules, so if a participant breaks those, that too could be considered cheating.
Why Have an Open Relationship?
Different people choose open relationships for different reasons. Some want the experience of having sex with more than one person, or have sexual desires and fantasies that their partner cannot fulfill. Others reject the idea of monogamy philosophically and want to explore other ways of being in relationship with people. Some wish to explore different kinds of sex that their partners are not into, like BDSM or sex with a same-sex partner.
Is an Open Relationship Right for You?
There are many reasons to have an open relationship, but one of them is not dissatisfaction with your current relationship. Bringing other people into the mix will probably not help your current problems and will most likely only make them worse. If you are feeling pressured from your partner to have an open relationship, that probably will not work either. You should all be on the same page if it has a chance of working.
Here are some things to consider and think about before venturing into an open relationship. Are you a jealous person? Some jealousy is normal and to be expected, but if you are at all insecure about yourself, opening up the relationship will probably make it worse.
Picture your partner having sex with someone else. How does this make you feel? What is your worst fear and what is your greatest expectation or hope for this outcome?
How is your communication? Can you and your partner talk about difficult and hard situations and really hear and listen to each other? How do you handle conflict? Do you have the time and energy to nurture more than one relationship?
Trust and good communication are essential building blocks to open relationships. Make sure that you have both.
Entering into an open relationship is not something to be taken lightly. Two excellent books on the topic are Opening Up: A Guide To Creating And Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino, and Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block.
Hope this helps!
About the guest blogger:
Chris Juneau is a highly sought after dating expert. He frequently writes for dating blogs, including DatingSite.org.