For centuries, many have believed that relationships or marriage should be strictly closed or monogamous. So it isn’t easy to discuss open relationships as a thing. Culture and religion are not helping matters as they greatly frown on this type of relationship. But the truth is, open relationship has been in practice among couples for years, if not centuries. They may not put a name to it, preferring to go with the flow, but that doesn’t mean that it never existed until the 21st century.
So what is an open relationship? Is it an acceptable type of relationship? What are the pros and cons? You will get the answer when you continue to scroll below.
Open relationship meaning
WebMD defines an open relationship as having more than one romantic or sexual partner at a time. It’s a non-exclusive type of relationship between two romantic partners in a serious relationship but are allowed to have romantic or sexual partners outside their relationship.
An open relationship is different from swinging which refers to partners having sex with others purely to satisfy their sexual urges. It is also different from polyamory, a type of relationship where partners can be in more than one committed relationship. In other words, open relationship is some middle ground between swinging and polyamory.
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Why couples try open relationship
The major reason couples choose open relationships is because of freedom. Freedom to explore their sexuality with other people. An open relationship means enjoying the benefits of a committed relationship with the excuse of sleeping around. Humans enjoy novelty when it comes to sexuality, and once in a while, we want to be with other people. Having a new partner will satisfy the sexual craving without having to feel guilty that you’re cheating on your main partner.
Again, an open relationship allows a couple to express themselves to each other without fear. There’s no need for guesswork because everything is out there. They can have other romantic relationships without emotional stress. After all, some people have always known from the beginning that they can’t stick to one partner. By freely expressing themselves, they can go ahead and explore their sexuality in full.
Another reason couples choose open relationships is to see if they can restore love and passion. For instance, a couple having problems in their relationship may agree to open up their relationship to other people so they can explore to their satisfaction. Maybe one partner has been unfaithful, and the other agrees to an open relationship so that the cheating partner can go ahead and openly cheat. The ultimate goal is to see if being with other people can help them appreciate what they have or feel for each other and resolve their issues. Sadly, this reason often ends in disaster, as many relationships break up for good.
Open relationship rules
Below are the 6 rules of an open relationship
1. Set sexual boundaries
Setting your boundaries on sex should be the first rule you must agree on with your partner. Have conversations on whether you’ll accept full penetrative sex or just kiss and make out with other people. How often do you expect sex to happen? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly? It’s important to talk about these things before fully going into it.
Meanwhile, talk about safe-sex practices. Having more than one sexual partner exposes you more to the risk of unwanted pregnancy and deadly sexually transmitted diseases. There are many preventive measures to ensure safe sex. Talk about them.
2. Set emotional boundaries
Sex is like a drug. The more you have it, the more emotionally attached you become to a partner. Have this in mind when trying to start an open relationship. Although you cannot predict your emotions, you can control them. Better still, you can prevent yourself from getting into situations requiring you to struggle with your emotions. Two key questions you need to ask your partner are, “can you have sex with another person without developing feelings for them?” “If you can, what will you do to address it?” The answers will tell you what you’re getting yourself into.
3. Agree on the type of people to hook up with
That you want an open relationship doesn’t mean you can just hook up with anyone. Although an open relationship often means freedom to sexually or romantically explore other people, it has its limitations. For instance, you might be cool with your partner hooking up with total strangers, but the same can be said if he or she is hooking up with members of your family, friends or even ordinary acquaintances. Be honest with your partner about the type of people they’re allowed to have intimate relationships with so you do not get into problems with each other in the future.
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4. Be flexible
Some people set strict rules for the timeline of their open relationship. Some agree to practice an open relationship for a week or a month, or even a year. The truth is such timelines are often unrealistic. What then happens when the time expires and one or both partners want to continue? Resentment sets in as one or both begin to feel stifled in their relationship. But by being flexible with your timeline or timetable, there will be no room for resentment as both of you can talk about it and continue without drama.
5. Decide how you’ll discuss your relationship with other people
Talking openly to your partner about your intimate relationships with other people can be weird. As a result, some couples have adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. However, if you must, set rules on how you’ll open up about your other relationships.
6. Establish a relationship check-in
This is very important so that you don’t get carried away. A relationship check-in means having periodic communication with your partner in an open relationship. Communication is very important in every relationship. For instance, a monthly check-in will let you air your concerns or set new expectations you may have learned throughout the month. It will give you an insight into how far you have gone and whether you should stop or continue.
Open relationship problems
- Lack of desire to stay in a committed relationship.
- Risk of falling deeply in love with the other partner.
- Can wreak havoc on a partner’s self-esteem.
- Can lead to unwanted pregnancy or STDs.
- Lack of honesty as both partners may decide to leave out certain important details about the other partner.
- It’s time-consuming as you’re always with different partners.
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