Dating and relationships not only look different but are defined in a variety of different ways in today’s modern times. If you happen to utilise one or multiple mobile apps or websites geared to help individuals find their next date, relationship, or temporary moment of pleasure, I’m sure you’ve seen some profiles that may have “open” indicated as the relationship status. I most certainly have, and this is why I wanted to discuss whether open relationships are the end of love or the beginning of your happiness?
Open Relationships and Other Types of Non-Monogamy
Open relationships fall into the non-monogamous relationships category, which is any type of consensual relationship that does not fit the typical standards of a monogamous relationship. An open relationship can focus solely on sexual activities; however, that is not always the case. Knowing that open relationships fall under non-monogamous relationships, what other types exist? Polyamory is a relationship style that enables people to openly have multiple sexual or romantic relationships simultaneously, generally with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved in or affected by the relationship.
Polyfidelity is like polyamory except, it is a closed relationship that enables sexual and emotional fidelity to the individuals involved. Polyaffective relationships are strictly emotionally intimate, affording non-sexual connections amongst the people in the polyamorous relationship. There’s also “swinging”, where couples explore sexual activities together at social events or meetups with other couples. All of these relationships have core attributes, or rules, that assist them in operating well. Let’s take a look further.
Rules of Open Relationships
Ultimately you and your partner should be collaborating to see how you both can flourish together as a couple. To help assist with your exploration, here are a few general rules I found helpful.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that to have a successful relationship, monogamous or non-monogamous, communication is essential. Conflict may arise, and how you handle it can impact your relationship: good or bad. Communication styles do not always match, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you both can’t communicate. It just means adjustments may be needed. Take time to discover how your partner likes to communicate and the best ways to communicate together. Don’t wait until an argument happens to do this. Words can have the ability to stick with people, and despite being angry or upset, they may not erase what you said from that person’s memory. Think before you speak. Think before you act.
ii. Negotiate Sexual and Emotional boundaries
Negotiating your sexual and emotional boundaries establishes a foundation of what should and should not be transpiring in your relationship. Sexual boundaries can include strictly wearing condoms with outside partners, collectively screening individuals you or your partner may be interested in, or determining suitable places where activities can take place, meaning, are you going to invite individuals to your home or conduct festivities elsewhere?
Emotional boundaries are just as important. This can help eliminate potential arguments down the road. It also provides further insight. This is the moment where vulnerability is needed. If you hold back, you can’t fault someone for not knowing. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Again, communication is crucial.
iii. Don’t Forget Your Relationship
You’re still in a relationship, or at least that’s how you both should be looking at the matter. An open relationship or any other type of non-monogamous dynamic shouldn’t be a way to continue your single ways. Providing transparency and unfiltered honesty is a theme that should be carried throughout your relationship. Both of you should also be actively engaged in keeping the romance and sex alive. Remember, “there’s no place like home.” Don’t allow the possibilities of involving external parties to overshadow the love you both initially have for one another. If communication tends to be a huge barrier for you both, it’s probably a good idea not to open your relationship until both of you can consistently be on the same page.
Open Relationship Issues
Any type of relationship is bound to have issues. Minor or major. One of the biggest issues I want to discuss is jealousy. Despite what people may tell you, everyone gets jealous. It’s how you handle the jealousy that truly matters. Trying to control your partner, such as checking their phone to minimize your jealousy, is not the best way to go. Generally, individuals who do this are acting out of fear that their partner will use all their love, attention, or support on other individuals.
If you struggle with jealously, try practising compersion, which is being happy for someone having an experience they enjoy. You can also voice your jealousy to your partner by saying something along the lines of “I’m feeling a bit jealous right now. I know you love me, but I just need a little reassurance.” Acknowledging your jealousy allows it to stop being a negative entity that occupies your spirit. Additionally, don’t shame your partner for being jealous. Allow the confession, if it happens, to be yet another opportunity to have open dialogue to keep your relationship thriving.
Celebrities in Open Relationships
Notably, Jada-Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have an open marriage, or as they have defined it, “life partners.” After years of rumours swirling and the couple denying it, Jada and Will placed themselves in the spotlight on Red Table Talk and exposed the “entanglement” that involved August Alsina. If it was definitely clear at that moment that Will and Jada have had a non-traditional dynamic, no matter how they wish to define it.
Other celebrity couples include T-Pain and Amber Najm, Monique and Sidney Hicks, Tom Ford and Richard Buckley, Pink and Carey Hart, and Nico Tortorella and Bethany C. Meyers. Despite 30% of gay couples opening their relationships, according to the Gay Therapy Center, it’s certainly not exclusive to gay couples.
Is an Open Relationship for You?
I asked myself this question years ago after a horrible break-up. To keep a long story short, I decided my next relationship would be an open one. You may feel differently, and that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with defining or creating a relationship that works for you and your partner. I encourage everyone, however, to be honest with themselves and others regarding their desires. If you know you can’t be monogamous, then you should be honest about that to others, versus pretending you can be and cheating.
You should also know that any type of relationship isn’t guaranteed to last forever. The divorce statistics of both opposite and same-sex couples in the United Kingdom alone showcase this. I have also personally witnessed several open and polyamorous relationships dissolve, even after years of being together. All you can do is give your all. Sometimes that is more than enough, and at others, you miss the mark. No matter what relationship you decide to establish, it should be filled with honesty, communication, and as much affection as possible.
- For more information about non-monogamous relationships, I recommend reading the book The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love.
- You may also like: Let’s Talk Consent (NO means NO for men too)