Just like polyamory, be in an open relationship adds some significant complexity to the already difficult job of maintaining a romantic relationship. The truth is, relationships make people change. In fact, atop the whopping 70% of relationships ending from cheating, studies have shown that the divorce rate in the US alone is 46% and increasing. So are marriages really that hard to cope with nowadays?
Open Relationship – What is it?
Kristin Canning, of the Women’s Health Mag, defines an open relationship as a form of consensual non-monogamy where one partner (or both) decides to seek sexual satisfaction outside the relationship, while still keeping the emotional connection and intimacy with their partner.
Renee Divine continues to explain the concept of open relationships and why some people find it practical. “People are looking for different experiences and want to meet the needs that aren’t being met in their relationship,” she says.
This need for diversity in the relationship has led people to explore various options in the way they relate to each other. The whole concept of an open relationship is predicated on two people in a committed relationship who mutually agree to a non-monogamous lifestyle.
Isn’t that just cheating?
Nope. It’s actually quite the reverse. Cheating is basically having sex with other people without your partner’s consent (Read Is She Cheating? Watch out for these Clear Signs). In an open relationship, the focus is mainly on the recreational sex where both partners are aware of what is going on and are totally okay with it. Think of it as ethical swinging or decent promiscuous sex.
So why are people choosing Open Relationships over regular relationships?
In an article published in the Journal Fuer, at least 5% of relationships in the US are non-monogamous. Psychology Today also reports that over 25% of men and 12% of women have considered trying an open relationship.
For most people, conventional relationships get ‘boring’ with time Read the (Eight Stages of Intimate Life for Long-Term Couples), and while some people are willing to stick together for eternity, some agree to look outside the relationship for variation and experience. Often, it’s the dwindling romance and lacking sexual attraction and desire that leads people to evaluate their options and settle for open relationships. Challenging the conservative way of one-on-one relationships adds some adventure to the relationship and re-inspires commitment with freedom.
“Everybody wins, and everybody gets laid.”
So what are the Rules?
For every relationship to work, there has to be some rules. Being in an open relationship does not mean two people pretending to be in love while still sleeping around like teenage singles. Transparency, communication, and taking full responsibility for every action is important. While the rules are not universally written (whatever works for one couple doesn’t always have to work for another), there are several core guidelines every open relationship must abide by – the 10 transitional steps from possessiveness to unconditional love.
Here are 10 crucial rules for happy open relationships and how to nail them.
Primary or Secondary? A timetable is important
The first thing you need when starting an open relationship with your partner is a properly scheduled timetable. Together, decide how often you allowed to see your secondary partners and by how much you are allowed to interact with them. Is this our primary relationship? Should we prioritize each other over other partners? Is this a permanent relationship or just experimental? All these questions will need answers before starting a successful open relationship.
As hard as it may be to hear sometimes, transparency is important in every open relationship. The last thing you want is keeping secrets and hiding things from each other. The whole point of being in an open relationship is to venture out from the norm and explore without having to feel embarrassed about it. So if your partner asks, share the juicy details. Keep the relationship as open as you can.
Be discreet when sharing
While communication is important, there is a fine line between sharing and gloating. Remember, just like any other relationship, jealousy is expected. Some people deal with this by not wanting to know what their partner is doing. However, this could prove problematic in future. Instead, share your external lives together, keeping the details modest and empathetic. While letting your partner in on your relationship with other partners, make them feel wanted or needed. If done right, communication can lead to stronger bonds between all partners involved in an open relationship.
Discuss the limits
Are you looking for love outside the relationship or just sex? Most couples who decide to open their relationship are often looking to satisfy a missing need in their relationships – and it doesn’t always have to be physical. Studies have shown that women are emotionally deeper than men and tend to fall in love with people they sleep with. Discuss with your partner how far each one of you is allowed to go in their pursuit of external satisfaction.
Consider a No-Bang list
Sitting on the sidelines while your partner has sex with your best friend can be hard to deal with. A clear no-bang list is important in every open relationship. Your needs are just as important in the relationship as your partner’s. While discussing this, be clear on what you can and cannot stand. It may seem obvious, but if you don’t make it clear about the people in your mutual no-bang list, then you are entirely to blame for the heartbreak that’s coming.
Don’t keep score
An open relationship is not a tallying game. “You were out with him on two weekends in a row, now you have to do the same with me!” The more you keep making your partner feel restricted, the more distant they will become. Being in an open relationship is about surrendering your control and letting your partner pursue their own freedom, while you pursue yours too.
Keep in mind that this is not a solution to your Broken Relationship
After years of cheating, fighting, and heartbreaks, some couples realize that it’s impossible to live without each other, even though it often ends up in more pain. Starting an open relationship seems like a quick fix to this problem, and to some extent, it works. You both get to stay in each other’s lives while still keeping the autonomy manageable. But adding more people to an already broken relationship is not only unfair to the person(s) coming in but a juvenile way of ignoring your problems as a couple. Soon enough, your problems will still catch up even to your newly recharged open relationship.
Always take responsibility for your actions
Situations will arise when you and your partner fight (not necessarily literally), and some of these situations will be entirely your fault. If there’s any rule in open relationships that’s firm as the ground, it’s owning your mistakes and taking responsibility. Couple fights are not always about who won the argument. I’ve seen people who prefer playing victim in all unpleasant scenarios to save them from taking responsibility for their actions. Keep this in mind – your shape your life by the decisions you choose to make, and now that you’re in a relationship, your decisions do and likely will affect your partner too.
Don’t sacrifice your happiness for your partner
Even relationship should equally serve both primary partners, both emotionally and physically. Seeking to keep your partner in the open relationship happier at the expense of your own is a mistake that will lead to self-enslavement or codependency, if not both.
Ultimately, the goal of every open relationship is to have fun. The Ethical Slut introduces the very essence of being in an open relationship and offers advice on how to work through your emotions and feelings after opening your relationship.
“The point for me is to create relationships based on deeper and more real notions of trust, so that love becomes defined not by sexual exclusivity, but by actual respect, concern, commitment to act with kind intentions, accountability for our actions, and a desire for mutual growth,” says Dean Spade.
Even Will Smith seemed to share the idea of a non-monogamous relationship when he openly spoke about his relationship with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Our perspective is, you don’t avoid what’s natural and you’re going to be attracted to other people. If it came down to it, then one would say to the other, ‘Look, I need to have sex with somebody. But I’m not going to do it if you don’t approve of it…”