Modern society would have you think that you are meant to be with one, and only one person, your whole life. But there’s a school of thought that believes human beings are not made for monogamy.
As American playwright John Patrick Shanley once said, “Monogamy is like a 40-watt bulb. It works, but it’s not enough.”
That’s where open relationships come in. It’s a concept that’s gaining popularity, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
So, how do you know if it’s right for you? It’s a tricky topic for sure, but one that’s worth exploring.
In this article, I’ll discuss what open relationships involve and how to know if you’ve got what it takes to be in one.
Let’s dive in!
Understanding open relationships
Okay, so let’s start with the basics. What exactly is an open relationship?
It’s when two people agree to have a romantic or sexual relationship with other people outside of their relationship.
Simply put, if you’re in one, you’re all right with you and your partner having other love interests.
Open relationships can be great because they allow for more freedom and variety. Love is clearly not a one-size-fits-all matter, and some couples do thrive in an open relationship.
In fact, it’s a common scenario for couples who’ve been together for a long time to think about exploring an open relationship. It can certainly add some spice to the relationship and help each partner grow and express different aspects of themselves.
However, as can be expected, they can also be challenging because of jealousy, insecurity, and other uncomfortable emotions.
One thing is clear, though – it’s definitely not for the fainthearted.
Why do people go into open relationships?
Obviously, the first reason why people engage in open relationships is sexual satisfaction.
It’s no secret that human beings enjoy novelty and exploration when it comes to sexuality. As long as there’s respect and consent among all the parties involved, it can be an incredibly satisfying experience.
It also helps couples communicate their needs and desires more openly and express different sides of themselves.
Non-monogamous people also believe that monogamy is not natural. According to them, there’s no one person who can fulfill all of their partner’s sexual and emotional needs and interests.
Thus, an open relationship eases that burden on both partners.
How do you know if an open relationship is right for you?
So, are you curious about trying it out? Do you think you’ll be able to appreciate the benefits of an open relationship? It might be time to do some digging.
Here are some ways to know if you’re safe to go the open-relationship route.
1) Do some self-reflection
Before you dive into an open relationship, you need to do some serious self-reflection. What are your beliefs and values about relationships? Don’t be afraid to get into specifics. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want to do this?
- How do you feel about sharing your partner with other people?
- Are you comfortable with your partner having sex with other people?
- Are you the type who falls in love with more than one person?
Your answers to these questions would give you an overall idea if an open relationship suits you.
2) Examine the stability of your relationship
As counterintuitive as it sounds, an open relationship requires couples to be rock-solid to work.
You see, when couples have a solid foundation of trust and honesty, it takes a lot more than non-monogamy to weaken that bond. If you have a weak connection, an open relationship could do more harm than good.
So, take the time to really put your relationship under a microscope. How do you deal with challenges? How responsive is your partner to your needs?
As with any new experience, you need to be sure you’re both all in and willing to do what it takes to make the relationship work.
3) Communicate with your partner
With open relationships, there’s no one set of rules couples should abide by. It’s an incredibly personal decision, and couples need to establish rules that would work for their specific relationship.
So, communication is key. In fact, it’s even more imperative because it can easily go downhill if boundaries aren’t clear from the start. There should be an equal commitment to maintaining constant communication.
Before starting an open relationship, sit down with your partner. Discuss what you’re comfortable with and what’s not acceptable to you.
You need to be direct and honest with your partner about your desires, fears, and boundaries. Make sure you’re on the same page, and you both agree on the rules and boundaries of your open relationship.
This could include things like:
- The people who are allowed to be outside partners
- Sexual orientation and gender identity of outside partners
- How many partners you can have
- Veto power over partners
- How often you’ll see other people
- How much time you can spend with other partners
- If you’ll use protection and how you’ll maintain safety
- If you’ll share details about your encounters
- What the emotional boundaries are
4) Check how you navigate jealousy
Here’s where it all gets possibly complicated: jealousy.
A romantic relationship in itself is already a minefield of complex emotions. Throw a third (or fourth or fifth) person in there, and it has the potential of blowing up.
Jealousy, low self-esteem, and other difficult emotions are common in open relationships, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to handle. It’s important to be aware of your emotions and communicate them with your partner.
But for starters, in an open relationship, you’ll need to let go of the idea that you should be enough – and everything – for your partner.
When you’re dealing with an open relationship and all the pitfalls that come with it, it’s easy to become frustrated and even feel helpless. It might not be the exciting thing you thought it was, and you may be tempted to throw in the towel.
It all boils down to how secure you are and how much you love yourself.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way because we’re not taught how to love ourselves first.
So, if you want to try an open relationship, I’d recommend starting with yourself first and taking Rudá’s incredible advice. For this type of setup to work, you’ll need to get self-love right first.
A word of caution: Signs it’s not right for you
With so many factors affecting the decision to open a relationship up to other people, I can’t tell you exactly if it will work for you. However, I can give you these definitive signs that you should definitely NOT entertain the idea of an open relationship right now:
You’re doing it as a reaction to infidelity
It’s a common scenario for couples to open their relationship after one of them cheats. If that sounds like you, let me stop you right there. It’s one of the worst things you can do for yourself and your relationship.
When there’s an infidelity issue, couples need time to work through it together before bringing another person into the equation.
Infidelity is quite complex – and an open relationship won’t address the underlying issues. It may even lead to more conflict and hurt.
You’re trying to stave off a breakup
Are you considering an open relationship as a form of quick fix for an ailing relationship? I hate to break it to you, but that’s actually a bad idea.
Remember when I said that one of the keys to a successful open relationship is stability?
If your relationship is on the brink of ending, then it’s not likely to stand up to the possible issues that can crop up when you let other people in. In fact, it’s safe to say you’ll be fast-tracking the end of it.
Believe me, if you’re already feeling insecure about the strength of your connection, hooking up with other people won’t help.
One or both of you cannot handle jealousy
Let’s face it: the thought of your partner being with someone else can inspire intense emotions like jealousy and intimidation, even if you’re relatively open-minded.
In an interview with Brides Magazine, Dr. Lawrence Josephs explains that consensual non-monogamy requires certain personality dispositions and interpersonal skills.
These include the ability to overcome jealousy and insecurity over sharing your partner.
So, if either of you can’t handle these negative emotions, an open relationship is probably not right for you.
What are the benefits of an open relationship?
Given all of these possible complications, is an open relationship worth it?
Well, if both partners are completely okay with it, it can bring so many benefits, such as:
- Excitement and passion
- More trust and a deeper connection
- Fulfillment of wants and needs
- Freedom of expression
- Less pressure
- Greater appreciation for each other
So, is an open relationship right for you? Only you can answer that question.
Take your time and really think about what you want and need in a relationship. If you do decide to pursue an open relationship, remember to communicate openly and honestly with your partner, set clear boundaries, and be prepared for some challenging emotions.
And remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relationships, so do what’s best for you. Good luck!