Sex with whoever you want. No rules. No boundaries. Your partner doesn’t mind because you’re in an “open” relationship. To some people, this sounds good and they want to move forward with as much extracurricular sex as possible. They bring the idea to their partner, who’s appalled, but they’re determined this is what they want. They find another partner, hookup, and come home to their relationship. But they don’t mention the sex they just had to the person they’re in a relationship with.
Some people think this is the definition of an open relationship. Wrong.
An open relationship is meant to be another way to fulfill the emotional and sexual needs of both you and your partner. It’s an option for couples who decide they don’t necessarily want or need monogamy in their relationship. Open relationships aren’t for every couple, but when handled well and in a way that benefits both partners, they can work. Before you declare your relationship “open,” make sure you understand what that means.
Defining Open Relationships
The quick and easy answer is that there is no quick and easy definition for open relationships. These types of relationships are whatever you and your partner agree to – together. Basically, you and your partner agree that one or both of you can form some type of relationship or attachment with people outside the bond of your partnership.
You may be sexual, romantic, or both with other partners. You may seek out the same gender or another gendered partner. Your relationships with other partners may be long-term or short-term. They can be casual or serious. You may be romantic or sexual with another person with or without your partner. There is no real definition of an open relationship other than how you and your partner define it.
Why Open Relationships Aren’t Cheating
Do some people use the term “open relationship” when they’re actually cheating on an unsuspecting partner? Of course they do. Dishonest jerks are everywhere. But what separates a genuine open relationship from cheating are some fairly basic but not always easy-to-follow rules:
Consent: If your partner doesn’t agree to an open relationship, and you find someone “on the side,” you’re cheating. When a partner consents to whatever arrangement you both want to try, you’re in an open relationship.
Boundaries and rules: Every couple will have a different set of rules to help them feel comfortable with this arrangement. Whatever they are, follow them. When you don’t, you’re no longer engaging in a consensual open relationship.
Communicate: The conversation you have about having an open relationship and what it will look like isn’t the last time you’ll talk about it. It’ll will be one of dozens or hundreds of conversations. You and your partner need to talk about insecurities, worries, what works, and what doesn’t. Talk often and thoroughly.
Dealing with Jealousy and Insecurities
Part of the open and honest communication you need to have with your partner as you go forward is to check in with each other. How do they feel? How do you feel? Are these interactions with other people stirring up feelings you didn’t expect? You need to acknowledge your feelings and handle them so your relationship can move forward in a healthy way.
Jealousies and insecurities are common in open relationships. Many people use the term “jealousy” as a way to make their partner shoulder the responsibility of how they feel. In an open relationship, you have to be willing to look deeper than the standard “I’m jealous” and get to the root of why you feel the way you do. Note: You should do this in a monogamous relationship, too, but in open relationships, everything falls apart if you don’t.
There’s no right answer to why you feel the way you do or what to do about it. Open relationships almost force you to face emotions you never thought you’d have. It’s extremely important to talk to your partner about how you feel so you can work through it together.
Open relationships don’t work for every couple. But, if the divorce rate is any indication, monogamous isn’t working so well for everyone, either. Sometimes, in order to create a relationship that works best for the people involved, you have to throw out societal standards and whatever “rule book” you’ve been following. Open or not, successful relationships find what works for both partners. Here at Jack and Jill, we want you to have good sex and experience pleasure, no matter how you define your relationship.
A healthy, positive open relationship benefits both partners. It requires consent, honesty, trust, communication, and a willingness to shift and change if things don’t work. The point to opening up your relationship is to ultimately make you and your partner stronger together. There’s no shame in having needs that can’t be fulfilled by a spouse or long-term partner. But if you find it doesn’t make your existing relationship better, there’s also no harm in deciding being open isn’t right for you either.