If you’re considering an open relationship, here are fifteen reasons it might or might not be for you.
In a society where monogamy is the standard framework for the vast majority of relationships and marriages, the idea of opening up a relationship may seem daunting. However, more and more couples choose the non-monogamous approach to strengthen their relationship. A 2016 study revealed that one in five individuals in the United States engages in non-monogamy or polyamory at least once in their lives. There are 15 reasons an open relationship might be for you, but first, you should understand what an open relationship is.
There are different kinds of relationship structures within the culture of non-monogamy. For example, open and polyamorous relationships both fall under consensual non-monogamy (CNM). CNM is an umbrella term for relationship styles. Both parties agree to engage in romantic, sexual, or intimate relationships with other people.
An open relationship is where both parties desire only sexual relationships with other people. A polyamorous relationship is one in which both parties agree to engage in intimate, loving romantic partnerships with multiple people at once. Expectations for these relationship structures tend to happen, but both are becoming increasingly popular with the American public.
This consensual non-monogamous relationship structure is typically higher functioning than partially open or one-sided open relationships and reports more elevated satisfaction levels around emotional, physical, and sexual needs. Research shows that open marriages are just as sexually and emotionally satisfying as monogamous marriages.
Determining if an Open Relationship Is Right for You
How do you know if an open relationship is right for you? Before you and your partner decide to open up your relationship, there are a few things you need to consider. First, stepping beyond conventional boundaries of marriage and domestic partnerships and into consensual non-monogamy can be sexually, emotionally, and socially isolating if you’re not well-informed. Opening up your relationship is a big step for both of you, and it requires mutual consent, communication, and comfort.
Don’t open up your relationship or marriage in an attempt to solve an existing problem. Non-monogamous relationships need a strong foundation. Introducing a new framework to an already shaky relationship can have disastrous consequences.
Make sure you and your partner are in full, consenting agreement to an open relationship. Consent is essential to an open relationship. Secrecy and distrust around new partners are not conducive to a functional, non-monogamous or polyamorous relationship. Dishonesty also poses a serious threat to you and your partner’s sexual health regarding STIs and sexual history.
Consider couples therapy before you decide to pursue an open marriage. Suppose you and your spouse are thinking of trying an open relationship. In that case, you might want to seek professional advice to identify and eliminate deeper issues before you put your relationship at risk.
Why You Might Want To Consider an Open Relationship
Now that you’re more informed on the nature of a non-monogamous relationship, it’s time to sit down and think about why it might be for you. No two relationships are the same. There are many reasons to consider going from a monogamous relationship to an open relationship. Here’s a list of 15 reasons an open relationship might be a good move for you and your partner.
It Turns On Your Partner To See You Have Sex With Someone Else
Getting turned on by the idea of watching your partner have sex with someone else is not as uncommon as you might think. The practice of watching your partner have sex with another person, colloquially known as cuckolding, is something a lot of couples enjoy. While the historical context of cucking revolves around infidelity and humiliation, its modern-day definition is less mockery.
People interested in watching their partner participate in sex acts with someone who isn’t them enjoy an element of escapism. To some, allowing their partner to receive sexual fulfillment from someone else gives them freedom from higher expectations. If this sounds like you or your partner, an open relationship might be for you!
Non-Heterosexual Sexual Connections Interest You
Whether you’ve been in a relationship for a short time or a long time, exploring your sexual orientation in non-heteronormative ways can be mutually beneficial for both of you. For example, suppose sexual attraction to members of the same sex or even non-binary individuals comes up in intimate discussions with your partner. In that case, it may be time to consider an open relationship.
Sex within the confines of traditional, monogamous marriage doesn’t offer the same freedom an open marriage will. If you and your partner feel mutually attracted to the same sex and want to express those needs, an open relationship is a safe method. However, it’s important to remember that protecting yourself from STIs is still imperative in non-heterosexual relationships.
You Want To Explore Sex, Gender, and Gender Identity
There’s more to you than your biological sex. Biological sex, gender, and gender identity are discussed more openly in U.S. society than in the past. As a result, more adults are becoming comfortable defying the traditional expectations of their gender identity. Your sex is based on the genitals with which you’re born. Gender is a set of societal standards for your behavior, characteristics, and thoughts. Gender identity is how you feel inside and outwardly express those feelings.
Perhaps the traditional roles of monogamous relationships are too restricting for you, especially if the concept of gender identity elevates within your relationship. Instead, you might be interested in a relationship structure that will allow you to explore your gender identity. An open relationship will also enable you to find connections in a supportive and understanding community.
You Don’t Want To Rely on Each Other for Everything
Relying on each other to fulfill every emotional and physical need either of you has can lead to issues with codependency. Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition in which a person feels an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of another person. Codependency can also look like low self-esteem, extreme need for approval from your partner, inability to communicate, and dishonesty.
Couples in long-term relationships might start to feel like they need their partner to do everything for them, which can harm your sexual relationship. An open relationship can help prevent this by giving you the power to direct an overabundance of needs to someone other than your partner.
You Don’t Want Your Marriage To End
If neither of you wants your marriage to end, an open relationship might be the way to go. While you shouldn’t resort to opening your marriage to resolve existing issues like infidelity, establishing outside sexual connections with your spouse’s consent might be a good idea. For example, you and your spouse are in a situation where scrutiny of your personal life is a natural consequence of your profession. However, neither of you has any desire to end your marriage lest you suffer socially, politically, or financially, but you both feel sexually unfulfilled. An open (but discreet!) relationship might be your answer.
Long-Term Fulfillment Is Important to You
Many couples in committed, monogamous relationships might think an open marriage will only hurt their chances of long-lasting happiness. That’s not entirely true. Many couples who choose to open their relationship have reported higher confidence in achieving a long-lasting and fulfilling marriage.
Think about what your so-called golden years will look like with your spouse. At the end of the road, you’ll wonder if you experienced everything that could bring you closer, even more than you already have. Older couples in long-term marriages who’ve pursued an open relationship in the past feel that it’s significantly contributed to the success of their relationship.
Your Libidos Don’t Line Up
It’s natural for your sex drive, or libido, to vary throughout your life. It can fluctuate within your relationship for several reasons, whether because of a change in your routine, medication, career, or family life. An increase or decrease in your or your partner’s libido can have a tremendous impact on your relationship if they’re not aligned.
If your partner wants to have sex more often than you do, or vice versa, your first instinct might be to question the validity of your relationship. The average U.S. adult might believe that a mismatched libido is the first sign of a failing relationship, but it’s not. The human sex drive is often unpredictable and can go up or down for many reasons. Opening your relationship can dramatically increase sexual satisfaction between partners if the decision to do so addresses sexual incompatibility.
You Feel Strong Sexual Attraction to More Than One Person
From childhood to adulthood, from fairytales to Hollywood movies, the fantasy of a romantic, sexual relationship usually comes in twos. The rigorous rules of a traditional monogamous relationship state that you can’t feel strong sexual attraction to someone other than your partner or spouse. The fact is, it’s normal and expected to feel sexual desire for other people even if you’re in a loving and satisfying relationship. However, it doesn’t mean your relationship will suffer from adultery or emotional infidelity.
If you’ve ever had a sexual fantasy about a particular celebrity or even a stranger you saw once in public, you’re not a terrible person. Likewise, if you’ve ever fantasized about another person while having sex with your primary partner, you’re not a horrible person. Sexual attraction for another person is not an end-all, be-all to your relationship, and you can express it in a healthy, consensual way.
You or Your Partner Want To Explore a Kink or Fetish
Sexual desire is a complex thing. Several psychological factors can contribute to a person’s personal preferences or any combination of preferences. Sexual fetishes and kinks can feel challenging if you’re unfamiliar or intimidated by them. When one of you expresses interest in a sexual kink or fetish, and the other recoils at the thought, your first thought shouldn’t be that this is the end of your relationship.
The advantages of an open relationship for individuals who want to explore more niche sexual preferences are more numerous than you might think. Sexual fetishes emerge under specific psychological circumstances that sometimes stem from traumatic experiences. Exploring a kink with an external sexual connection can benefit both partners. One partner has the opportunity to identify the source of their strong desires. At the same time, the other can continue receiving sexual fulfillment without stepping out of their comfort zone.
You’ve Lost Interest in Sex
Suppose you or your spouse are experiencing a loss of interest in sex. In that case, you’re not alone, and your marriage doesn’t have to suffer when the sheets aren’t getting washed as often as they used to. Several factors cause a lack of interest in sex. Fatigue, depression, low testosterone, and chronic illness are just a few reasons.
No one wants to feel like their partner doesn’t desire them, but you both know that’s not the case in a loving and committed relationship. Loss of interest in sex doesn’t equal loss of interest in your spouse. Sexual trauma can also impact your sex-drive.
One of You Requires More Physical Intimacy Than the Other
Sometimes the physical intimacy your partner requires exceeds what you can give them. For example, suppose your spouse wants you to show them affection through physical touch for extended periods, but you don’t have the time or energy to do so. You may even feel put off by giving excessive physical attention, no matter how much you love your spouse.
There are five different love languages, or ways to receive and express love in a relationship. They’re known as words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Say your partner’s love language is physical touch, and yours is words of affirmation. Naturally, you’ll be less interested in having sex multiple times a day and more interested in receiving excessively affectionate text messages when you’re away from your partner. An open relationship can help ease the language barrier between you and your partner.
You’ll Become More Skilled at Coping With Jealousy
The ability to confidently discuss jealousy is just as important in an open relationship as in a monogamous one. Jealousy and feeling betrayed still happen in open relationships and are completely valid. Still, it doesn’t mean that opening your relationship was a mistake. In a perfect world, no one would have to face their feelings and get to the root cause of the issue.
But in an open relationship, you have to be mindful of the boundaries you set with your partner. Revisiting and re-establishing the rules of your relationship on an ongoing basis can help you regulate the feeling of jealousy more effectively. If this sounds like something you both can do confidently, an open relationship might just work for you.
You’ll Feel Less Pressure on Your Relationship
Depending on your life circumstances, the pressure of keeping up with appearances can negatively affect your relationship. You might not be in the position to fulfill the sexual needs of your partner, even if your emotional connection has never been healthier. The pressure to satisfy your partner is not new.
The expectation placed upon couples to serve every single one of each other’s needs without complaint is unrealistic and downright unfair. In non-monogamous relationships, there is far less weight to carry to make your partner and yourself happy. If you want to eliminate unnecessary expectations that could end up doing your relationship more harm than good, non-monogamy might suit you well.
Your Communication Skills Will Improve
Communication is vital to the success of a non-monogamous relationship or marriage. An essential part of the arrangement is talking with your partner about the open aspect of your relationship, whether you want to hear all the details or remain in the dark. Some people don’t want to hear anything about their partner’s outside sexual encounters, and others want to know everything.
Regardless, your communication skills will improve overall if you learn to find a healthy balance. For example, you’ll learn to better express feelings of betrayal if you feel like your partner has violated a set boundary of your open relationship. If communication is something you can master with your partner, and you feel comfortable pursuing outside sexual connections, go for it!
You’ll Learn To Trust Each Other More
One of the most significant benefits of an open relationship is that you’ll learn to trust each other more. Ideally, you’ll have already established a considerable amount of trust in each other before even approaching the open relationship discussion. You might think an open relationship will only damage the faith you have in your partner, but it could have the opposite effect. Furthermore, in a 2017 study, among 2,124 people older than age 25, those in a monogamous relationship reported lower feelings of trust than what you might expect by society’s standards.
An open relationship may seem daunting, but if you and your spouse want to try it, don’t let fear hold you back. Open relationships can do more good than harm, and you will both be happier in no time!