For many of us, an open relationship sounds like a dream come true. For those to whom ‘monogamy’ sounds suspiciously like ‘monotony,’ opening a relationship to other sexual partners could provide the novelty that they miss from single life. However, the rarity of these relationships is testament to the fact that opening yourself up to multiple partners while in a relationship can be quite difficult.
There are many types of open relationships, of course. Some may be informal, loose alliances between people who act as though they are still single. In these cases, even if the relationship is not very deep, it can provide stability, not to mention someone to come home to at the end of a bad day. This sort of relationship might also be entered into solely to appease other people, if the couple is experiencing pressure to form a relationship.
More commonly, open relationships start out monogamously, with openness agreed upon later. The most basic form of this is the one-time-only threesome. These can be quite difficult to arrange, as both you and your partner must desire to sleep with a person. As challenging as this is logistically, this arrangement is one of the safest forms of openness. Since both partners are present and (hopefully) having a good time, there are no secrets and they are both ‘even,’ for those of us keeping score at home. For some couples, mutual threesome is the only form of openness allowed.
Other couples allow each other to sleep with people without everyone being present at once. Since this is agreed upon beforehand, it isn’t cheating; it doesn’t break any of the rules. The agreement might require the other partner to give permission for each individual person, or the relationship might operate under some sort of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Either way, much more trust is needed between partners than in a threesome.
Why is there so much trust needed? Isn’t sex only sex? Well, it definitely can be, and maybe it is for you, but most of us associate sex with love. Hopefully, if you are having sex outside of a romantic relationship, with or without your partner’s consent, it is only sex. But your partner can’t know that for certain. Unless there is a lot of trust in the relationship, there will probably be too much fear for such a relationship to succeed.
Relationships are not made stronger by love, but by open and honest communication. It is hard to trust what you do not understand, and while we might never hope to understand our partner completely, a couple with little understanding is bound to experience a lot of fear. When a couple enters into an open relationship, this is the fear of losing your partner’s heart to one of the people they are allowed to have sex with.
From the opposite angle, a verbally open relationship can help prevent actual emotional infidelity. It is important that if one person feels they are developing feelings for someone they are sleeping with, they can bring these up to their partner without his or her fear transforming into anger. If the partners are forced to keep big secrets from each other, the relationship can swiftly fail.
Open relationships are delicate affairs, but if they work right, they can be lots of fun. Hopefully, with enough communication, a couple in an open relationship will be able to trust each other enough to not fear betrayal.