Monogamous relationships are no longer considered the only “correct” way to date. As time progresses and people begin to adapt a more open mind toward the less common dynamics of romance and sex, concepts like open relationships and multiple partners has become a bit of a normalcy in the scene. Especially with a younger crowd, open relationships seem to be making more of an appearance in society.
But what do they mean, exactly? And how do they work, anyway? If your interest is piqued, check out everything you need to know about dating in an open relationship.
What Having An Open Relationship Is Really Like
An ‘open relationship’ refers to the concept that a couple is specifically connected or tied to each other in a form of commitment, usually both romantically and sexually, yet they agree to see other people independently. Now, every relationship is different, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what a relationship like this looks like, but there is a pretty standard pattern.
Contrary to popular belief, having an open relationship doesn’t mean just tons of casual sex without guilt for everyone. In fact, a lot of work goes into the inner dynamic, especially when it comes to trust and communication. You see, those who have an open relationship aren’t just super-humans who feel no sense of jealousy or attachment, they’re real people with an evolved way of handling these emotions.
Polyamory VS Swinging VS Open Relationships
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to what exactly an open relationship consists of, and what it doesn’t. Commonly confused with polyamory or swingers, open relationships are actually a unique dynamic of their own, though they be under the umbrella concept of free love that polyamory practices.
Swingers are couples who engage in sexual interactions with other couples only. There is no form of additional relationships, courtship, or seperate sex lives. It’s very much an inclusive, group activity and fits only those involved.
Poly couples often engage in group relationships, much like swingers, except it goes beyond just physical connection. These couples may date as a triad together, or each will have their own, separate committed relationships that overlack or layer. It’s still often more of a group-oriented dynamic, though, as opposed to open dating.
Is It Cheating?
The biggest misconception that deters many from the idea of open relationships is the belief that it’s cheating. This is just simply not true! Consent is a very big part of every open relationship, and the same goes for poly dating, too. If two consenting adults agree this is something they’re totally fine with doing… it can’t be considered cheating.
In a healthy open relationship, there is no lies or sneaking around, and no need for deceit or trickery. Both partners have open communication, follow boundaries, and have lots of respect for both their loved one, and their additional partners.
Pros of Open Relationships
So many couples have found higher happiness and grown closer through their open relationships, plus met amazing people and loved hard along the way! If a new style of dating is appealing to you, and you and your partner are both ready to consider the possibility seriously, take the time to really think of these positive benefits you’ll get from having an open style of loving.
You have lots of trust as a couple
Imagine trying to date openly while in a relationship if you don’t trust your partner, or they didn’t trust you. Couples who engage in this dynamic place so much trust in one another, and they really grow from it. Allowing yourself to move past the idea of “possession = love” and giving unconditional trust is extremely freeing, and you’ll feel better about the relationship, too.
The opportunity to meet many people & have fun
Limiting yourself on who you can date because you’re “chained up” to one partner can be a pretty great way to miss out on amazing connections and experiences. One reason why casual dating has become so popular in the singles scene is because it’s fun and eye-opening to get to meet so many different people and share time together, however long that may end up being.
Improved communication as a couple
Open relationships require an insane amount of communication! Frequent check-ins to touch base on the emotional side of things, as well as the sexual, and keeping each other updated really adds up, and you’ll find yourself talking to your partner about serious things more than ever. Plus, this could even bring out surprising qualities in each other sexually, as you explore and find new things you like with others.
Cons of Open Relationships
Open dating isn’t for everyone. Not all couples can take the additional work that comes with this dynamic, and not everyone can feel the confidence and ability to trust their partner’s. This is okay! No relationship is the same, so some may just not be suited for this style of life. A good way to feel out if it’s for you or not is to imagine yourself experiencing these cons, and think about how you’d feel.
Jealousy sometimes comes into play
Even the most evolved, well-adapted open couples will experience moments of insecurity or jealous, though fleeting as they may be. It’s hard to avoid this completely, especially if you’re in the early stages of figuring out rules and boundaries. Communication helps a lot with this, so don’t be afraid to speak up if you start feeling some sort of negative way.
Less time together
One habit couples get into is that they’ll spend every waking moment together. For some, this is great! Others? Not so much… and if that’s what you’re used to, this will be a bit of a change to get used to. Since you, and your partner, will be out on dates or adventures with other people, it will cut into your time together. It’s best to make scheduled days that are for you two only.
Not understood by society
Good luck trying to explain your unique relationship to someone judgmental. Many people still think of open relationships as just glorified cheating or a toxic union, and they usually aren’t easily persuaded to believe otherwise. You may at times feel the need to hide the way your relationship works, which could invoke wrongly placed feelings of shame.
5 Ways To Make It Work
If you’re going to give an open relationship a try, or maybe you already have and just want some refreshing pointers of dating to success, these 5 tips will help you make sure you and your partners all stay in perfect harmony. With fewer bumps in the road, the less feelings will be hurt! Just stay respectful and honest, and you’ll be fine.
1. Set Rules & Boundaries Early On
One of the worst feelings in the world is being betrayed, especially by someone you love. Even if you consent to an open relationship and engage in your end as well, it’s hard to know from the start what you are and aren’t okay with. It’s better to set pretty strict rules in the beginning, especially regarding the sexual aspects of dating like this, just so no toes are stepped on in the process of it.
2. Make Time For Each Other
Nothing will derail your relationship faster than neglect. Your partner should be your primary focus, even during your exploration stage, and even while you’re dating others. Don’t keep yourself busy every weekend. Make sure you’re scheduling time for the two of you to be together, without the outside influences. That means phones down, the thoughts of others aside, and just pure connection with you and your boo.
3. Stay Honest & Communicate
Your relationship won’t work and stay healthy unless you’re honest about things as they come up. Communication is the only way this will work for you, so make that a priority with your partner. Talk about feelings, ask questions if you want to know things, and don’t try to downplay or hide anything. Once deceit enters the dynamic, it can get messy fast.
4. Find Other Open Couples As Friends
No one wants to feel alone in their lifestyle. Being in an open relationship can sometimes feel lonely, even if that sounds crazy. Your family and friends may not understand how you’re happy in this situation, or they may not even know this is how you and your partner live. It can be isolating, so reach out to other couples with similar dynamics, and get a bit of of a community together for support.
5. Tell Your Dates The Situation From The Start
Not everyone is going to be fine with you having a significant other, or even seeing other people at all. It’s important than when you’re first flirting with someone new, you clue them in on what you’re currently doing in your love life. They should be aware of your primary partner, and probably anyone else you’re currently having sexual relations with. It’s safer, and just ethical, that way. Plus, you won’t have to deal with any hurt feelings on their end, later on.
3 Helpful Safety Tips
Unfortunately, there is an aspect of open relationships that can be worrisome, especially if it’s a very sexually charged decision for you both. Staying safe is extremely important, even if you’re single and into casual sex, so please always make sure you’re using these 3 tips to protect yourself in sexual situations.
1. Don’t Skimp On Protection
You and your partner probably don’t want to worry about the possibility of a pregnancy occuring when you’re out with someone else that isn’t in your relationship. Plus, STDs are easily spread, and you don’t want to accidentally get or give anything to your partner.
2. Get Tested Together Regularly
If you’re both sexually active outside of your own bedroom together, make it a point to get tested once or twice a month to screen for any new bugs that may have slipped under the radar during your extracurriculars.
3. Consider Worst Case Scenarios
Have a serious conversation about what the two of you will do, as a team, if one of these worst-case scenarios really does come into fruition. If you’re careful, this is extremely rare, but it should still be something that is discussed.
Unlike the myths out there, dating in an open relationships isn’t cheating or unlimited amounts of crazy sex with everyone you meet. The only couples who can successfully continue a relationship together while seeing others are those who can communicate excellently, place trust in one another, and follow the rules and boundaries perfectly. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but it’s important to consider both the pros and cons before making up your mind. Even if you won’t be engaging in an open relationship anytime soon, if ever, make sure you’re not unfairly judging anyone for their own choices. These couples make their decisions consensually, and do what is best for them. Now you may have a better idea how much work really does go into their dynamic!