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Is An Open Relationship For You?

If you've been to a movie theater recently, you probably noticed that films about open, or "no strings," relationships are very hot right now. These flicks are usually typical romantic comedies in which two people who initially began an affair with no plans for commitment eventually - usually after many comically choreographed disasters and challenges - end up realizing that they are soul mates and live happily ever after.

While it's great that non-traditional relationships are getting attention in mainstream media, these depictions are not very close to reality. Your experience with an open relationship will depend on many factors, but it's smart to take these factors into consideration before making a decision about the kind of arrangement you ultimately choose. Before you hang an "OPEN" sign on your relationship, keep this in mind. {relatedarticles}

Dispelling Myths and Setting Boundaries

There are many common myths and misunderstandings when it comes to open relationships. It's best to get these cleared up before exploring this lifestyle further.

Myth 1: Open relationships are a recent trend. The reality is that people have been having mutually agreed-upon, non-monogamous relationships for thousands of years. The only difference is that contemporary attitudes about sex and relationships have made it easier for people to be honest about their arrangements.


Myth 2: People in open relationships have lots of sex with lots of people and take sexual risks. Not necessarily. For most couples, the reality of non-monogamy does not involve orgies every weekend. People in open relationships have jobs, families and other responsibilities like everyone else and aren't focused on finding sex partners all the time. The only difference is that if and when they do meet someone they are attracted to, they have the option of following the attraction without guilt. Interestingly, studies show that people in mutually agreed-upon, open relationships have lower rates of STDs than those who are simply cheating behind their spouses' backs.{relatedarticles}

Myth 3: There must be something wrong with your partner or the relationship if you want to open it up. Many couples who choose non-monogamy are satisfied with their partners and value their primary relationships. However, they may feel that humans feel sexually attracted to many people in a lifetime and sometimes may want to explore their desires.

Myth 4: Opening up a relationship dooms it to fail. Occasionally, couples who are unhappy but reluctant to end their relationship may sometimes try and "open up" the relationship in order to shop around for a new significant other from the comfort of their current arrangement. This is a symptom of an already troubled bond and a misuse of non-monogamy. Many couples have found that an open relationship works fine for them when practiced correctly. That's not to say it's easy; jealousy, insecurities and dishonestly can wreck an open relationship easily, which is why you should choose to embark on one only if you know the risks. It's very important to have a solid, healthy relationship between you and your partner before venturing into non-monogamy.


There are many types of non-monogamous relationships. Most dating relationships technically begin as open, when both people are still determining their compatibility. Some couples choose to keep their relationships casual longer than others. This can work as long as both people agree and one does not end up falling hard for the other and secretly wanting a commitment. This can (and often does) get tricky! In more established, committed couples, an open relationship is one in which there are two primary partners, and they have an agreement that allows each to have outside affairs, but share a commitment to remaining with their primary partner in a loving relationship.{relatedarticles}

There are other, alternative versions of open relationships that are more unconventional. For example, polyamory, in which the relationship involves 3 or more people in a loving, committed bond. This is much like the plural marriage found in some sects of Mormonism and other cultures around the world. In other kinds of arrangements, some couples choose to have their sexual adventures together, whether among friends or at swinging clubs. Scared yet? These alternative lifestyles are definitely not for everyone, and nobody should be pressured into sexual arrangements that go against their faith or morals. Ultimately, it's up to you. But whatever you choose, be sure to set ground rules.


Having ground rules is a must if you want your open relationship to be successful. Some couples may have rules limiting what sexual acts they choose to do with non-primary partners or have other ways of ensuring that the alternate lover does not usurp the primary's position. If you're the alternate sex partner in a non-monogamous relationship, understand that you have rights and that your position differs from that of being the "other woman" in a cheating situation. Don't be afraid to speak your mind and discuss your concerns if you feel you're not being respected.{relatedarticles}

Jealousy

One of the first objections raised by critics of open relationships is that it's impossible to share someone you love with another person. The jealousy would drive you crazy and eventually lead to the end of the partnership. It's not surprising that this is the first thing that comes to mind; jealousy is often seen as an expression of love and is celebrated and encouraged in popular media. The truth is that jealousy is not a sign of true love, nor is it a healthy, positive emotion. The 1960s counterculture preached sexual openness as the root of peace and social reform because it requires selflessness and logical thinking rather than possessiveness and raw, destructive emotion. In many ways they were correct.

While the flower children may have had a point, their ideals do not always translate easily to our modern relationships. Jealousy can be an extremely difficult emotion to overcome. It's rooted in fear of loss, insecurities and many other deep primal anxieties that are not easy to get rid of overnight. Ideally, people who are in successful open relationships usually are a) not very prone to jealousy and b) able to confront and deal with jealousy by talking extensively with their partners and setting boundaries so they feel more in control of the non-monogamous arrangement. Couples' therapy can be a valuable tool for helping overcome jealousy.