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What is an open relationship?

An open relationship is a type of unconventional romantic relationship in which both partners give consent to each other to explore and have sexual relationships with other people. Some people choose to have an open relationship because they reject the model of monogamy or consider it unnatural. While others just want to try out sexual encounters besides their current relationship.

The concept of monogamy grew out of religious and social norms. When the church was much more powerful in the old days, sexual satisfaction was considered a sin. Sex was accepted only for procreation. Even today, contraceptives are rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.

Open Relationship vs Polyamory

Many confuse the two types of relationships or think they are the same. These relationship styles have in common that they allow sexual contact outside the relationship. They are both considered as a non-monogamous relationship. However, polyamory goes one step further.

Polyamory is defined as having multiple relationships. The relationships don’t have to be sexual. The focus and driving focus in this type of relationship is love and emotional connections with other people other than your partner. It basically pushes that you can be in love with more than one person at the same time.

Quiz: Your word choice can tell what you're missing in life!
Quiz: Your word choice can tell what you're missing in life!

In an open relationship, on the other hand, there are emotional boundaries. You aren’t supposed to be in love with someone else. The boundaries are usually set early on. Some couples choose this type of relationship because they’re okay with their partner having sex outside the relationship, but not falling in love.

How to ask for an open relationship?

You desire an open relationship and do not know how to tell your partner? It is not easy in a long-term relationship to take the step into an open relationship or to express the desire alone.

This is a topic that should not be discussed quickly over a meal together, but for which you should take your time. Here you will find steps you can take to communicate your desire for an open relationship to your partner.

1. Think before you ask.

Before you ask your partner about an open relationship, you should know what it means to be in an open relationship. You should know about the advantages and disadvantages and do intensive research on the topic.

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Talk to people who are or have been in open relationships. If you don’t know people who have experience with this, search for “reviews” on Internet forums. Some people have already reported about their open relationships.

Don’t make a hasty decision. Be sure you want to try an open relationship before talking about it with your partner. You are, of course, free to change your mind about an open relationship later. After all, you can’t know in advance if an open relationship is right for you.

2. Introduce open relationships to your partner.

After you have told your partner about your wish, there will be a lot of questions. Be patient and answer every question your partner asks you. You can also research the topic again together.

3. Explain why you want it.

Your partner is probably most interested in why you want an intimate relationship with other people. It could also be that they feel a bit offended at first, and maybe they think you are unhappy in your relationship. To avoid misunderstandings, explain to your partner in detail why you want an open relationship.

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4. Assure your partner that it’s not because of any shortcomings on their part.

Make sure that your partner knows how much you care for them and that it’s not due to their flaws or shortcomings. Explain that you just want what’s best for both of you.

It is also important to tell them that you’re having a satisfying relationship right now. An open relationship can’t be a successful relationship if you’re unhappy with each other at the beginning.

5. Give your partner the time and space to process things.

Your conversation will, undoubtedly, be a heavy one. You can’t expect your partner to have an immediate answer to your proposal. Don’t give them an ultimatum and assure them that you are totally fine if they prefer closed relationships.


Open Relationship Facts

Before you both dive into the unknown waters of an open relationship, familiarize yourself with the following facts and accept the advantages and consequences of open relationships.

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1. Jealousy is normal.

Having an open relationship does not make you immune to jealousy. The important thing is that you communicate openly and honestly with each other. So, if you notice that you are getting jealous, talk to your partner. It is important that you both show understanding and take each other’s concerns seriously.

2. Open marriages can work.

Yes, open relationships also work if you’re a married couple. But as in any other open relationship, you have to set clear rules in a monogamous marriage as well.

3. Rules vary for every couple.

There are no set rules in an open relationship. As long as there is transparency, honest communication, and love between the partners and everyone is happy about the setting, you’re all good to go!

4. 25% of Americans are interested in an open relationship.

YouGov (2021), an opinion and market research company, asked 23,000 Americans if they would be interested in an open relationship. A quarter of respondents said they would be interested. It is also exciting that Millenials are more interested in open relationships than older or younger generations.

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5. Some people still haven’t accepted it.

Although the open relationship model is gaining popularity, it is still not entirely accepted in our society. You can expect that some people will talk behind your back. Just ignore them.


Open Relationship Rules

The ground rules might not be the same for all couples, but here are some guidelines you need to remember when you both decide to be in an open relationship. You can live by it and see for yourself if they work for you.

Talk about your sexual boundaries.

It might get weirdly specific, but for the benefit and assurance of both parties, you need to talk about boundaries regarding sexual activities. Agree on how many partners at a time, how many times you can have sex, the type of sex acceptable, and any other sexual aspects you want to agree upon.

Freely express your emotions.

Communication is the be-all and end-all in any relationship, especially in an open relationship. Sometimes we unintentionally hurt each other. If these incidents are not spoken out, the frustration grows and puts a strain on your relationship. If something is on your mind, do not wait too long and talk about it as soon as possible with your partner.

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Exercise safe sex practices.

For the benefit of your partners and yourself, don’t get too excited with your explorations that you throw all the safer sex practices you’ve been heeding out the window. You should be safer than ever for all intents and purposes since you’ll have multiple partners.

Honesty is the best policy.

Be honest with your partner about what you’re doing with the others. You should not have to suppress or hide what you feel or need from your partner. Trusting each other is of utmost importance.

Schedule and prioritize dates with your primary partner.

Make sure that you prioritize the relationship with your partner. If you have several sexual partners, intimacy with your partner may fall by the wayside. Intimacy doesn’t just mean sex, but togetherness in general, like watching TV together and other dates. Enjoy your time together and strengthen your love for each other.


Open Relationship Pros and Cons

Before opening the floodgates of this relationship, you should both accept with all your heart that there will be risks, as well as benefits to having this type of relationship. Monogamy is already hard, and this is going to be even harder.

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Pros:

1. Personal Growth

Every person you meet in your life leaves an imprint on your life. Even if they are “just” sexual partners, you will have many new experiences. You will interact with different people, explore your sexuality, and experiment with new things. In the process, you’ll learn more about yourself - things you were never aware of before.

2. Variety

The main reason why some people enter into open relationships is that they have become bored and felt restricted in their previously monogamous relationships. In open relationships, you’re both going to meet and connect not only with each other but with lots of people, without cheating, since you both consent to it.

3. Enhanced Communication

Honesty and transparency will always be the most important ingredient in open relationships. In order to trust one another with other people, you will have to open up sexually and emotionally to your partner to positively talk things through.

Cons:

1. Jealousy

Jealousy happens even in open relationships. Especially when communication does not work properly. But even with extensive communication, you can still hurt someone’s feelings. It could be that a lover of yours falls in love with you and wants to have more than just sex with you. It is also possible that your partner could fall in love with one of their lovers.

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The possibility or just the thought that your partner might fall in love with someone else is often enough to make you jealous.

2. Hurt feelings

In addition, offenses can happen unintentionally through words, for example, when you compare your partner to one of your lovers. Actions can also be hurtful. For example, suppose you forget an appointment with your partner while spending time with one of your lovers. In that case, your partner will definitely be offended.

3. When suddenly it turns out to be love…

As mentioned before, there is no guarantee that your partner will not fall in love with another person. However, there is no such guarantee in a monogamous relationship either.

Still, the probability of one person developing feelings for another person is higher in an open relationship because of the sexual contacts outside the relationship.


Bonus: Dating Someone in an Polyamory Relationship

Imagine you have just had a match with a hot person on Tinder, so you ask them out. On your first date, the person tells you that they are polyamorous. How do you react?

Reminder: In a polyamorous relationship, unlike an open relationship, you have multiple romantic partners.

If you as a single person haven’t experienced polyamory yourself, this news may take you a bit off guard. Don’t be put off by this news and be curious. Ask them to explain to you how their relationships work. Ask about anything that interests you. The person will expect you to have many questions.

If it is clear to you that a polyamorous relationship is out of the question, tell your date that right away. This will prevent unnecessary heartache.

Are you not completely averse? Tell the person if you could imagine being part of a polyamorous relationship and would like to try it out. Tell them that you haven’t experienced it yet, but would be open to trying it out.

Don’t try it out if you secretly hope that the person will eventually choose you and a monogamous relationship. The likelihood is very slim!

Whatever you decide, be honest. Polyamory is not for everyone, and that’s okay.

👉 Want to learn more about polyamorous relationships? Then follow the link: What is a Poly relationship?


If you’re looking for advice on strengthening your relationships, check out these books. They offer tips on everything from communication to conflict resolution and can help you build a stronger, more lasting bond with your partner!

  1. Love: The Psychology of Attraction: A Practical Guide to Successful Dating and a Happy Relationship
  2. Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age
  3. The Power of Four Bases for Relationships: Can You Hit a Home Run in a Relationship?
  4. Couple’s Bucket List: 101 Fun, Engaging Dating Ideas
  5. Helping Gay Men Find Love: Tips for Guys on Dating and Beginning a Healthy Relationship

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