Open Relationships: Pros and Cons

Written by Dave Rich

On September 27, 2012

The open relationship. Is it really just an excuse to sleep around or can polyamory actually work? No matter which side of the fence you’re on, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before bringing in a third party.

What is an Open Relationship?

In an open relationship, a primary couple agrees to see other people outside of the original commitment. For example, let’s say Rod and Susan have been together for five years and decide to open their relationship. They are now both free to court, date, and have sex with other potential partners without the risk of the loss of the original relationship. Open relationships are otherwise known as polyamorous relationships. The word “poly” meaning many and “amorous” meaning love.

Why Do Couples Opt for Open Relationships?

There are multiple reasons why a committed couple will decide to enter into an open relationship. This may be the way one or both partners have conducted relationships in the past. Or one or both partners have decided to spice up their sexual relationship by adding a third party. Another reason a couple may enter into a polyamorous relationship is one partner has met someone they have feelings for and would like to explore those feelings without fear of loss of the original relationship.

Pros of an Open Relationship

There are several pros to being in an open relationship:

  • Varied Sex Life

Sometimes your love life becomes routine. No matter how many sexy outfits she buys or how much dirty talk he does, things just get a little mundane between the sheets. When the sex life of a couple in a long-term relationship takes a dive, polyamory can sometimes bring back that excitement and spark. Picture the thrill of meeting him for the first time or the rush of seeing her from across a crowded room. There’s something naughty and delightful about taking her back to the hotel but knowing in your mind you’re not really cheating on your wife. Polyamory doesn’t necessarily mean all new techniques or swinging-from-the-chandelier sex; it just means bringing that passion and sexual confidence back to the surface!

  • Freedom

In an open relationship, you have the freedom to explore other avenues of romantic and sexual gratification. In other words, that sexy young waitress at your favorite restaurant is no longer off-limits to you. That hot construction worker fixing the next door neighbor’s roof could also be available for your wife anytime. Open relationships not only mean exploring other opportunities, but getting a deeper understanding of your own fantasies and desires.

  • Opportunity

It’s been said that the right one always comes along when you’re already taken. This is because people in committed relationships seem healthier, happier, and more approachable. They’re more confident because they know they’re wanted and desired. An open relationship gives both you and your partner the opportunity to enjoy the company of another potential romantic partner without the guilt and fear that comes with infidelity.

  • Healthy Competition

When you’re in a long-term romantic relationship, you may feel tempted to “let yourself go” a little. After all, you have him, so why should you bother spending hours in front of the mirror everyday? Being in an open relationship means getting out there, dating, and exploring new avenues. He may get excited just thinking about how good you look when you walk out that door and he may ask if you’d like to just stay in tonight.

  • Learn More About Yourself

In an open relationship, you have the opportunity to see how your personality and sexual style fits with another. Instead of being in one long-term partnership for several years or just casually dating, you’ll be able to intimately explore another person and in turn, get to know yourself without all the expectations of a monogamous commitment.

Cons of an Open Relationship

You may be ready to jump right in after reading that, but wait a minute; we haven’t gotten to the cons yet.

Here they are:

  • Jealousy

This is the primary con of an open relationship. Polyamory may sound exciting when you’re talking about it but what about when you’re actually doing it? Be honest with yourself. Can you really handle the thought of your partner dating, kissing, and having sex with somebody else? If the answer is no, a polyamorous lifestyle may not be for you.

  • Sexually Transmitted Disease

This is another serious concern when it comes to open relationships. Sexually transmitted diseases are very real and the risk of contracting one multiplies whenever one or both partners stray from a monogamous commitment. Be honest and open with each other about your sexual encounters and always use protection! If one or both partners slip up, disclose immediately and get tested before resuming any unprotected sexual activity.

  • Time Management

Relationships take work, time, and commitment. Two relationships take even more. In a polyamorous relationship, it’s important for both parties to find time not only for each other, but the other person or persons involved. Even if liaisons are just one-time sexual encounters, it will still require effective time management in order to make them work. Between career and your original relationship, do you really have the time?

  • Lack of Balance

Sometimes one partner wants to enter into an open relationship because they already have an idea of who they’re interested in.

This isn’t fair to the other partner who just “goes along with it” to avoiding losing their significant other. Also, there are many times in an open relationship where one partner dates successfully while the other stays home alone and jealous. This type of open relationship never works.

  • Loss of Original Relationship

This is a big one. Because of all the above-mentioned factors, loss of the original relationship is very possible. You or your partner may fall in love with another person and may decide to leave to pursue a monogamous relationship. Take this into careful consideration before proceeding with an open marriage.

Before Starting a Polyamorous Relationship

  1. Communicate – If you’re seeing other people and she doesn’t know about it, that’s not an open relationship, it’s cheating. Don’t expect to tell her you’ve set a date with Stacey from the office next week and oh, by the way, you’d like to start an open relationship. That’s a good way to get slapped and your clothes chucked onto the front lawn while she cussed out you, your dog, and your mother in front of the neighbors. The old, “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” rule does not apply here. Be realistic. Communicate. Weigh the pros and cons and go from there as a couple.
  1. Set Rules and Boundaries – All relationships should have rules and boundaries and this goes doubly for polyamorous relationships. Spend time talking about what will and won’t work for you as a couple. Will you only bring another party into the bedroom if you’re both home? Or will you both only be able to see other people while you’re away on business? Is your wife only allowed to date and have sex with other women or are other men okay too? If you can’t openly discuss all the intimate ins and outs of an open relationship, you’re not ready to have one.
  1. Take it Slowly – Instead of going your separate ways on nights out, do it is a couple first. Look into local swingers clubs or bars and bring someone home together. Doing it as a couple first will help you both get a feel (no pun intended) for how another person will fit into the dynamic of your relationship.
  1. Don’t Force the Issue – If you’re into it and he’s not, it’s not going to be an open relationship; it’s going to be a break up. If you are curious about an open relationship but your partner is not, spend some serious time discussing how you could improve your monogamous relationship instead. Couple’s therapy and handcuffs can go a long way in improving the long-term relationship you already have.
  1. Know When to Back Off – Sometimes couples try an open relationship but it doesn’t work. She gets jealous. He’s not following the rules and boundaries. She’s going out. He’s staying in. Whatever the case may be, an open relationship is not just about you, it’s about you both as a couple. This means if it’s not working for one party, it shouldn’t continue. Knowing when to call an open relationship quits is very important. It’s also important to know when to call it quits in the original relationship. If the suggestion of a polyamorous relationship was designed to fix the problems in your relationship, it’s less likely that this dynamic will work out successfully. Before pursuing romance with others, concentrate on repairing the original relationship first.

Polyamorous relationships are about trust, communication, and respect. Spend time communicating your needs, expectations, and feelings with your partner before, during, and after encounters to get the most out of an open relationship. Again, if you think adding a third party will help rescue a flagging relationship, think again. Only you and your partner can work out the issues between you. Adding another person will only make things more complicated. So, before you change your Facebook status and head out on the town, sit down with your partner for a heart-to-heart talk.

How do you feel about open relationships? Have you tried one? Would you?

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