With divorce rates on the increase and infidelity being the leading cause of broken marriages, some couples have turned to having open relationships as a means to solving their intimacy problems. Still others believe that they are naturally polyamorous and couldn’t imagine an exclusive, monogamous relationship. The percentage of people engaging in open relationships is still relatively small, but on the increase. So are open relationships healthy?
Some people believe that open relationships simply open the door to mistrust and insecurity within the relationship, while others believe that open relationships allow for variety and excitement.
Whether the relationship (open or not) is healthy depends on the couple themselves and the communication within the relationship.
One thing is for sure – open, honest communication of expectations is a must in any relationship. Both partners need to be 100% keen on the arrangement and both partners must feel that their needs are being met in a respectful and caring way. If one partner feels threatened or insecure with the idea of an open relationship then that relationship is not going to work out.
Many people are attracted to the idea of an open relationship because, despite being deeply in love with their partner, they find that not all their sexual needs are being met by this person. Turning to outsiders to meet those needs and then returning to the partner for companionship and emotional connectedness. This works in theory, but an open relationship is really a very sensitive juggle between love, lust and a lot of trust. If you are considering engaging in an open relationship, or are already in one, it may be beneficial to watch out for a few things:
Make sure that you are both keen on the idea and are feeling secure with your partner being in bed with someone else. Be psychologically prepared for what being in an open relationship means.
Test the waters first.
Try it out and then make sure you communicate with your partner about it the next day – discuss whether there are any insecurities, feelings of jealousy or any other issues that may crop up. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, leave it alone.
Discuss the rules and boundaries with one another.
Make sure you discuss the rules around your relationship. For example, will you talk to each other about your sexual partners? Or will this be something that you don’t discuss? Some people prefer not to know about external partners, while other couples discuss their sexual partners with one another.
Keep the relationship stable.
Just because you are engaging sexually with people outside of your relationship does not mean that your relationship should change. Try to keep things as normal and stable between you. Spend quality time together and show one another how special you are.
At all times communicate about your feelings and whether things are still working for you. Sometimes engaging in an open relationship is simply a means to expelling sexual energy and suddenly one of you may realise that it is not what you are after. If you find that your partner could meet your needs in a specific way, communicate this with them and make sure that you are always 100% on the same page when it comes to having other partners.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).