For many people, love has always looked a certain way. We are constantly reminded by society that we are on the hunt for that one person to make us feel complete, to be our soulmate and to be our one and only forever.
However, there is no roadmap to how to find love or how to feel happy in your relationship. For that reason, many people have found ways to mold and shape their relationship to best suit themselves and their partner. For some couples, this could mean opening up the relationship to include other people.
If you have ever thought about the possibility of non-monogamy, VALLEY is here to break down what it is and why it could work for your relationship.
What is an open relationship?
Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is when all partners of the relationship agree to have multiple sexual or romantic relationships operating simultaneously. There are several different types of non-monogamous relationships and every couple has the freedom to build and shape the relationship in the way they feel suits them best.
While open relationships are not a new concept, they are gradually being more accepted and commonly seen in society. The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) found in a 2002 sample of adults that approximately 18% of women and 23% of men were engaged in non-monogamy. Studies have also shown that the men and women engaging in open relationships experience receive just as much satisfaction as couples in monogamous relationships.
Below, VALLEY talks about why opening up your relationship could work for you and your partner.
1. If it is difficult to have a romantic or sexual relationship with only one person
For many people, romantic relationships in which both partners are totally devoted to one another is highly valuable. However, approximately 20% of men and women in relationships have reported being unfaithful to their partner while being in a committed monogamous relationship. For others, they find themselves trapped in a cycle of serial monogamous relationships.
For some people, being with one person forever is not realistic. The temptation to see other people can lead to cheating whereas opening up the relationship takes away the appeal of cheating and the urge to be secretive because everything is – or at least it should be- on the table.
That being said, an open relationship is not an excuse to cheat and in an open relationship, cheating is defined as dishonesty. As soon as partners begin being deceptive towards one another, there has been a breach of trust in the relationship and this should generally be avoided.
2. You can build and change the rules of your relationship at any time.
Open relationships are built off of mutual respect between you and your partner as well as communication and most importantly, honesty. Just like in a monogamous relationship where you and your partner discuss your boundaries, the same goes for an open relationship.
The biggest thing to note is that you and your partner’s relationship is only between you two and you decide the rules. For example, do you want to tell each other about your other partners or keep a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in place? How much time are you and your partner allowed to spend with your secondary partners and is it romantic or purely sexual?
3. A little bit of jealousy never hurt nobody
While jealousy is normally viewed as a bad thing in relationships, in very very small doses, it can actually be a good thing. A little jealousy in relationships reminds us that we are attracted to our partner. Although, even in an open relationship, you might still feel the occasional pang of jealousy, the levels of jealousy in monogamous relationships is still much higher.
4. If you are open to experimenting
As stated above, relationships outside of the “norm” are slowly becoming more accepted in society. According to this study from 2016, couples in non-monogamous relationships have greater variation in their sex lives and are having better and more frequent sex than they did when they were monogamous.
Open relationships could work for you and your partner if, for instance, you have a sexual fantasy your partner may not be willing to do, you want to experiment with a partner of a different gender or you and your partner have mismatched sex drives.
It is still important to note however if you are engaging in sexual activities outside of your main partnership, it is important to be safe and completely honest with your partner. Your partner might be into sharing you, but neither of you wants to share chlamydia.
5. You both can figure out what you want
Regardless of whether or not you and your partner decide to close the door to anyone else and continue on as monogamous or if you break up entirely, open relationships help people learn to communicate their desires to their partner
Things to take away
Lastly, before opening up your relationship, make sure it is with someone you fully can trust and can communicate openly with. If you are always safe and honest with yourself and your partner, an open relationship could work for you.