Why Open Relationships Don’t Work (and Why Some Do)

Is it true that open relationships don’t work?

Why don’t some open relationships work, while others do? What do open relationships need to work out?

Curiously, many people in both polyamorous communities and the monogamous world believe open relationships don’t work, Their reasons are different, of course, but in a sense, they unexpectedly find common ground in the belief that open relationships are doomed or unethical.

Read: Polyamory vs Open Relationships: What’s the Difference?

6 Reasons Open Relationships Don’t Work

Relationship expert Neil Wilkie claims on Red Online that 92% of open marriages fail. It’s tough to get at other estimates or studies on this subject, but common wisdom seems to conclude that open relationships don’t usually work out.

1. Jealousy

Jealousy is usually cited as the number one reason that open relationships don’t work!

Monogamous people will say that jealousy is an expected emotion when intimacy between two is broken. Polyamorous people will say that jealousy needs to be overcome, and when intimacy is decentralized and equally divided with all partners, it can be controlled. But jealousy is usually at the crux of open relationship failure.

Read: Causes of Jealousy in Relationships

2. Loss of Intimacy

The idea of an open relationship might be to get more sex or to rejuvenate a stale relationship. But what often happens is that the connection that was there in the first place dissipates into thin air as neither partner are looking for solutions within the relationship but expecting them to materialize from outside.

3. Inexperience with Non-Monogamy

Many couples who open their relationship are new to non-monogamy or polyamory. If your relationship is the guinea pig for your non-monogamous experience, it might be the very thing to suffer. Many couples view non-monogamy as a way of saving or reviving their relationship, but since they aren’t experienced navigating these emotions and experiences, it can backfire miserably.

Read: Essentials for Open Relationships

4. Many Open Relationships Do Not Have a Strong Foundation

Consider that most monogamous couples who decide to open the relationship are doing so in order to revive or save an unsuccessful relationship. Opening it may not be the reason it doesn’t work, but part of the trajectory!

There are of course some relationships that are going along great and both parties find it would be hot to open the door and they feel compersion for their partner and get aroused by the extra sex and the relationship gets even better. It may be rare, but it exists. An interesting study would look at what kind of open relationships don’t work—are they just the relationships that weren’t working in the first place?

Read: 5 Reasons to Open Your Relationship

5. Poor Communication

Whether a couple was monogamous or polyamorous to begin with may matter less in an open relationship than communication. If you can’t express yourself and find the right words to show your real feelings, much is open to misinterpretation.

Read: 4 Signs of Communication Breakdown

6. Dishonesty and Broken Trust

Many open relationships don’t work because there is a breakdown of trust due to deceptive behavior. Open relationships are intended to combat dishonesty. Since you’re “allowed” to sleep with other people, there’s nothing to lie about or conceal, right?

But it can be tricky to express your real feelings or to risk hurting your lover, and new hormones can make someone reckless.

What Open Relationships Need to Work

For open relationships to work, and some open relationships do work great, the following are very important.

1. Solid Foundation

A broken relationship is not magically going to work when you start sleeping with more women, sorry! Open relationships that work are healthy, secure, trusting, and loving to begin with.

2. Honesty

Couples who are capable of really being honest about their feelings and desires, even when the truth is awkward, painful or uncomfortable will better be able to navigate the ups and downs of an open relationship.

3. Great Communication

If you can keep talking to the person who is most important to you, you can make an open relationship work!

Read: Tips for Maintaining Communication in Poly Relationships

4. Secure Personality and Emotional Control

If you are able to maturely navigate your basest emotions and not just blame your partner when you feel jealous or uncomfortable, you will be able to handle an open relationship better than someone who can’t control their negative emotions.

5. Prior Successful Experience with Polyamory

Many open relationships don’t work simply because the lovers involved are new to sharing their partners or having more partners themselves. They may feel conflicted or guilty and haven’t learned to handle these emotions yet, whether their source is personal or socially inflicted values.

Read: Still Deciding? Open Relationship Pros and Cons

Are you in an open relationship or tried to have one? Please share your experience!

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