There are pros and cons to open relationships, the way there are to anything. If you’ve been thinking about finding an open relationship or opening the relationship you have, you may have been wondering about the potential benefits and problems.
Many of us are polyamorous and have open relationships from the start, or enter into an open relationship when it is the option on the table. But on other occasions, we decide to try polyamory and look for an open relationship, or choose to open our current relationship.
No matter where you are, you may be curious about the pros and cons of open relationships.
Deciding to Open Your Relationship
Generally speaking, an “open relationship” means both partners are free to pursue sexual relationships outside of the primary relationship.
Some open relationships have different boundaries or different configurations. There are polycules of multiple connected lovers who are all free to pursue other relationships beyond. There are open relationships where emotional relationships are acceptable, not just sexual. There is swinging, where couples swap partners for sex.
Often, a monogamous relationship between two caring partners who love each other changes into an open relationship. This may be to address a libido imbalance, or because both parties recognize the need for sexual variety, or because both partners are curious about polyamory.
Opening a relationship can be a positive option for loving couples who don’t want to break up because of infidelity, sexual desire, or sexual boredom. Some couples reach this fork in the road and decide there is no reason to go their separate ways just because their sexual needs are changing.
Consider that sleeping with someone else or wanting to is too often the only reason behind couples divorcing or breaking apart. Some couples choose not to break up, but to expand their boundaries.
Open Relationship Pros and Cons
There are many pros and cons for an open relationship. Couples who choose to open their marriage or relationship to other lovers must look at the benefits and challenges and decide what works best for them.
Benefits of an Open Relationship
There are many benefits to think about when considering the pros and cons of an open relationship. The first one is a major benefit—saving a relationship that seems doomed because of sexual desires outside the unit.
The mentality that a couple can’t overcome natural, normal sexual desires that extend outside of each other is the reason for a lot of divorce and heartbreak. What if you don’t have to break up? Can you live with your lover’s full and complete sexuality?
Polyamorous people feel that monogamy is not natural, and breaking up because of non-monogamous feelings or actions is ridiculous. Working with our natural desires is a better plan!
Another benefit of open relationships is not just the ability to stay together, but the excitement of rekindling sexuality. The thrill of new romance, of variety, novelty, and more are key motivators to polyamorous people.
Improved sexual relationships with the original partner are also benefits of an open relationship. Many partners report that sex gets better again. Since both partners are free to pursue sex and explore their sexuality, they feel sexually alive again, which helps mitigate resentment and spice up the routine.
Another open relationship benefit is improved trust and intimacy. When couples feel they can fully be themselves and pursue personal and sexual development, they often feel closer to their partner and experience what it’s like to accept someone as they are and be accepted for what they are. They may feel that love is unlimited, rather than being about bondage and restraint.
For those who are bisexual, an open relationship is beneficial because they are able to explore a side of themselves that is neglected otherwise.
Another advantage is improved mood and contentment factors, for individuals as well as for the couple. People who feel free instead of stuck and who experience more pleasure report better moods and a more loving feeling toward the other.
Open Relationship Challenges
Depending on individual temperament and beliefs, different challenges arise in the pros and cons of open relationships.
If one or both partners find it difficult to accept the other’s sexuality outside of the relationship, it can be very painful. Jealousy is a natural emotion and it is also toxic, and some people have more difficulty than others in learning to control it.
Another challenge is when couples drift apart. Even though many feel more closely bonded in an open relationship, sometimes opening that door lets one or both parties slip away. They may invest more in outside sexual affairs and neglect the relationship.
Safe sex can be a challenge in open relationships. Although many studies show that polyamorous people are no less safe and maybe more safe than other sexual relationships due to honesty and ethics policies in the poly community, communication can be tricky. You may choose to use condoms with everyone, or to avoid certain practices. Navigating the communication of sex safe is challenging.
Finding the time for many lovers can be a challenge. We sometimes barely have time for our relationship, never mind for many relationships.
Agreeing to boundaries is another open relationship challenge. Every couple has their own boundaries, tailored to their needs. For example, you might ask your wife not to sleep with your brother, even though she’s been attracted to him for years. You might feel aroused by your wife sleeping with women, but can’t handle her sleeping with other men. Your lover may find it hot to hear about your sexual trysts with other women, but she expects you to come home at night. Figuring out what your boundaries are can be difficult, and often we decide them on a trial by error basis.
What were the pros and cons for you in opening your relationship?