Many people turn to open relationships as a last-ditch effort to save their relationship. If you’ve struggled with infidelity, questioning your partnership, and wanting to see other people, it sounds like a great idea. You don’t have to make a final decision, and you can date around.
However, open relationships don’t always work. Be it jealousy, guilt, or trust issues; you are likely to turn out worse off if you open your relationship.
But first, what is an open relationship?
What Is an Open Relationship?
An open relationship is one where partners in a coupledom seek sexual relationships apart from one another.
This type of relationship excludes partners having sexual relationships with each other and a third party. It also requires that the couple avoid developing romantic feelings for the extra partner.
Polyamory vs. Open Relationship
Some people use the term “open relationship” to describe all consensually non-monogamous relationships. However, polyamory and open relationships differ.
Polyamorous individuals embrace having multiple romantic and loving relationships. Contrarily, those in open relationships seek to keep their romantic feelings only for one another.
In both cases, individuals can have sexual relationships outside of a single partner.
Are Open Relationships Healthy?
Open relationships can be healthy, but only under specific conditions. Both partners need to agree to have sexual relationships outside of their primary romantic partner.
An open relationship might be a good choice for your relationship if you and your partner have sex to satisfy your sexual needs. Those with intrinsic motives might have higher sexual needs than one partner can provide, so they require it elsewhere.
If your relationship falls into line with this, you might find success in an open relationship. However, only about 4% of North Americans are in consensually non-monogamous relationships. This statistic includes polyamory and swinging.
For most people, open relationships end up having more downfalls than benefits.
Why Open Relationships Are Toxic
If you are part of the 96% of people who cannot have a successful open relationship, here are some reasons.
While you might have no problem seeking romantic fulfillment from your partner and having sex with others, they might not feel the same. Many people in open relationships grow jealous when they think of their partners spending the night at someone else’s house.
You might get stuck in a toxic cycle where you compare yourself to their lovers, which can lead to envy and lower your self-esteem.
When you start sleeping with other people, you might feel guilty. Say your partner has a health crisis and needs your support. If you go out on a date with someone else, you might be thinking about them the whole time and feel guilty for seeing someone else.
Also, one of you might have more romantic luck than the other. In cases like this, you might feel guilty for it being a one-sided open relationship.
Your open relationship might lead to a sense of competition between you and your partner. One of you might have more lovers than the other, or you might have more impactful encounters.
Additionally, you cannot objectively compare your relationships to each other. There’s no formula to compare quantity and quality, and neither should resemble your primary relationship.
Lots of things can go wrong when you start an open relationship. Someone could get pregnant or catch an STD, impacting the other partner and their lovers.
Also, somebody might develop feelings for one of their lovers. It’s hard for most people to control their emotions. Moreover, one of the lovers might have romantic feelings for you or your partner. Things can get complicated and even dangerous in an open relationship.
Loss of Trust
Many times, open relationships are initiated by one person. Maybe they aren’t sure if they want to stay with you, so they opt for seeing other people until they sort out their feelings.
Throughout the discourse, you might stop communicating properly with one another. If your partner did not suggest the relationship, you’ll be less likely to want to share all the details of your “adventures.”
Maybe you’re one of the few pairs who do not get jealous of their partner’s sexcapades. Still, most people will omit some details to avoid upsetting their partner. Once you stop being completely honest, you’ve hindered your communication and will likely lose trust in each other.
For the majority of people, open relationships don’t work. Many people go into them since they are not fulfilled by their partner, leading to negative feelings for one another.
If you explore an open relationship, chances are that it will make everything more complicated and wreck what you have with your partner.
Proceed with caution if you attempt one, and know that it probably won’t work out.
Ranya Al-Huthaili is an American entrepreneur in St. Paul, Minnesota. Born in Saudi Arabia, Ranya shares insight about relationships and creating a positive support system.