Written by Kelle Salle
Image by @winnieharlow
When you hear the term ‘open relationships’, you might think it’s a free pass for one person in the relationship to sleep with as many people as they want, but an open relationship can also be romantic. WebMD defines it as ‘having more than one romantic or sexual partner at a time’. We all have our views about open relationships and it’s ok to be for or against them, but in recent years attitudes have changed, with a survey from sexual wellness brand Lovehoney revealing that one in four Brits would consider one. If you are considering an open relationship, the most important thing you need to know is that it is an agreement between two parties, so it must be discussed before any decisions are made, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable the conversation might be.
We’ve asked Psychotherapist and Content Creator Freda Nomo to share some insight on the pros and cons of open relationships and six questions you need to ask yourself if you’re considering one.
What are the pros and cons of an open relationship?
Open relationships can provide couples with sexual exploration, fulfilment and emotional freedom. Being in an open relationship could help you get your emotional and sexual needs met by secondary partners and your primary partner. It may also encourage better communication and promote a sense of trust and loyalty. On the flip side, those who struggle to separate sex and intimacy may be less open to exploring an open relationship.
How would you define an open relationship on your own terms?
People have their own views about open relationships, so be sure to define it on your own terms. If you are thinking about having an open relationship, what might this look like? Are you going to have multiple secondary sexual partners or are you hoping to form different intimate connections with multiple secondary partners whilst maintaining a relationship with your primary partner?
Do you really want an open relationship?
Once you’ve figured out what an open relationship means to you, it’s important to think about your ‘why’. As you reflect, you might want to think about your boundaries, morals and values and how you’ll navigate an open relationship without betraying yourself or what you stand for.
Is everything ok in your relationship?
Honesty is so important in relationships, so have a conversation with your partner and be open about why you’re considering having an open relationship. Take the time to reflect on your relationship and be open about what needs are not being met and work together to find ways to resolve things.
Can you set boundaries in an open relationship?
While an open relationship can be romantic, people might choose to have different sexual partners. It’s worth thinking about how you would navigate this situation. If the open relationship is predominantly sexual, consider setting sexual boundaries and implementing rules to keep each other safe and protected. It’s also worth reflecting on your relationship with boundaries as a whole – how comfortable are you with setting them – can you assert yourself and get your needs met?
What will you do if you get jealous?
If you’re considering an open relationship, you could experience feelings of jealousy, which are totally valid. If this happens, have an open and honest conversation with your primary partner and remember to express your feelings in the first person using ‘I feel’ statements. Jealousy in an open relationship can also be a sign that it’s time to set boundaries and rules to ensure you are both on the same page.
Do you seek validation from others?
Validation has a lot of negative associations but it’s normal and healthy to want validation. It only becomes an issue if you are constantly relying on others for validation and praise – this can stop you from considering and expressing your thoughts, opinions, wants and needs. We all have an inner critic that can be negative and prevent us from doing what we truly want to do, therefore, it’s important to engage in self-compassion and be kind to yourself, whatever you decide.