MIND

How to Navigate an Open Relationship

20 February, 2022

Are open relationships becoming the new normal? It certainly seems so. A YouGov poll found that about a quarter of us would be interested in having an open relationship. So, what would that look like, exactly?

Well, the definition of an open relationship is entirely up to and set by the people involved. Open relationships can include sexual flings outside your main relationship or even long-term romantic relationships.

A study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five adults had been in some form of an open relationship in their lifetime.

“A study in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five adults had been in some form of an open relationship in their lifetime.

Given the throngs of 20s and 30’s children of divorce maybe we’ve outgrown the idea of using relationship longevity as a marker for success. Why not measure marriages by overall satisfaction or how each person was encouraged to grow? What about how much people respect each other after it’s over? Open relationships allow us the freedom to create our own markers for relationship success.

Are open relationships healthy? They can be. It takes a lot of communication and conscientiousness to navigate an open relationship. As with anything new, there’s a learning curve. Spend time examining why you want an open relationship. You’ll understand your motivations and be able to communicate authentically with your partner.

How do open relationships work? It’s not all fun and games (as with any new lifestyle choice). There’s always a learning curve. Common problems found in open relationships are secrecy, jealousy, and constantly working to remain on the same page.

It’s easy to get drawn into the sexy side of non-monogamous relationships, but open relationships require serious mental, emotional and physical trust.

Mutual consent. Ideally, both partners should be 100% on board with having an open relationship. If you get talked into it or you talk your partner into it those cracks will start to show. An open relationship will likely reveal deeper truths, such as the yearning for something more or different.

Establish open relationship rules. Set healthy boundaries and be open to discuss whether you’re comfortable with your partner going on dates, dating people in your friend group—even how many times it’s okay to have sex with the same person. It’s good to evaluate any feelings of jealousy that come up along the way, as this is common early on in an open relationship.

Open relationships aren’t just about sex, but they can be. A couple decides what’s fair to pursue. Speak honestly about what you’re comfortable with and how it relates to your own emotional and sexual needs. Why open relationships don’t work usually comes down to a lack of transparency or jealousy.

Navigating holidays. Since February 14 is for lovers, what’s the best way to navigate romantic holidays while in an open relationship? Be prepared. Talk about expectations, needs, wants, and safety so there aren’t any surprises. Make a collaborative plan about how you want to experience a special day. Check in with each other to support your collective well-being as a couple.

Open relationships aren’t for everyone but that doesn’t mean they aren’t for you. Some say, open relationships can actually help you stay more committed to your partner. Chanta Blue, a sexuality and relationship therapist found that couples in open relationships have more sex with their partner while also having sex with other people, which can intensify the connection to one another. Another sound endorsement in support of good sex translating to better relationships — something we at Vella can definitely get behind.

“Today we have to give one person what an entire village used to provide — financial and emotional support, companionship, entertainment, friendship, familiarity, mystery, love, sex, the works.– Esther Perel, author, Mating in Captivity.

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