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Every person and every couple has to decide for themselves what love and commitment looks like for them.
Maybe it’s the traditional one-person-for-life, he’s-her-lobster type of deal. Or maybe it’s a different arrangement where partners trust each other to have their fun and flings on the side while still staying committed to their primary relationship.
The experience of being in an open relationship isn’t often talked about in polite society, but it works for some couples, and it’s worth considering if it may be right for you.
Let’s talk about some of the pros, cons, and motivations of monogamy versus open relationships.
Monogamy can provide an excellent foundation for a relationship.
Your romantic life can feel stable, you have a companion, and you are able to get to know one person extremely well.
Given a healthy relationship, you build trust with your partner and learn how to communicate and tackle challenges together.
Also, assuming you both got tested for STIs at the beginning of your relationship and cheating is not taking place, you don’t have to worry about STIs.
On the other hand, monogamy is built around assumptions that one person can satisfy 100 percent of your desires, needs and wants out of a relationship, which can feel stifling and overwhelming (and disappointing when it doesn’t work out that way).
Sexual excitement fades over time, and you have limited sexual variety within a monogamous relationship.
Furthermore, the parameters of monogamy often go assumed and unspoken, so ideas of what constitutes cheating may not be discussed.
Also, monogamy presents us with limited options for sexual expression and enjoyment. You’re not able to act on your desires if you meet someone else you are attracted to.
What if you feel physical attraction for another person? You either break up and move on to the new, exciting person (called serial monogamy), cheat on your monogamous partner, or do your best to forget about this new, exciting person (while realizing there will always be someone who attracts you outside your relationship).
Finally, practicing serial monogamy can mean exposing yourself to a greater STI risk (unless you are consistently using condoms and other barriers like dental dams with your new partners and you both get tested before having unprotected sex).
“You have to commit to self-growth,
which can be challenging at times.”
Open relationships by their very nature are honest and transparent relationships, which can feel quite liberating.
You have the opportunity (depending on your relationship agreements) to have increased sexual variety and greater sexual autonomy.
In addition, it is possible to have needs met by other relationships (emotional, erotic, physical, spiritual, etc.).
Overall, you have increased relationship choice and autonomy.
You can still have deep and companionship-oriented relationships, and it is quite possible to have stability within your relationship(s).
In my experience, relationship stability is increased when partners feel like they are choosing to be with one another and have the ability to negotiate things they want with other people.
Open relationships also force you to work on difficult emotions, such as jealousy, personal insecurities and fear.
You cannot keep emotions bottled up. You have to commit to self-growth, which can be challenging at times.
Open relationships also require a significant time commitment for communication.
Lastly, open relationships open the door to the possibility your partner meets someone and the two of you break up or transition your relationship into something else.
What pros and cons have you encountered around your relationship structure?