What Is An Open Relationship

Gay Dating

What Is an Open Relationship? The Types, Benefits & Challenges

Cassey Ashley Sua

Written by: Cassey Ashley Sua

Cassey Ashley Sua

Cassey blends her background in social and human behavior, along with digital marketing, seamlessly into her writing. With a versatile portfolio spanning Tourism, E-commerce, Tech, Hospitality, and Medical industries, she weaves meaningful narratives that resonate with audiences. Connecting words into sentences is her craft, but Cassey also finds joy in forming genuine connections with people from all walks of life on LinkedIn.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is a dating and relationship expert who has penned over 1,800 lifestyle articles in the last decade, and she still never tires of interviewing dating professionals and featuring actionable advice for singles. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

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You may have heard of open relationships before. But how different are they from your classic monogamous relationship? Is your person still your person?

An open relationship is like a dating buffet  — you’ve got plenty of options on the table, and you’re free to sample every single one. In an open relationship, both (or all) parties agree to have romantic connections and sexual activities with others outside of the main duo or squad.

For some, romancing multiple people is exactly the type of spice they need to add excitement to their relationship, but it may not suit everyone’s palette.

As the world becomes more open-minded, these non-monogamous liaisons are gaining acceptance and challenging the old “one-and-only” love tale. It’s a sign that we’re acknowledging the fact that love, commitment, and having your needs met can look different for everyone. Some daters seek fulfillment and happiness within multiple interpersonal relationships.

Characteristics | Types | Benefits | Challenges | Misconceptions

Characteristics of an Open Relationship

Open relationships work like a customizable menu — not everything will suit your taste buds, but with some tweaks and adjustments, you can adjust the offerings to your liking.

The features of an open relationship aren’t just for show, though, and they can help keep relationships running smoothly while continuing to grow stronger. Understanding these unique aspects unlocks how these unique relationships thrive and function effectively.

Sexual Exploration

One of the highlights of an open relationship is getting permission for extracurricular fun. Essentially, you and your primary partner agree to explore romantic and sexual involvement with other people.

This freedom ticket allows for a deep dive into the sea of desires and fantasies. Couples can discover new adult activities they enjoy, all without the guilt trip.

Couples in open relationships have permission to explore new sexual partners

It’s personal growth with a twist! This approach can be the secret sauce to keeping the spark alive, dodging those pesky feelings of being tied down or brewing up resentment.

Open relationships are about exploring with a safety net. The main goal is to enhance what you’ve got by stepping out of your comfort zone. And it may even add some zing to your primary partnership, making connections stronger than before.

Clear Communication and Honesty

While exploring is fun, an open relationship still relies on two very important aspects of a relationship to keep things smooth and drama-free: clear communication and honesty.

For these types of relationships to work, everyone needs to be involved — talking openly and honestly about all feelings involved, the boundaries, the desires, and what everyone’s hoping to get out of the arrangement.

It’s all about ensuring that everyone’s on the same page to avoid misunderstandings and respecting comfort zones.

Open relationships can open the doors to many romantic adventures.

Setting Boundaries

Let’s talk about setting clear boundaries. Every relationship is unique and has its own set of rules and guidelines. These rules can cover anything from safe sex practices to what kind of dates are acceptable. Couples also usually establish how much they want to know about each other’s sexual exploits.

Set boundaries with your primary partner

Getting these boundaries in place from the get-go and tweaking them every now and again is key to ensuring everyone feels respected and in the loop. It’s like keeping your favorite playlist updated so the vibe is just right.

4 Types of Open Relationships

Open relationships are like picking your favorite ice cream flavor; each comes with its unique taste and toppings. Discovering the different flavors of open relationships can be a game-changer for those curious souls looking to tailor their love lives to their personal wishes, boundaries and #RelationshipGoals.

By exploring different relationship models, you and your partner can discover which dynamics you can resonate with most, fostering a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

1. Swinging

Swinging is all about committed couples consenting to mixing things up by sharing their partners for some adult fun. Swingers are all about keeping that special bond with their main person while diving into spicy escapades with others, often while your principal partner is right by your side. It’s really like having your cake and eating it, too — everyone gets a slice!

2. Polyamory

A polyamorous relationship is akin to having a romantic squad. Imagine loving more than one person with all the feels involved, and not just for the frills. Unlike swinging, which is more like guest starring in someone’s love life, polyamory is all about full-season arcs with multiple main characters.

Polyamorous relationships can also take many forms, including hierarchical structures with primary and secondary partners or non-hierarchical networks in which no relationship is prioritized over another. Communication, honesty, and ethical conduct are key components of polyamory.

The secret to a happy poly relationship arrangement? Excellent communication, honesty, and ethical conduct.

3. Relationship Anarchy

Relationship anarchy is like shaking up the traditional dating scene with a splash of “you do you.” This type of open relationship rejects traditional labels and hierarchies, promoting complete autonomy in how relationships are defined and structured.

Relationship anarchy is whatever you agree it is.

Relationship anarchists are the rebels of the love world, treating all personal connections, from your weekend brunch squad to your Netflix-and-chill partner, with the same VIP status. It’s all about what works for you and your partner(s).

In a world where “it’s complicated” may just be the status quo, embracing a little anarchy could be your ticket to clear skies.

4. Monogamish Relationships

Monogamish relationships, not to be confused with monogamous relationships, embrace exploration and commitment. People in this type of relationship have a primary partner but also have the green light to become intimate with multiple partners.

Monogamish relationships come with their own set of rules. Transparency and consent are key in this relationship model, making sure everyone’s on board and feeling good about it.

Benefits of Open Relationships

Open relationships offer a world where personal growth and satisfaction aren’t just buzzwords but actual experiences, where you’re free to explore both emotional and sexual desires without the monogamy handcuffs.

You may be thinking, “But doesn’t that just make things complicated?” In fact, it’s actually the opposite!

Opting out of the exclusivity clause can lead to some trust and intimacy upgrades. Far from the common misconception that such arrangements weaken bonds, choosing not to be exclusive to just one person can actually bolster trust and intimacy.

Benefits include more freedom, new experiences, and honest communication.

This can help partners build a deeper emotional connection, challenging societal taboos and allowing partners to appreciate the mutual freedom of self-discovery with less guilt.

In a world that’s all about fitting in, open relationships are the pink flamingos in a flock of pigeons — striking, bold, and unapologetically themselves. They’re not for everyone, but if you’re after a love story that’s as unique as you are, they may just be your ticket to a more authentic, joy-filled connection.

Just remember, as with any good adventure, a healthy, open relationship is all about going in with an open heart and an open mind.

Challenges of Open Relationships

Despite all the perks that come with an open relationship (or an open marriage), it isn’t for everyone. It’s akin to navigating a relationship with an obstacle course, where effort, understanding, and a lot of resilience are your best gear.

As with any romantic relationship, jealousy and insecurity are bound to make an appearance once in a while. This can be tricky to navigate even in monogamous relationships and is a difficult emotion to tame.

Even with the best-laid rules and boundaries, seeing your partner mingle with others can feel like receiving multiple stabs in the same spot. Ouch, right?

Challenges include trust issues, jealousy, and social stigma

Another significant challenge is dealing with the societal stigma and judgment that often comes with being in an open relationship. Despite the awareness of this relationship model, plenty of people still think non-monogamy is just a well-packaged way of saying you’re allergic to commitment.

Tackling the ups and downs of open relationships isn’t just about being a communication ninja or high-fiving each other for mutual respect. It’s also about beefing up your personal growth muscles and bouncing back like a resilient superhero.

By squaring up to these challenges and building a rock-solid support network, those in open relationships can leap over these hurdles in a single bound, landing in a partnership that’s not just fulfilling but enriching.

Common Misconceptions

Open relationships are definitely growing in visibility and acceptance, but let’s be real: A whole cloud of myths continues to muddle the truth. This fog of misunderstanding isn’t just annoying, it perpetuates stigma and prevents honest discussions about the benefits of non-monogamous relationships.

Let’s bust some myths and dive into the most common misconceptions about open relationships. 

Open Relationships Are Just About Sex

One prevalent myth is that open relationships are all about getting frisky, lacking emotional depth or connection. This idea completely misses the boat on the rich tapestry of human connections. Sure, spicing up the bedroom scene may be on the menu for some, but it’s hardly the whole meal.

Those in open relationships aren’t just looking to add another notch to their bedpost. They’re deep-diving into the ocean of emotional intimacy and building a rock-solid foundation of trust and understanding with more than one partner. This way, everyone involved gets to sample a wider buffet of experiences and attachments and add flavor to their lives.

Open Relationships Are Inherently Unstable

Another big myth is that having multiple partners spells instant disaster. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

Many open relationships are out there living their best life, going the distance because they’re built on the holy trinity:

  1. Clear communication
  2. Mutual understanding
  3. Emotional boundaries

It’s like building a relationship that fits everyone like a glove, creating a unique kind of stability that’s all about being flexible and in tune with each other’s needs.

Open Relationships Are a Way to Avoid Commitment

Finally, some people assume those in open relationships are avoiding commitment. In reality, open relationships require more commitment and put love truly to the test.

A successful open relationship takes a truckload of commitment to honesty, transparency, and making sure everyone’s feeling good. It’s not about ditching commitment; it’s about remixing it.

Open relationships require commitment

Choosing an open relationship doesn’t mean a couple is sweeping commitment under the rug. This whole setup requires constant effort to keep the main vibe thriving while engaging in other meaningful connections.

So, while some may think open relationships are just about keeping options open, it’s actually about creating a tailored fit for commitment that respects everyone’s space and freedom.

Keep an Open Mind About Open Relationships

The buzz around open relationships is getting louder, and we’re witnessing a real-deal shift in how society views love and connection. This new vibe is all about keeping an open mind and chatting it up about the different ways people can be together.

Diving into these chats about non-monogamy is like turning on a light in a room that’s been dim for too long. It helps everyone see more clearly and gain more understanding and empathy for poly people.

Open relationships open doors to new love adventures by challenging lovers to think outside the monogamous box. It’s about connecting with others in ways that are real, raw, and refreshing.

Maybe understanding the ins and outs of open relationships will teach us a thing or two about love that we never knew we needed. In a world where finding “the one” can feel like swiping through a never-ending Tinder loop, a little openness could be the game changer we’ve all been waiting for.