Open relationships are an agreement between two people whereby at least one, if not both people, are allowed to have carnal relations with others outside of the relationship.
Over time these sorts of relations have become more acceptable in the mainstream though they still face criticism. Some credit them as being completely legitimate, honest and a uninhibited way to combine a human’s need for sex, love and companionship. While others believe they are not as legitimate as monogamous relationships, and that they have no longevity because sharing your loved one sexually with others will only lead to dysfunction and destruction.
It has been said that in our modern world, where sex and sexuality is so open and so often talked about, the most radical thing a couple can do is have a monogamous relationship.
Are you capable of having an open relationship?
Can open relationships work in the long term?
Is it possible to separate sex from love?
Are they are a legitimate form of relationship or are they are a farce that people hide behind to avoid commitment and responsibility?
We are all familiar with the statistics: About 50% of marriages end up in divorce with many reporting infidelity as the reason. The book Marriage Confidential claims that up to half of both men and women cheat on their partners at some point in their lives. In addition, 80% of men and 65% of women would have extra marital sex provided that they were never caught. It’s estimated that 5% of American couples are in non monogamous open relationships/open marriages but are simply not open about their open relations due to judgement and stigma.
Despite the opposition, many people believe monogamy and non-monogamy are both equally legitimate, it just depends on what is right for an individual. Live Science believes there are two general types of humans, those who lean towards monogamy and those who don’t. People who are in genuine monogamous relationships seem to have higher levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
Arguments for Open Relationships
- The “let’s get together, get married and not bang anyone else ever again” philosophy is just the conventional standard. It does not suit everyone and to believe that there is only one way to have a relationship is ignoring the true diversity of human nature and human need. Sex can be separated from love, they are not necessarily completely intertwined and many people are capable of compartmentalizing the two areas.
- Having an open relationship keeps things fresh and realistic. It is not reasonable to believe that one person can satisfy all your sexual needs indefinitely nor is it reasonable to stay monogamous with the one person for the rest of your life.
- It is important to remember that not all open relationships are only about sex. Sometimes it also means a relationship that is free of the pressures that often arise when a person feels imprisoned by monogamy. Feeling that you don’t have to answer to your partner for every move you make.
- Being in an open relationship allows you to explore your sexual identity. You may be curious in a member of the same sex if you are in a heterosexual relationship or you may be curious about a member of the opposite sex if you are in a homosexual relationship. It doesn’t mean that your partner or relationship is flawed in any significant way. It just means that your partner isn’t able to provide everything you need which is quite normal.
- Once the feeling that you need to hide things dissolves, you will feel more comfortable about discussing your extra sexual needs with your partner, which can improve general communication and can promote a higher level of honesty and trust.
- Rules for relationships are created and when those rules are broken people have feelings of jealousy and betrayal. If monogamous rules and expectations did not exist within a relationship, the concept of cheating does not exist, therefore the need to feel jealousy will disappear because jealousy only exists due to relationship regulation.
- Falling in love can often lead to people losing themselves in another. An open relationship can help maintain a sense of autonomy and freedom to flirt openly, have sex with whomever takes your fancy or to feel like you don’t owe someone every part of yourself.
- There is no one way option to have an open relationship. You and partner set your own rules about how it will all work thatit suits you both. Rules could include:
– No sleeping with friends or acquaintances.
-Sex with others can only occur when both partners are present.
-Sex with outside people can only occur as a one off.
-Neither partner is allowed to sleep over at another person’s house.
Arguments Against Open Relationships:
- Sex equates to emotions and emotions equate to love. Everyone wants love and ultimately all we need is love. If love between two people is to be respected for what it is, then we, as humans, need to honour that and that does not include sharing your loved one sexually with others. Sex cannot be separated from love and to try to separate it only diminishes and belittles love. What makes sex special is doing exclusively with someone you love.
- Relationships take a great deal of care and work. People enter open relationships because they fear the requirements of complete commitment. It is a convenient way for them to have as much random sex as possible but still have the comforts a conventional relationship provides.
- People in open relationships are lacking something they are not getting from their partner. Facings the incompatibilities will likely result in loss of their relationship. The relationship feeds the ego and self esteem but it’s not quite enough to make a person feel sexually and aesthetically worthy therefore they set up an open relationship to ensure esteem and ego is kept completely satisfied.
- At first both partners think it’s a great idea. However after one or both partners start seeing other people, angst and jealousy will creep in. No matter how progressive one may believe they are, sharing sexual intimacy with outsiders will cause problems.
- Opening up a relationship allows for the possibility of one or both partners developing feelings and love for others. This can lead to hurt, stress and the destruction of relationships and families.
- At times, only one of two partners desires an open relationship. The other partner will go along with it in order to keep their partner happy or to not lose their relationship.
- Open relationships can increase chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Even the use of condoms for vaginal and anal sex won’t eliminate the risk of catching herpes, HPV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chlamydia.
- Just like rules in a monogamous relationship can be broken, rules in an open relationship can be broken. No amount of rules can provide 100% safeguard in any relationship.
Old Simo’s Opinion:
Open relationships are the sort of thing that I can understand and support to a significant degree when it comes to other people’s relationships but its the sort of arrangement that isn’t right for me.
When I was a much younger buck I had no real interest in having a serious and committed relationship. In hindsight, I think that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made or one of the best forms of organic flow that I’ve gone along with. I just wanted to free to experiment and to have as much good quality sex as possible and have interesting experiences with a wide variety of people. I guess you could say that I wanted to taste every dish at the banquet. I not only sampled, but feasted on the mass majority of dishes that I was curious about. I would say that this process should almost be mandatory for young adults. I don’t think you can ever be comfortable and settled long term unless you go through this.
Around the age of 27 I started desiring something else and that was to secure a serious relationship with someone compatible that I could love. The path to that objective certainly hasn’t been easy, one often has to go through quite a bit of incompatibility and disappointment to find some compatible treasure. Some hit the bull’s eye on their first round. We are all so dependent on luck. Once I had discovered the need for love and a compatible relationship I knew that having an open relationship is something that I just cannot do. I cannot separate sex from love and I know in my heart that opening it up would cause trouble.
However, that is simply my own mode of operation. I understand that sex can be easily divorced from love for others and there are couples out there who can maintain a good relationship and have sex outside of the relationship. My question always is, “why do you have an open relationship”? I don’t ask this out of judgment, I ask out of genuine curiosity. A good portion of couples tell me that they don’t believe that monogamy is realistic long term, and many of them started off monogamous but realized that they need variety in order to be sexually satisfied.
I think there is something rather bold and brave in admitting that your honest sexual needs to your partner and to go down the open relationship path because it does pose a risk to the relationship. I imagine that the relationship would have to be very robust and completely honest in order to prosper under these circumstances. It’s often said that open relationships operate due to elements lacking within the relationship. This may be true when it comes to sexual compatibility or to people tiring of each other in general. But the reason for it may have less to do with the actual relationship itself and more to do with the individuals in the relationship.
One thing that intrigues me is the strong need for sexual variety when in a relationship. I’m not happy to just accept that answer. I want to know why there is a need for sexual variety. A high sex drive is one thing, an easy ability to separate sex from love is not uncommon and it might be as simple as that for some: the separating ability and a super high sex drive. However, where I think it can become problematic is when a person needs sexual variety in order to be validated. One person’s sexual approbation of them is not enough; therefore they require other sexual partners in order to validate their aesthetics and fuckability.
There’s something very unsettling about that mode of operation. It indicates a lack of self confidence and possibly a lack of self esteem. I honestly believe that this motive is a key motivator behind certain open relationships and when that motivator is present, the idea of an open relationship becomes less empowering and bold. It becomes an ongoing sedative for an issue that is not being addressed.