Can an Open Relationship Last?

On the surface, an open relationship seems like the best of both worlds. You’ve got someone to come home to, raise a family with, and grow old with, but yet you’re also pretty much free to go out and have sex with whoever you want. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, what could go wrong is that open relationships still involve people (sometimes animals, toys, and machines, too, but usually people) and people behave strangely with other people. There’s jealousy, suspicion, and sneakiness to deal with, not to mention the possibility that you or your spouse might encounter someone who might make a better “primary partner” than you. Still, do the pros outweigh the potential cons?

Why do people seek open relationships?

There are a number of reasons why a couple might seek an open relationship. For instance, there’s sex. Maybe one or both partners had “played the field” extensively before they got together and they weren’t sure if monogamy would work for them. Sex. Maybe they don’t believe in monogamy at all, seeing it as an outdated idea tied to conservative religious roots. Sex. “Opening up” a relationship can also be a last-ditch attempt to save a failing relationship. Oh, and then there’s sex.

There seem to be a lot of celebrity open marriages and open relationships among other wealthy people. One possible reason for this is that these relationships can be based on something other than love—often one partner might be in the relationship for money or status or fame. In that case, one or both partners may need to seek satisfaction elsewhere. Sometimes, this is also the case when a formerly monogamous relationship deteriorates and the couple stays together for the sake of their children or finances or career.

How do you know if you can handle an open relationship?

There is no way to be sure if your relationship can handle being an open one until you actually try it. Good luck sneaking that one past your spouse. That being said, there are some indicators and tests. One trick is to see if you both feel like having an open relationship right after you have sex (really good sex) with each other. If the desire is still there, you might be able to handle it.

When you do start to test the waters, stick to people who have no other involvement in either of your lives besides sex. Treat it almost like you’re having an affair, but tell your partner about it before and talk about it afterward. You shouldn’t give every graphic detail, but at least let your partner know what happened and with whom. How you both react to that conversation will tell you a lot about whether or not your relationship can handle being opened up.

What are the rules of an open relationship?

The rules vary widely from relationship to relationship, but they usually start with one rule that stands well above the other in importance: Don’t fall in love. The idea behind an open relationship is that you are in love with your partner, but you have fun with other partners. Loving more than one person complicates things and makes it very difficult to keep your relationship in balance.

Another important rule is to keep your open relationship a secret. A lot of people won’t understand the arrangement, particularly co-workers, neighbors, and family members, so if they find out it will put undue stress on you, your partner, and your relationship. Not to mention they’ll try to sneak cameras into your love nest and put you on Romanian porn sites, and that can be a real problem if you’re not into it.

Another good rule is to treat your primary relationship as a true relationship. Be a loving couple together, doing the things that loving couples do. Another part of this is always giving your partner first preference on your time—meaning that if an acquaintance wants to hook up with you the same night your partner wants dinner and romance with you, you stick with your partner. If you tick your other friend off, at least you don’t have to live with them.

A few other important rules for open relationships involve safety and respect. First off, set boundaries—know what your partner doesn’t like or won’t tolerate and make that a hard limit. One of those hard limits should definitely be not to bring people outside of your relationship home to play—save that for your partner. Finally, stay protected at all times and get yourself checked for STDs regularly; in this way you protect yourself and all of your partners.

Can an open relationship become exclusive again?

Open relationships can become exclusive again; in fact, sometimes they do so by design. Some people build in an “expiration date” for the open portion of their relationship, saying something like “When we turn 32 we’ll have kids and keep it monogamous.” That’s not to say that it always works, but it can.

The challenge occurs when one partner wants to go monogamous and the other does not. This can lead to resentment on both sides that could destroy the relationship. Since it’s fairly rare that two people decide they want to abandon the open portion of their relationship at the exact same time, the switch is usually more successful if the timing is planned closer to the beginning of the relationship.

In spite of all the potential pitfalls, open relationships can and do work sometimes. If you think about it, more than half of marriages end in divorce anyway, so the bar really isn’t set that high. As long as both partners know what they’re getting into, set good ground rules, and communicate effectively with each other, there’s no reason why an open relationship can’t last.