10 reasons why an open relationship can’t save a relationship

So, your relationship is falling apart. You see no other option but to break up.

But then your partner suddenly suggested trying out an open relationship where you two stay together but can have romantic and sexual activities with other people.

Or maybe you suggested it. Maybe because you’re curious to try it out or you’re desperate to keep your partner. Either way, you need more information to finally take that plunge.

Let me tell you right here: switching to an open relationship won’t save your current one.

Don’t get me wrong, open or polyamorous relationships are completely valid. For some people, it works perfectly fine.

But if you’re in a monogamous relationship? Turning it into an open one is not the way to save it.

Read on to find out 10 reasons why an open relationship can’t save a relationship.

1) It will fuel jealousy

While the idea might seem appealing in theory, it’s a whole different game in practice. Once your partner is already sleeping with another person, do you really think you won’t feel jealous?

The truth is that if you started out as a monogamous couple, then being each other’s “only one” is a fundamental pillar of your relationship. That’s where a lot of the romance and intimacy comes from.

By doing away with that, you’re altering the relationship’s very foundations. And most relationships just can’t withstand that big of a change.

Now, we all get jealous from time to time—even about smaller things. But again, sleeping with another person? And willingly putting yourself in that position?

And how can you be sure that it’s just not about sex? What if your partner develops deeper feelings too?

Jealousy is a natural reaction to these things. Putting yourself in a position where you will most likely be jealous simply cannot be healthy for your relationship.

2) It will worsen insecurities

As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. 

You may think, “So I just won’t compare myself with whoever my partner is sleeping with!”

But let’s be real for a minute. Can you really resist the temptation of comparing yourself with the other party? Most people won’t be able to help it—similar to feeling jealous, it’s a natural reaction.

Inevitably, you will begin asking yourself if your partner thinks you’re not enough for them. In fact, in the back of your head, you probably started worrying about that the moment you began thinking of an open relationship.

Then, once you start an open relationship, all your insecurities will intensify. Your self-esteem might plummet, and all sorts of negative emotions will start to simmer.

  • Does my partner find them more attractive? 
  • Are they better at sex than I am? 
  • Do they offer something I can’t?

Your mind will be buzzing with such questions.

If you’re really set on opening up the relationship, then you need a long, sit-down talk with your partner about whatever insecurities you might have. Solidify expectations and boundaries, or else everything will come crashing down really, really quickly.

However, here’s the truth: unless you have absolutely zero insecurities (who does?)…

…and almost delusional levels of self-esteem, changing a monogamous relationship to an open one will eat you alive from the inside.

3) It can damage your self-esteem

Turning to an open relationship after being monogamous isn’t just a recipe for worsening your insecurities—it might even make you feel like it confirms them.

Let’s say you’re already insecure about being enough for your partner. Their wanting to be sexually intimate with other people can make you feel even worse.

What will happen when they start spending significantly less time with you and more time with other people?

You’ll start to think that, yeah, I’m definitely not enough.

Your self-esteem will be deeply wounded—even irreparably — in the context of the relationship.

It’s a tough cookie: why has a loving and caring relationship that was once bringing you all the joy in the world suddenly turned into a nightmare?

And how can one fix it if they decide that an open relationship is a too radical solution?

I believe you have to look within to find all the answers you need. At least it worked for me.

I learned about how your relationship with yourself influences your other relationships from the renowned shaman Rudá Landê. 

As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, love is not what many of us think it is. In fact, many of us are actually self-sabotaging our love lives without realizing it!

In my situation, I was desperate to find answers to why my relationship suddenly felt like the worst place to be. The dynamics of the relationship changed, and I felt neither loving nor loved. It was a disaster!

After watching Rudá’s masterclass, I discovered that I was in a “victim” mode. I couldn’t give any love and felt like I always lacked it from my partner too.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t healthy at all.

Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective. 

While watching, I felt like he understood my struggles and offered an actual, practical solution for getting back to being “normal” again.

I applied his teachings to my relationship, and it changed for the better! I can say it saved us from falling apart, and I couldn’t be happier about it! 

Believe me, Rudá has a message you need to hear. 

Click here to watch the free video.

4) It’s difficult to agree on boundaries

Agreeing to switch to an open relationship can seem so mature and loving. 

You two love and trust each other so much that you’re completely fine that they see and sleep with other people. Because you know at the end of the day that you’re still the love of their life.

Again, that’s theoretical.

In practice, it often turns out to be a mess.

Most couples have a hard time agreeing on the limits and expectations of an open relationship. One person usually wants to open it up more, while the other wants to restrict it.

People’s ideas of an open relationship can vary widely. And even if a compromise is reached, there’s usually some dissatisfaction on each end.

Then this leads to even more uncertainty about whether they’re following the rules you’ve agreed upon.

5) Staying honest will be difficult

Even if you clearly talk about expectations and boundaries with your partner, how can you be fully sure if they’re respecting those boundaries?

You’ve heard it all before. Honest and open communication is key to a successful relationship. However, that becomes so, so much harder the longer you’re in an open relationship.

A common expectation for couples opening up their relationship is to tell each other what they’re doing with their “other” sexual partners.

However, that usually leads to discomfort, tension, and awkwardness. People then tend to twist or understate what happened to spare each other’s feelings.

This gets worse and worse over time until it deteriorates into complete dishonesty.

6) It will stress you the hell out

troubled spirit 10 reasons why an open relationship can’t save a relationship

No wonder the vast majority of people who decided to switch to an open relationship felt unsafe, stressed, and anxious. They pretended—or even convinced themselves—to be completely fine with the set-up even if they weren’t.

There will always be a nagging feeling of doubt and anxiety at the back of your head. You won’t feel safe or at ease—and that is NEVER a good sign in any relationship.

7) People mistake it for sexual freedom

A variety of sexual partners? Sounds fun and exciting, right?

Well, in theory, yes. At first, maybe.

But unless you were actually polyamorous from the start, then you’ll likely quickly realize that it’s far from the glittery world of sexual freedom you were imagining.

You’re still responsible for people’s feelings, whether they’re your “primary” partner or your secondary partner.

And the reality is that handling these feelings becomes a juggling game that’s too complex and too much of a headache for most people.

8) There will be a power imbalance

After all, even if both of you are allowed to have other sexual partners, there will almost always be an imbalance of power.

You may have:

  • Different number of sexual partners;
  • Different levels of enjoyment with other sexual partners;
  • Different desires for an open relationship;

Then, one partner might feel like the lesser or less attractive person based on the number of sexual partners they’re getting outside the relationship.

In my experience, one party usually feels like they’re not getting as much out of it as their partner, which leads to jealousy, resentment, and insecurity.

As I’ve said above, comparisons will be inevitable. People don’t just compare themselves to their partner’s other sexual partners, but they usually also compare their sex lives outside the relationship.

9) You’re risking your future

If you’re doing this in hopes that your relationship will still have a future, then you should also know that it can do the exact opposite.

It can speed up the end of the relationship too. (In fact, that’s what happens more often than not).

After all, one partner is already unhappy in the relationship—and is seeking happiness in other people.

There are other and better ways to fix your relationship.

10) You probably won’t be able to handle it emotionally

Most humans simply aren’t built to be polyamorous. While it’s definitely a valid lifestyle choice for some people, most are programmed to be monogamous.

It’s just in our nature to pair up with another individual. We seek an intimate, exclusive connection.

Knowing that a person you’re sharing this connection with also wants to do so with another person bothers our very subconscious. 

Especially because, in the context of monogamy, a desire for an open relationship means that one partner can’t find the emotional fulfillment they need out of the relationship.

Do you truly feel like you don’t care about your partner being or wanting to be intimate with another person?

Then maybe it’s time to reevaluate other parts of the relationship—or the relationship as a whole.

Better ways to fix a declining relationship

Don’t take each other for granted

When lovers are in a tough place, they often forget what made them fall in love with each other in the first place. They take for granted the positive value their partner brings to their life and get too focused on the problems and imperfections.

Remembering the positives of the relationship—and shifting your mindset to not take them for granted—is a great way to reignite your love for your partner. Then, it becomes so much easier to fix whatever problem you’re facing.

Remember to keep being curious 

Part of taking each other for granted is making the mistake that you know everything there is to know about your partner.

However, even couples who have been happily married to each other for a long time often report discovering new things about their spouse.

Staying curious about your partner is absolutely crucial to keeping the flame alive

A few tips for doing this:

  • Keep asking questions;
  • Keep putting yourself in new situations;
  • Reminisce about good memories from the past;
  • Revisit or redo particular events that pleased you in the past.

Cultivate a life outside your relationship

benefits of reading 2 10 reasons why an open relationship can’t save a relationship

Keep these three things in mind:

  • Distance truly does make the heart grow fonder;
  • People who are more whole and balanced are also happier;
  • People who are happier as individuals are also happier about their relationships.

Thus, it’s absolutely crucial to cultivate a well-balanced life outside your relationship.

Quite ironically, sometimes, the best way to fix a relationship is to give it a bit less thought and focus on other things in life.

After all, some problems stem from codependency! 

If you lose your individuality, then it’s no wonder that the relationship is getting stale, boring, or unfulfilling.

Be radically transparent with one another

Yeah, yeah. Open communication, that’s right.

But how transparent are you with each other?

Maybe you communicate with each other about boundaries and expectations. But do you explain your reasoning for them?

When you hurt your partner, maybe you apologize. But do you tell them why you did it, even if it’s shameful to admit it?

To truly develop intimacy and trust, be radical—and I mean truly radical—with honesty and transparency.

Listen

No, don’t think of rebuttals or replies as they’re talking. No, don’t think about how wrong or misguided they are. 

Listen first. Listen.

Be present, be open, and be warm.

Relationships should never have “you vs. me” moments. It should always be “us vs. the problem.”

Trust me; you never want to “win” an argument with your partner. Because if your partner feels like they are “lost”, all sorts of negative emotions will simmer and slowly corrode your bond. 

You’ll lose, too.

FAQs about open relationships

Why would people want an open relationship?

Most people who are considering an open relationship think that it can save their relationship if it’s going downhill. Or improve it even if it’s already great as it is.

These are the main arguments for open relationships.

  • One person cannot fulfill all of another person’s romantic and sexual needs.

Trying to fulfill all these needs is too much pressure for any one person. Without this pressure, there’s more room to focus on the positive things that lead to a healthier and happier relationship.

After all, people’s sexual drives and needs can differ, especially as they age. 

  • By not demanding exclusivity, people are spared from the pain when cheating occurs in an exclusive, monogamous relationship.

There’s no need to reconcile after either. There would also be no need to hide your desire for others.

  • It strengthens trust and honesty

For some people, a well-functioning open relationship is a strong sign of trust and respect. If they can follow the boundaries and expectations you have of them, then that just means that they truly respect and love you.

And if they still choose to stay in a committed relationship with you despite having sex with others, doesn’t that mean that they still choose you at the end of the day? Isn’t that true love?

Of course, as I’ve explained above, it’s not that simple. While these are reasonable takes, the practice of open relationships in real life is more nuanced and complicated.

Does an open relationship suit me?

Some people are naturally polyamorous. They’ve known in their gut since they were young that monogamy is just unsatisfying for them.

Thus, all their relationships have been polyamorous and open.

Others get into open relationships later on in life due to circumstances. For example, having a deep crush on someone even while in a relationship, a partner suggesting it, or trying it out as a way to save the relationship.

We’ve already discussed why the last idea is not exactly a good one.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t people for which an open relationship is right.

The truth is, you don’t really know if it’s right for you until you try it out. The idea and the practice of open relationships can be different. 

It might look good on paper but feel bad in practice. Or it might’ve looked bad to you in theory but you might discover that it’s actually better for you.

It’s just a risk that you need to be willing to take.

How can I start an open relationship?

flames vs soulmates 10 reasons why an open relationship can’t save a relationship

You can like different people at the same time. It’s completely normal.

It’s simply unrealistic and overromantic to think that your attraction to other people magically disappears when you’re in a relationship. 

What to do with that attraction is the tricky part, however. 

For strictly monogamous couples, they are (or should be) content with simply admiring from a distance. (And it’s perfectly possible to have a crush on someone and still be a great partner in an exclusive relationship!)

But if you’re interested in trying out an open relationship, you need to critically and thoroughly discuss a lot of things, including but not limited to:

  • What exactly is your idea of an open relationship? 
  • What makes you want an open relationship?
  • What kind of open relationship do you want?
  • What concerns, fears, and doubts do you have about open relationships?
  • Boundaries: what are you and your partner allowed or not allowed to do with other people?
    • How often can you see other people?
    • Specific sex acts (for example, no penetrative sex)?
    • Birth control methods (for example, you should always wear a condom)?
    • How much time and energy can you give other people (for example, you’re not allowed to text or accept calls from others when you’re with each other)?
  • What counts as cheating to you?
  • How often will you check in and reevaluate the open relationship as time goes on?
  • How can you still be a good partner once you open up the relationship?

How can you stay committed in an open relationship?

This depends on the expectations and boundaries you’ve agreed upon with your partner.

While one or both of you can have sex with other people, this does not mean you can do all the other romantic things with them too. So, talk to your partner about it!

Typically speaking, while couples in open relationships can have other sexual partners, they can’t have other romantic partners.

So despite sleeping with other people, they’re still mentally and emotionally the most intimate with their “real” partner. They still live with them and probably have sex with them the most often (and most lovingly) too.

Having sex with other people is just there to fulfill a desire for novelty or satisfy a kink that the primary partner is unwilling to indulge in. 

But their true and actual love is still reserved for their main partner.

What happens to the children of those in open relationships?

Whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous, your children probably do not need (or want) to know the details of your sex life.

Maybe telling them when they grow up is warranted, but it’s still an important decision you should talk about with your partner first.

The bottom line

Open relationships are becoming more and more common, with studies showing that 4-5% of heterosexual couples agree to be in open relationships.

Many more are probably considering trying, too, but are worried about possible repercussions. Just like with anything related to human relationships and psychology, this issue is incredibly complex.

However, more often than not, you really can’t save a monogamous relationship by turning it into an open one.

Before you try it out, make sure to reflect on how you feel about love, monogamy, and sex. 

Examine what you truly need from a relationship.

Be honest, transparent, and vulnerable with your partner as you discuss it with them. You will need to have a mature and rational yet heartfelt conversation.

At the end of the day, we all have different needs. 

People who need monogamy aren’t irrationally insecure and jealous. And polyamorous people are just as capable of loving and being in healthy, happy relationships.

It may take some time and effort to get it. Still, whether it’s an exclusive and monogamous relationship or an open polyamorous one, you deserve a relationship that makes you feel happy and loved.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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