“Open Relationship” is basically consensual non-monogamy. It’s a relationship set-up that’s often misunderstood and heavily stigmatized by those who don’t know a thing about it.
What most people don’t know is that it can be what’s good for their relationship.
In this article, I will talk about the pros and cons of an open relationship and whether or not it’s the set-up that’s fitting for you.
The pros of having an open relationship
1) It can be very satisfying and empowering
There are many ways to understand the idea of an “open” relationship—to some it’s just temporary swinging, and to others it’s all about being in a polyamorous relationship.
But however you might understand it, one thing is for sure, and that’s it will be very fulfilling and empowering if you’re the right kind of couple for it.
Think about it. Who would not feel empowered and happy knowing that they’re loved not just by one, but two, three, or even four other people?
2) You’re bound to have an exciting sex life
Loving multiple people at once means that you get to have a pretty healthy and varied sex life.
You don’t simply get “bored” because you’ve been sleeping with the same person for the last 10 years—you get to enjoy being with another every so often.
And because we’re not biologically designed to be monogamous, this set-up makes sense. Being in an open relationship can prevent you from cheating on your partner.
And hey, there are few things more fulfilling than being in bed with two or three others, all of you loving one another with all your heart and trying your damnedest to make one another feel good.
At the very least, it’s an experience that most closed-relationship people miss out on.
3) Everything is shared
A good open relationship should be able to multiply happiness and divide any kind of suffering.
What I like about this set-up is that there’s less pressure for each individual partner to keep the others fulfilled because there are others to help them in that role.
And when one of you is feeling down, they will have the rest of their partners to give them comfort through those tough times.
There is also much less fear and guilt whenever you feel infatuated with someone new you stumbled into. In fact, many couples in open relationships often joke about their new crushes with one another, and encourage one another to act.
Having an open relationship is like having a family…a community, even. It’s more enjoyable and less stressful (of course, if you’re with the right people).
4) Polyamorous people will thrive
You might ask “ But isn’t polyamory the same as open relationships?”
And the answer is, NO.
There is no doubt that most people who thrive under open relationships are polyamorous. After all, an open relationship can offer polyamorous people the freedom that would stifle them in a closed or exclusive relationship.
There are some polyamorous people who keep to themselves, maintaining a closed relationship between three or four people at once, of course.
But most polyamorous want to be free to love and be loved, rather than be bound for some arbitrary reason. And this goes well with the understanding of love and affection that most of them have—that love is something you give, and not take.
5) You get to meet more people
I’m sure you’ve felt regrets at one point or another about experiences you never got to live out—especially if you’re in a “closed” relationship too soon.
Love, desire, intimacy…these are things that we always want to explore, after all.
“What if I dated my high school crush instead?” and “what if I didn’t propose when I did?”
People in open relationships also experience those regrets, but less severely than everyone else and the reason why is obvious—the fact that they’re in a relationship already doesn’t stop them from pursuing after another!
With the condition, of course, that they would still listen to their current partners and be careful if they ever stumble across someone who seems like bad news.
6) You might just learn more about yourself
If you’ve never been in an open relationship before, but are strongly considering it, being into an open relationship might be a good way for you to learn more about yourself—from what you need to feel loved to what you’re willing to give.
It can even enlighten you to new dimensions of your sexuality. If you ever thought you were exclusively straight, getting involved with one of your partners’ other partners might just prove you wrong.
Many of us grow up with rigid and restrictive ideas on how to love and be loved that can sabotage your relationships without you knowing about it.
If you need help easing yourself into the idea of having an open relationship, I strongly recommend checking out this master class by the renowned shaman Rudá Iandê.
Even if your foray into an open relationship does not work out, you can always learn from the experience and move on knowing more about yourself and what you want in life.
The cons of having an open relationship
1) It needs a lot more work
Everything that is important in a closed relationship becomes several times more important under an open relationship.
Communication, which is already an essential part of a relationship, becomes invaluable in an open arrangement. Time management and scheduling is invaluable if you don’t want to start accidentally neglecting people.
If you’re bad at maintaining a closed relationship because you’re bad at either of these, an open relationship is probably not for you because it could be more challenging and time-consuming.
2) Higher risks of sexual complications
There’s no doubting that the more sex partners you have, the higher your risks of getting an STD. That’s why before you get physical with a new partner, you should try to test for STDs first.
If you happen to live in a place where you simply can’t do this for one reason or another—like access to clinics, or the money to have the tests in the first place—then you simply need to take that risk.
And on top of that, you need to be aware that even protections like condoms or the pill can still fail, and so if you happen to live in a place where abortion is illegal, you have no choice but to carry to term.
Sex is not all fun and games, after all.
3) Jealousy can be an issue
Even in a fully open relationship, where everyone is enthusiastic for an open relationship, there remains the risk of jealousy.
Love is an infinite resource and you can love multiple people completely, with all your heart. But sadly time and attention are not exactly infinite, and despite your best efforts it’s still quite possible to accidentally neglect one partner or the other.
And this can easily lead to jealousy which, if not handled well, can easily destroy your relationship completely.
4) It doesn’t work well with monogamy
Not all open relationships are necessarily polyamory, but there’s no denying that you need to be accepting of polyamory to some degree in order to thrive under an open relationship.
I have mentioned it before, but you need to see love not as a finite resource, but as something infinite that you can give to multiple people at once.
Most monogamous people can’t do this.
If you’re someone who just doesn’t want to share your partner, it won’t work—even if you don’t mind being shared, yourself.
For an open relationship to work, it must be as fair and equal as possible after all.
5) Higher risk of meeting bad people
A sadly common problem in open relationships is the fact that sometimes people can end up inviting malicious people into their lives.
They might not realize that they’re dealing with a malicious person at first since they tend to be quite charismatic and good at making themselves look “nice”. But once they’re involved, they can slowly try tearing relationships apart.
That’s why if you’re in an open relationship, you must try to be aware of one another’s partners and make sure you are keeping an eye out for signs of any kind of manipulation.
6) It makes cheating far worse
One of the most common misconceptions out there about open relationships is that it can be the band-aid for a cheating problem.
And indeed you might have seen people suggesting that you “open” up your relationship as a solution to your partner cheating on you.
But the thing is that open relationships, while they can PREVENT cheating, they aren’t a CURE for cheating. If anything, they make it worse—the reason why cheating is bad is not because your partner wants to love another, but because they broke your trust.
Opening up a relationship after cheating has happened is only a free pass for them to keep cheating on you. The suggestion to open up your relationship should come before any of that has even happened.
7) Laws don’t like it
The thing with open relationships is that laws simply don’t recognize them at all.
In fact, as far as the law is concerned it can be considered “adultery”, which is a felony in several US states and a crime in several other countries.
So when you’re in an open relationship, you need to be aware of the legality of it all and, should you be in a place where it’s not exactly legal, make sure that you aren’t taking on partners who might tattle on you and mire you in legal mud later on.
As much as we may wish for it to be otherwise, most laws simply don’t account for anything other than an exclusive binary couple.
8) You’ll get judged for it
An unfortunate reality that a lot of people in open relationships have to deal with is that it’s not just laws that have failed to keep up with the idea of an open relationship. Society itself has yet to accept it either.
If you ever come to be well-known for being in an open relationship, chances are that you’ll have coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances make up all sorts of rumors about you.
Some will say that you’re just promiscuous and shame you for it. Others might assume that your relationship is falling apart that’s why you want to “open” it. Yet others will say that you’re simply a cheater who’s being supported for cheating.
People are unfortunately quite judgemental and cruel towards what they don’t understand… and open relationships are something most people just don’t understand.
Open relationships vs polyamory
I have repeatedly made references towards polyamory in this article, and there’s a good reason for that. Namely, that open relationships are strongly associated with polyamorous folk.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re the same, and as I mentioned before there are people who are polyamorous but keep to a closed relationship. There are also people who are monoamorous, but live an open lifestyle.
So…is an open relationship for you?
With everything considered, is an open relationship for you?
Well, it really depends on many things, but for starters, you need to ask yourself if you can afford to share your partner—or partners—with people outside of your relationship.
And after that, you need to ask yourself about whether you can truly thrive in a closed environment or if you might be better off trying to open your relationship up.
If you can say “yes” to both of these, then it might be worth a try.
On the other hand, if you’re considering an open relationship because you or your partner has a cheating problem or because YOU are already attracted to someone else… DON’T.
You’re better off fixing your issues, or breaking up and moving on if that’s the case because here’s the thing: open relationships are not a pass allowing you or your partner to cheat without consequence.
To ask whether an open relationship is a good idea or not is like asking if it’s a good idea to follow a vegan diet.
It works for some people, and it doesn’t for others.
It really is just about whether you and your partner—or partners—are the kind of people to be on board with it.
Hopefully, this article has made it clear whether it would suit you or not.
If it does, then I wish you the best with your future relationships. If not, then hopefully you’ve earned an understanding of those who are in one and can better accept them for who they are.