Proponents of open relationships claim they have found the answer to differing sex drives, and satiating a desire to have a variety of sexual experiences, but others just see it as glorified cheating without consequences.
So what should you be asking yourself if you’re considering taking your relationship down this route? We asked the experts to save you the hard work.
1. Have you defined what an open relationship involves?
Relate counsellor, Barbara Honey told HuffPost UK that people can have very different ideas about what an open relationship means, both logistically and in terms of scope, and the biggest mistake would be to make assumptions that it means the same for both parties.
“Does it [just] mean having sex with other people? If you’re going to embark on an open relationship, it’s important to make sure you are both totally happy about it,” Honey said.
2. How will it work logistically?
Once you have decided what the open relationship will mean for you and your partner, you need to work out how much you want to know about what they are getting up to with others - do you want full transparency or minimal information?
Dr. Rachel Davies, Relate counsellor, said: “Try to cover the who, what, when, where questions when discussing what the open relationship would look like. For example, is bringing someone home okay or does any encounter need to be happening elsewhere?”
3. Are you really communicating with your partner?
While you may have passed the first hurdles of deciding what you want from this open relationship, do you really feel like you are being open with your partner about your feelings and expectations?
Margaret Tonge, counsellor and sex therapist, explained: “Two people getting together will inevitably come from different backgrounds with differing expectations. If two people are considering an open relationship there needs to be communication, with neither partner feeling coerced into accepting what the other wants.”
4. Are you likely to compare yourself to the other person?
They say comparison is the thief of joy, and there is no worse scenario than the thought of comparing yourself to the other people your partner is choosing to spend time with instead of you. So make sure you aren’t going to be prone to seeing the other parties as competition.
Tonge said: “Be prepared that there may be a point where you feel in competition with the other person or people who your partner has a relationship with. Comparing one partner with another is unavoidable and this can raise issues of dissatisfaction and confusion about which way to go.”
5. How will you be supported in this relationship?
Even if your relationship with outsiders is just sexual, this could infringe on how you feel emotionally connected with your primary partner.
Tonge said: “It’s worth considering who you turn to for support- to the primary relationship partner or to the lover? The issue of how needs will be met needs to be very carefully thought through. One way to test out if people are able to sustain an open relationship is to imagine how easy or difficult it would be to make more than one person feel special and unique all the time.”
6. Will they react if your feelings change over time?
If you’ve got this far and are still feeling like an open relationship is something you want to try then bear in mind that your feelings might change over time, so you need to check in regularly and be mindful that your partner could be thinking differently too.
Tonge said: “If the situation changes over time and one partner no longer wants an open relationship then confusion, anger and jealousy can surface so it’s best to consider the very real possibility of this happening sooner rather than later. In any relationship there will always be one partner who struggles more than the other with insecurity and jealously and this is creates a difficult balancing act between insecurity and allowing freedom.
“There should always be regular review points where couples are prepared to redraw the boundaries and agree to do it differently in the light of each partner’s needs and wishes.”