10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Open Relationships

In most traditional relationships, two people are romantically involved and choosing to spend time with each other. There are varying levels to relationships as well. A couple may still be getting to know each other. They may be serious and starting to plan their future together. They may live together and have children, and so on Regardless of the level of seriousness, there is one commonality among traditional relationships – monogamy. Monogamy is a fancy way of saying that you only have one partner at a time and are not intimately linked to anybody else.

However, not all relationships are traditional. Some individuals require different rules and regulations in their relationships to feel happy and fulfilled. An open relationship refers to an intimate or romantic relationship that is non-monogamous. An open relationship can have many benefits for some couples. It is also not for everyone and can have negative side effects for some couples. In any case, open relationships are deeply tied to our inner psychology and there is quite a lot to know about them. Keep reading to hear our take on the 10 things to know about the psychology of open relationships…

Open relationships are becoming more popular than you think.

The concept of an open relationship may be hard to grasp for some people, but there is actually a rising interest in this way of living. Now more than ever, couples are exploring open relationships, having conversations about it, and even giving it a shot. In the past, societal norms and pressures have made this type of relationship seem wrong or off limits. However, with access to the internet, books, and people from all around the world, individuals are showing a very big interest nowadays. This is likely also due to a decreased fear of doing things differently. 

Open relationships are not the same as polyamorous relationships.

In today’s world, it can be hard to differentiate types of relationships. We are free to live however we choose in this country and that can lead to varying arrangements. One common misunderstanding is that open relationships are the same as polyamorous relationships. However, polyamory often refers to people having multiple romantic or intimate partners. In an open relationship, a couple is typically only serious with each other even though they engage in sexual intimacy with people outside the relationship. 

People in open relationships are typically still in committed relationships.

A relationship is one of the biggest psychological adventures one can take on. It involves sharing yourself, making sacrifices, and working hard to be there for the person you love. When two people choose to be in a relationship, they are choosing to commit to each other. While an open relationship is not traditional, it often times still has the foundation of commitment. A couple engaging in an open relationship is likely:

  • committed to one another
  • learning one another
  • sharing time with their families and friends
  • planning a future, etc.

However, they are allowed to engage in sexual activities with other people as well, per terms of their open relationship. 

Often times, other parties involved are strictly sexual. 

Open relationships typically refer to a non-monogamous couple who has decided that outside of each other, they can engage in primarily sexual relationships. Jessica Klein wrote an article for BBC on the rising curiosity behind open relationships. She explains, “open relationships are less focused on emotional connections with people outside a primary relationship, and more on sexual ones.” She also goes on to say, “For some, this means going on casual dates and having ‘friends-with-benefits’-type relationships with people other than their primary partners. For others, an open relationship just means that occasional “free pass” to have a one-night stand or brief sexual fling. And for others still, the arrangement could look more like swinging – such as having sex with other couples as a couple, but not going on dates separately.”

Different relationships may have different boundaries.

When a couple makes the decision to partake in an open relationship, they have likely had a discussion about the “rules.” They will have discussed what they need from one another, what their boundaries are, and how they will spend their time with other people. For every couple, these rules, boundaries, and conversations will look different because simply put. . . we are all different. 

Women’s Health published an article back in 2018 titled “6 Rules for Doing the Whole Open Relationship Thing Right.” The rules were listed as followed:

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  • Set sex boundaries
  • Set emotional boundaries
  • Establish who it’s cool to hook up with
  • Figure out how much time you’ll spend with other partners
  • Decide how you’ll talk about your relationships with each other and others
  • Discuss how often you’ll have a check in

Not everyone may enjoy an open relationship.

Open relationships are not easy. They are also not for everyone. Psychologically speaking, an open relationships puts just about everything we think we know about ourselves mentally to the test. An open relationship can:

  • tug at our confidence levels
  • test the security we feel in our relationship
  • test how we handle jealousy, and so on.
  • For some people, an open relationship is exactly what they need to feel fulfilled and satisfied. For others, an open relationship is a nightmare. 

Jealousy can upset an open relationship.

We all get jealous from time to time, especially in romantic relationships. Jealousy doesn’t have to be a strictly negative emotion. It may be the sign of a healthy attachment – a sign that the relationship is full of love and connection. However, jealousy is also an emotion that is rooted in fear, which can be negative. For example, the fear that your partner may be interested in someone else. 

In open relationships, jealousy may be a more commonly felt emotion than in traditional monogamous relationships. These partners are actually spending time with other people. It is not simply a narrative in their heads that they are trying to understand. Jealousy can easily upset an open relationship and it’s easy to see why.

Trust is a major component.   

Being in a relationship can be hard in general. Being in an open relationship and trusting that your partner is following the boundaries and set precedences of your arrangement can be hard too. For couples choosing to be non-monogamous and explore an open relationship, trust is extremely important. We may all feel and think differently but no matter what we want our partner to make us feel safe and secure. This is precisely why trust is crucial for open relationships. 

Marriages can be open relationships too.

While we have been discussing open relationships, have you considered that some married couples may choose this arrangement? The more popular answer may be no and that wouldn’t be surprising. The contract of a marriage does vow to only be with each other. However, we are the rulers of our own lives and many married couples actually choose to have open relationships. They may have made this decision before or after their marriage began. 

People may choose this lifestyle to feel fulfilled.

There are many reasons why a couple may choose to engage in an open relationship. Experts believe that the healthiest and strongest open relationships include people who want to lay it all out on the table, so to say. They want to be able to express their needs openly so that they can be fulfilled and satisfied in all aspects of their lives. When living like this, they may feel as if their actions will not make them feel guilty and they will have no regrets. 

Choosing an open relationship is choosing to put your inner psychology at the forefront of your relationship, which is exactly why we tackled this topic in the first place. 

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