Many are curious about an open relationship but actually being in one requires a lot from yourself, from your partner and anyone else involved. Suggesting to your partner that you should have an open relationship is not easy. Those who have the courage to do so often get a firm ‘no’ as the answer. You may be in a situation where you partner suggests an open relationship but you don’t want it. What should you think? What should you do? And if you and your partner agree on an open relationship, where do you find company who are willing to be with a person already in a relationship?
Or maybe you have suggested an open relationship to your partner without success. Is cheating then an acceptable option in a relationship if there is no sex or the sex is not fulfilling enough? What is free love when you are in a relationship? And what happens to your relationship in an open relationship?
The most common questions about open relationships or consensual non-monogamy?
Open relationships are getting more common and many are interested in them even though they haven’t had the courage to discuss or try them with their partners – at least not yet. In this blog article I talk about free love and open relationships:
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What is an open relationship?
An open relationship is a relationship in which both have their partner’s consent to have sex or romantic liaisons with other people. An open relationship is open in both physical and mental sense, and the key issues here are trust between the partners and freedom.
Every open relationship has its unique rules. Usually, in an open relationship, these rules can be discussed more openly than in a so-called “normal” relationship, in which relationships with outside partners are not accepted.
We all build our relationships, including open relationships, reflecting our personal situations. Every open relationship is, therefore, a bit different. What is allowed in one relationship is not necessarily acceptable in another.
Everyone draws their own boundaries.
An open relationship is not free from betrayal or jealousy. In some open relationships, having sex with other people is OK as long as their partner knows about it in advance. Or alternatively, as long as the partner doesn’t have to know – at least not in any detail.
Some partners talk about their adventures openly with each other, and this also feeds positively into their mutual relationship.
Some feel that it is acceptable to have sex with a person no more than once or twice to prevent strong feelings or attraction from becoming a threat to the relationship between the spouses.
As you can see, trust can be betrayed in an open relationship in many ways. It goes without saying that safe sex is absolutely paramount: both must be able to trust that no sexually transmitted diseases are passed.
For whom do open relationships work? And does it work for couples who have children?
An open relationship may be a good solution in a relationship where the trust between the partners is strong. If an open relationship is just another name for cheating, it is not based on trust and openness.
An open relationship may sound a sensible solution if one of the partners does not want sex or a certain type of sex. In fact, there doesn’t have to be any particular reason other than wanting to add something to the existing relationship.
Those who are in an open relationship often mention it upfront in their online dating profile. This approach is only fair, because dating someone who is not unattached is not everyone’s cup of tea. A person who is in an open relationship may develop deeper feelings with the new partner after a few meetings, even if the intention was only to have some fun sex.
Therefore, considering other people’s feelings is extremely important for those who embark on an open relationship. That you are open and honest towards your partner and enthusiastic to engage in sexual adventures is no reason to be hurtful towards others involved.
An open relationship is possible even if you and your partner share kids, which often is the case in long relationships. As you may know, cheating among parents is extremely common. Wouldn’t an open relationship be a better alternative instead of mistrust, deceit and jealousy festering in the family home?
Is an open relationship the same as cheating?
An open relationship is based on mutual trust and respect. Cheating is the very opposite of that. Read more in this article, what truly free and real love is.
Some would like an open relationship just because sex with their partner is no longer fulfilling in terms of frequency or quality. Alternatively, a person just wants some adventure and fun in their lives. Lack of sex in a relationship sometimes forces one of the partners into involuntary celibacy that can last for years. That is, unless the partner has the courage to suggest an open relationship.
If you don’t have the courage to suggest an open relationship or you think it is not a good idea, you might still be considering cheating. Perhaps it would be acceptable in your case? Read more:
Living in a sexless relationship when your partner does not want to have sex. No sex in marriage. Involuntary celibacy in a sexless marriage
Sometimes, instead of having an open relationship, a better option would be to consider breaking up. If you are in an open relationship, read the article on how to compose your online dating profile:
Should you welcome your partner’s suggestion of an open relationship?
Even if an open relationship is not what you want, it is always good to let your love be free and open to changes. Every change comes from a need, and therefore, all changes may eventually lead to something positive. Even if the change at that moment in time feels painful or you can’t yet feel or see the advantages of the change.
You should never force yourself to give in to your partner’s wishes. All you are asked to do is to give the idea some serious thought. You don’t have to agree to anything and you don’t have to make a decision on the spot.
If you have the tendency to be too kind and giving in a relationship, read the book (R)evolution for Love and do its exercises in its separate workbook:
For whom do open relationships work? Will the need for freedom really only lead to you breaking up?
There are too many people who are constantly contemplating leaving their relationships despite managing the occasional cosmetic improvement or a lovely holiday together that makes them temporarily optimistic about the future of that relationship. Constant worrying uses up too much energy and even causes physical ill health.
Many relationship guides focus too much on technical tricks that can “spruce up” a relationship. In reality, discord is often down to much deeper differences in values and outlook between the partners. It may be the restrictive thoughts that the partners have harboured since childhood that have shaped the relationship. It is those underlying causes that need a profound overhaul. My book The (R)evolution for Love – A Better Relationship or a Brilliant Break Up? talks about this through the voices of the numerous people I interviewed for the book.
During the many stages of a long relationship, one of the partners may at some point suggest an open relationship or some other arrangement in the relationship that feels uncomfortable to the other. To some, an open relationship is just another name for cheating. Is there cause for panic if you partner suggests it? How can you navigate through the transformations and changes in your relationship?
In a good relationship, love is set free
I have previously talked about one aspect that tends to be common to all happy relationship and successful break ups: love and freedom.
“For me, love means freedom. Freedom to be yourself and to let your loved one be themselves”, I once said in a newspaper interview (you can find some photos etc on page ‘Media’).
My ideas about love and freedom were strongly shaped by the numerous discussions I had with my interviewees for my book.
“I think that allowing yourself even to think about the possibility of breaking up is all about respecting the other person and respecting the freedom of both of you. By not hanging on to your relationship tooth and nail, you give yourself the chance to open up to your partner in a completely new way.”
Regardless of whether you are in an open or “normal” relationship, openness is the basis for intimacy, trust and genuine love. Longing for love or a need for a really drastic change (such as contemplating an open relationship or breaking up) does not have to lead to a break up. It may lead to you finding a way to let each other be free, give space to live and grow.
The only problem in some relationships is the form of the relationship. For others, the only problem is stagnation. How ready are you to look at your relationship and your entire life with open eyes?
Which would you choose: an open relationship or cheating?
People in a genuinely loving, open relationship are usually quite happy. They don’t feel they are missing out on anything, even if their partner is experiencing and enjoying their freedom with another person. Rather, they may even share the benefits of that freedom – if that is what they have agreed. An open relationship is nothing like cheating.
What the reason for a person’s need for freedom and open relationship is does not really matter. The loving thing to do is to talk about one’s needs and hopes with one’s partner openly and honestly.
If your partner suggests an open relationship to you, be ready to have an open mind, even if you know immediately that it is not what you want. Understand that your partner is showing their love and commitment by talking about their feelings and needs with you. It shows they trust you and believe that you won’t judge them even if you completely disagree.
Some don’t suggest an open relationship or breaking up and, instead, choose cheating. People have their reasons to do so, but those reasons have nothing to do with love towards the partner nor towards the cheater themselves.
Do you want an open relationship or free love?
Love grows from freedom to be oneself with an equal partner by one’s side. The freedom enjoyed by both partners in a relationship grows from trust – primarily from trust in oneself and secondarily from trust in your partner.
If you trust yourself, your partner and their possibly unusual needs and hopes are not a threat. Each one of us can find the gentle courage in ourselves to encounter our partners without criticising or controlling them. Then you won’t have to constantly please your partner at the expense of you own wellbeing.
Excessive need to please may speak of submissiveness in a relationship.
If your partner suggests that you should have an open relationship instead of the previous monogamous one, be brave and keep an open mind. This doesn’t mean you have to be overly positive about it or accept it if you don’t want to. Read more about the dangers of excessively relying on positive thinking and willpower in the book (R)evolution for Love.
Do you have to agree to your partner’s suggestion of an open relationship?
Even if you listen to your partner’s suggestion with an open mind, it does not mean you have to agree to the idea. The worst thing you can do to your relationship is for you trade off your values and opinions for keeping your partner.
If your partner wants to take a step away from you, let them. They may want to come back closer to you precisely because you let them feel that they were genuinely heard, seen and accepted for who they are.
But there is also the chance that they won’t. However, you can’t improve your relationship by holding them captive and keep them by your side by cajoling and coaxing them or passive aggressive behaviours.
What could be less attractive than a person who is begging to be worthy of your love – and to own it?
Your partner and you are allowed to want different things from life. Sometimes the different aspirations fit easily within one relationship, and sometimes it takes a bit of – or a lot of – adjusting to make it work.
Love is to allow your partner, yourself and your relationship to change. Be open about your hopes in a liberating atmosphere of love and acceptance.
Inflated egos in the way of love and an open relationship?
Sometimes changing the relationship hurts. Listen to that hurt. Sometimes grieving for a loss may improve the wellbeing of the individual as well the relationship they are in, more than any overly positive thinking ever can.
To free your mind of unreasonable thoughts is itself a conscious step towards a better relationship.
If only we could accept that, like life itself, we are ever-changing and evolving beings: always a work in progress, always imperfect. Then we would be better able to see that our imperfect partners and relationships are as perfect as they can be at that point in time. They, too, will keep changing and evolving.
Looking for a perfect relationship is futile, and yet, it is fully within our powers to build one.
Even the most challenging of relationships is made of nothing more than the ingredients added to it by those involved in. By developing yourself you are also improving your relationship.
Freeing yourself from the constraints imposed by your own mind is the most sure-fire way of having a better relationship. View the (R)evolution for Love YouTube videos to find out how to hit the relationship jackpot!
Read more in the (R)evolution for Love blog articles in each category (Good Relationship; Cheating; To Break Up or Not?; After Breakup; Single Life, Wellbeing) and in the book (R)evolution for Love. You can also see this video summarizing some of the reader reviews: