We are delighted to have Ema Gauthier, LELO‘s Columnist featuring in this month’s Ask The Sexpert. We wanted to know what the top questions you need to be asking yourself before you embark on an open relationship. Here’s what she said.
An Open/Close Case? The Pros and Cons of Open Relationships
We’re finally opening up about open relationships. These past few years have seen variations on non-monogamy explored across all kinds of media, from Brazen’s very own guide to the swinging world; LELO’s celebrated sex and relationships blog, Volonté; right through to critically acclaimed webseries, Unicornland. But while alternatives to traditional monogamy might finally be getting the recognition they’ve long deserved, that’s not to say that they’re for everyone. Like most things worth doing, deciding on an open relationship calls for careful consideration, and an understanding of potential challenges ahead. Intrigued? Then read on…
Lifting the Lid on Open Relationships
An open relationship is one in which both partners agree to relations with others. That could mean occasional swinging, one or both parties being a granted a so-called ‘hall pass,’ or the explicit understanding that partners may take lovers outside of their twosome. Those relationships could be purely physical, or they could be romantic. Partners might agree on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ agreement, or they might insist on meeting metamours (a partner’s partner, that is).
But although there’s no single definition of what an open relationship actually is, there are non-negotiables: mutual consent, honest communication, and respect – not just for the rules you’ve agreed upon together, but for all parties concerned.
Opening Up: The Pros
Ever found yourself in a monogamous relationship, yet attracted to someone other than your partner? Of course you have – everyone has! But despite being entirely natural, it’s something we’re programed to feel guilty about. To be clear, cheating sucks. But constantly suppressing entirely normal feelings of attraction, just because of societal expectations of monogamy doesn’t sound that great either.
Open relationships acknowledge the inevitability of being attracted to someone else – minus that all or nothing ultimatum – by establishing altogether more realistic expectations that take into account our very human propensity to love and to lust. What that boils down to, of course, is the main draw of open relationships: the possibility of having sex with people other than your primary partner!
Quite aside from how hot that sex might be, it may also fulfil specific needs or wants not being met in a couple’s conventional twosome. An open relationship allows individuals to satisfy those desires, while remaining honestly and emotionally committed to their partner.
Opening your relationship can also inject a hot ‘n’ hefty dose of the thrill factor that characterizes the pursuit of a new partner. In other words: it can build additional layers of sexiness to an already loving relationship. Win-win!
… And The Cons
As with any relationship, there’s nothing easy about going open. All those boundaries and rules you set from the outset will inevitably shift and change. Far from set in stone, navigating your open relationship will be more like a constant, ongoing conversation – and that calls for nothing less that seriously superior communication skills.
Also important to bear in mind: agreeing to an open relationship doesn’t make you immune to jealousy. The green-eyed monster will almost certainly strike at some point, and when it does, it’s important to be able to recognize your negative emotions, be able to articulate them, self-soothe, and accept that succumbing to jealousy doesn’t mean your open relationship is in jeopardy. All of which is easy to say – much less so to realize.
Related, an open relationship can leave even the strongest among us feeling vulnerable. What if they leave you for monogamy with a metamour? Are they practicing safe sex? And if you’ve decided to go public with your relationship’s open status, people will be gossiping about you. That’s just human nature.
Open or Closed, The Choice is Yours!
Just as monogamy isn’t for everyone, nor are open relationships. And that’s OK! If you deem your relationship not up to the very real demands of opening up, that’s not to say it’s not strong. Wherever you stand, the discussion alone is something to celebrate, so let’s hear it for diversity in all things: in sex, in opinions, and most of all in love.
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