What is an Open Relationship

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The world of dating has changed significantly over the last few decades. With many couples adopting open relationships, it seems that monogamy has gone out the window.

But what exactly is an open relationship? And what are the rules of this alternative to a monogamous relationship?

Let’s take a closer look at open relationships by focusing on the following factors:

  • What is an open relationship?
  • What are the characteristics or rules of an open relationship?
  • The pros and cons of this type of relationship.
  • Common questions about open relationships.

What is an Open Relationship?

An open relationship is where one or both parties seek sexual gratification or an emotional attachment outside of their relationship. While the topic of open relationships is still very much taboo, a surprising number of couples adopt this type of relationship while remaining in their marriage or a committed relationship.

Celebs, too, opt for open relationships, which seems to have made it slightly more acceptable to those who would not have tried it otherwise. Some more famous open relationships include Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett, Angeline Jolie and now ex-husband Brad Pitt, and Dolly Parton and Carl Dean.

Whether you are for or against open relationships, they are on the rise and becoming a more socially acceptable option to the more “normal” monogamous relationship.

Characteristics or Rules of Open Relationships

If you’re considering approaching your partner with the idea of an open relationship, there are a few important rules that should be followed by each person to ensure that both parties are happy with the arrangement. These are the most common characteristics or rules of open relationships:

A clear set of boundaries

This includes both sexual and emotional boundaries of what can and cannot be done in an open relationship. If an emotional attachment is all you are looking for, make it clear that the relationship will not go further than this.

If both parties are open to sexual encounters, there needs to be a clear set of rules, including rules on using protection.

A list of who you can and cannot date

Even when both parties agree to an open relationship, there are always people your partner would prefer you do not form an attachment with. Make a list together and stick to the list. An open relationship can only work and be successful when both parties are in full agreement.

Time frames and date nights

Set aside specific times that you can explore your open relationship while still focusing on your current relationship. Date nights are a good idea and help set boundaries in an open relationship.

Check-in time

Regular check-ins with your current partner are a good way to talk about any problems or issues one or both may be experiencing. Just as much as date nights are important, time to just be together and discuss your relationship is crucial in an open relationship.

Man and two beautiful women drinking wine at home.

Pros and Cons of an Open Relationship

Like any relationship, there are both pros and cons to an open relationship. Just like the rules we have listed above, it is important to be aware of both the good and bad of this type of relationship before you enter into one.

The Pros of an Open Relationship

  • The ability to explore your sexuality by having casual sex with another person.
  • You get to experience the affection of another person while in a loving relationship with your partner.
  • Open relationships can help a relationship by letting people experience what they might be lacking in their current relationship.

The Cons of an Open Relationship

  • Often couples in an open relationship find themselves competing with their partner about how many people they are dating, their number of sexual encounters, and how easily they can find a date. Rules like those we have listed are a good idea to minimize the competition.
  • Jealousy is another common problem experienced by those in an open relationship. Set clear guidelines or make a list of Dos and Don’ts that each person must agree to and adhere to.
  • STDs or pregnancy. Protection should ALWAYS be used in an open relationship to prevent passing on any sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies.

Common FAQs about Open Relationships

While some consider the topic of an open relationship taboo, some might be interested and want to know a bit more about the ins and outs of an open relationship. Here are a few common questions that are asked about open relationships.

Q: Can I be in an open relationship if I am married?

A: Yes, you most definitely can. Before you approach your spouse about entering into an open relationship, ensure you are doing it for the right reasons. Are you unhappy with your sex life? Would you like to explore your sexuality or a fantasy that you do not feel comfortable sharing with your partner? List your reasons before you state your case.

Q: Is an open relationship the same as cheating?

A: Many will say yes. But an open relationship is something that both parties need to agree to. Draw up guidelines that state specifically what you can and cannot do with another person, and ensure that you revisit this list regularly.

Q: What if I fall pregnant or get another person pregnant in an open relationship?

There is only one way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy from happening in an open relationship, and that is by ensuring protection is always used. Birth control might not be enough for women, and a condom should always be worn.


An open relationship allows each party to explore a relationship with someone else while still having the comfort and safety of a stable relationship. For an open relationship to work, both parties need to be in agreement, and couples should revisit the rules regularly to ensure that this is still something they want to explore. While an open relationship might not be for everyone, some couples swear by this approach to keep their own relationship happy.

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