Open relationships are entered into by two people in a committed relationship (married or otherwise) who agree not to be exclusive sexually or romantically. Unlike someone who cheats, people in open relationships may be sleeping with other people but are engaging in consensual non-monogamy, and cheating only occurs if partners don’t abide by the rules they set between one another.
Some open relationship arrangements include, but are not limited to, open marriages; swinging (click here for the Swingers Topic on SexEd.net); polyamorous relationships (click here for the Polyamory Topic on SexEd.net); and polygamy (click here for the Polygamy sub-topic in the Multiple Marriage Partners Topic on SexEd.net).
“Now, new findings from Kinsey show that over 20% of people surveyed have had open sexual relationships in their lifetimes; that is, relationships with an agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive component… On the other hand, the researchers did find differences in having consensual non-monogamous relationships based on gender and sexual orientation. They found that men were more likely to have ever had a consensual non-monogamous relationship than women. Additionally, people identifying as gay, lesbian, and bisexual were also more likely to have ever engaged in a consensual non-monogamous relationship than those identifying as heterosexual,” according to a Science at Indiana University blog.1
“A new University of Guelph study has revealed that people in open relationships are as happy as their coupled-up counterparts.”2
Open, consensual, non-monogamous relationships are not for everyone. Some people may use this type of relationship to cover up other problems,3 one person may be more open to it than the other who just chooses to go along to please their partner4 or someone gets jealous,5 and some people in open relationships have faced scrutiny and workplace discrimination.6
Defining what is and is not acceptable, from safe sex practices to level of romantic attachment to sex acts, is necessary for navigating an open, consensual, non-monogamous relationship,7 but the myriad relationship configurations may defy labels.8
The two sub-topics below provide more information on open relationships and some of the different forms of open relationship arrangements.
Footnotes: 1. “New Research on the Prevalence of Consensual Non-Monogamy,” blogs.iu.edu/sciu, 6/5/2018; 2. “Open Relationships Just as Satisfying as Monogamous Ones, U of G Study Reveals,” University of Guelph, uoguelph.ca, 6/28/2018; 3. “How to Ask Your Partner for an Open Relationship,” thecut.com, 6/1/2018; 4. huffingtonpost.co.uk, 3/21/2017; 5. rebelcircus.com, 11/8/2017; 6. psychologytoday.com, 10/10/2017; 7. psychologytoday.com, 8/10/2016; 8. “7 Things You Should Know About Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships,” lehmiller.com, 3/15/2017
1. Open Relationships Click here
2. Open Marriages Click here