Open Relationships

According to, an open relationship is defined as “a committed relationship between two individuals who want to share a life together but agree to a non-monogamous lifestyle.”1

An open relationship, in loose terms, may include people in a casual sexual relationship, like friends with benefits, but generally means two people who are committed to sharing their lives together without sexual or romantic exclusivity, including those in an open marriage.

These relationships, between committed partners, are “monogamish” (term by Dan Savage, Host of Savage Lovecast, several sources)2 and a form of “consensual non-monogamy” (CNM).3

The sourced articles below provide more information on open relationships.

Footnotes: 1., accessed 9/23/2018; 2. accessed 9/22/2018; 3. “The Unique Benefits of a Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationship,”, 4/26/2017

  1. Glossary Of Poly Terms: Unicorn

    “Almost always used of a hypothetical woman who is willing to date both members of an existing couple, agree not to have any relationships other than the ones with the couple, agree not to be sexually involved with one member of the couple unless the other member of the couple is also there, and/or agree to move in with the couple. So named because people willing to agree to such arrangements are vanishingly rare, whereas couples looking for a woman who will agree to these terms are incredibly common.”

    Online Resource,, accessed on 9/24/2018

  2. Unicorn, Unicorn Hunting and The Unicorn Triad

    “A poly-fi triad is a closed triad relationship. They consider each other equal partners in an egalitariantriad relationship and will not have any other partners but each other. The partners will all be sexual together, as a group or in any pairing, and no pair has more power or control in the relationship than the other partner. All are equal. A poly-fi triad may decide to add other partners later.”

    Online Resource,, accessed on 9/24/2018

  3. Unicorn Polyamory

    “A unicorn triad is considered unequal and unfair to the girlfriend in the poly community and looked upon very negatively. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous.”

    Online Resource,, accessed on 9/24/2018

  4. The Difference Between Open Relationships, Polyamory And Swinging

    “Swinging is a form of social sex. Singles and couples, called swingers, engage in different kinds of sexual sharing or swapping with each other. The degree of intimacy and sexual involvement differs with every encounter and is determined by clear boundaries and agreements with all parties. Swinging can be a great way to enhance sexual energy and connection in any relationship. As with any form of ethical non-monogamy, open honest communication is essential.”

    Laurie Ellington,, accessed on 9/24/2018

  5. Polyamory / Nonmonogamous Relationships

    “Unicorn: A unicorn is typically a bisexual woman who is interested in being in a relationship with a couple—usually a heterosexual man and an LGBTQ+ woman. Named for their rarity, unicorns may be expected to be equally devoted to each party and not date outside of the triad relationship. Couples looking for this dynamic, especially on dating sites, are sometimes called unicorn hunters.”

    Online Resource,, 9/10/2018

  6. 6 Habits To Steal From Couples In Open Relationships

    “Here are the most important lessons every couple should learn from non-monogamy: …
    [1.] Practice total honesty. …
    [2.] Conduct regular relationship evaluations. …
    [3.] Set clear rules and boundaries. …
    [4.] Talk through jealousy. …
    [5.] Don’t rely on one another for everything. …
    [6.] Be vigilant about safe sex. …”

    Dr. Jenn Mann,, 8/15/2018

  7. 6 Rules For Doing The Whole Open Relationship Thing Right

    “Whether you’re just starting to get serious or have been together for years, broaching the subject of starting an open relationship is totally uncharted water. Even if you’ve tried the whole open thing before, each relationship—and the ground rules that keep things from turning into a jealous mess—is different. That doesn’t mean open relationships don’t work—or even that they can’t be as rock-solid as monogamous ones. But experts say strong open relationships do tend to have one thing in common: a mutually agreed upon set of ground rules. …
    [1.] Set sex boundaries. …
    [2.] Set emotional boundaries. …
    [3.] Establish who it’s cool to hook up with. …
    [4.] Figure out how much time you’ll spend with other partners. …
    [5.] Decide how you’ll talk about your relationships with each other and others. …
    [6.] Discuss how often you’ll have a check-in. …”

    Macaela McKenzie,, 8/6/2018

  8. How 9 People Told Their Partner They Wanted An Open Relationship

    “Naturally, some people in monogamous relationships might take you wanting to open the relationship as a signal that you no longer love them. Which, of course, isn’t always the case. But – that’s got to be a tough one to navigate. Here, people explain how they first talked to their partner about opening their relationship.”

    Paisley Gilmour,, 7/19/2018

  9. New Study Reveals Open Relationships Are Just As Satisfying As Monogamous Ones

    “New interpersonal research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, has revealed that people in consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships (meaning they either have sex with or date/love multiple partners) are equally as happy as people who are exclusively partnered.”

    Zachary Zane,, 7/3/2018

  10. Are People In Open Relationships Happier Than Monogamous Ones? This New Study Is Surprising

    “‘We found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships,’ explained Wood. ‘This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure.'”

    Candice Jalili,, 7/2/2018

  11. How Satisfying Are Open Relationships Compared To Monogamy?

    “While monogamy is omnipresent, Wood said that open relationships are actually more common than most people would expect. Currently, somewhere between three to seven percent of people in North America are said to be in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship. … The results of the study revealed that people in open relationships actually had similar levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships.”

    Sadhana Bharanidharan,, 6/29/2018; (Broken link removed 4/2023)

  12. Open Relationships Just As Satisfying As Monogamous Ones

    “A new University of Guelph study has revealed that people in open relationships are as happy as their coupled-up counterparts.”

    University of Guelph,, 6/28/2018

  13. New Research On The Prevalence Of Consensual Non-Monogamy

    “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.”

    Sara Driskell, ScIU, Conversations in Science at Indiana University,, 6/5/2018

  14. How To Ask Your Partner For An Open Relationship

    “The first step doesn’t actually involve your partner at all: Before you even begin to think about how to bring this up, think about why you want to bring it up. And more specifically, think about whether you’re reaching for an open relationship as a Band-Aid fix for something else.”

    Cari Romm,, 6/1/2018

  15. Swinger, Monogamish, & 6 Other Words For Open Relationships

    “Read on to learn the distinctions between a polyamorous relationship, an open relationship, a monogamish relationship, and more. …
    [1.] Swinger …
    [2.] Open relationship: ‘Open relationship’ is sometimes used as an umbrella term to describe any relationship that isn’t sexually and/or romantically monogamous, including polyamory. Open relationship is also sometimes used to describe non-monogamous relationships that aren’t polyamorous, meaning that people are allowed sexual experiences outside of their relationship but not love or romance. …
    [3.] Monogamish …
    [4.] Polyamorous …
    [5.] Ethical Non-monogamy …
    [6.] Polyfidelity … Polyfidelitous relationships involve more than two people, but don’t allow for partners in the relationship to have sex or relationships with people outside of the already established group. …
    [7.] Polygamy …
    [8.] Relationship Anarchy …”

    Kasandra Brabaw,, 5/10/2018

  16. What’s The Difference Between A Polyamorous And An Open Relationship?

    “Actually, while the two share some similar characteristics, they’re very different. ‘An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people,’ says Renee Divine, L.M.F.T., a sex and relationships therapist in Minneapolis, MN.
    Both open and poly relationships are forms of consensual non-monogamy, and technically, polyamory can be a type of open relationship, but expectations tend to be different when it comes to these relationship styles.”

    Kristin Canning,, 4/2/2018

  17. What Ethical Non-Monogamy Can Teach Us About Healthy Relationships

    “Cheating is a violation of trust. When someone cheats, they engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with another person, without their partner’s consent. Ethical non-monogamy, on the other hand, stresses consent above all else. This means that partners agree to see other people and set rules, boundaries, or values for how they will treat each other and communicate about their relationship(s).”

    Reina Gattuso,, 12/27/2017

  18. What It Means For Couples To Go ‘Unicorn Hunting’ — And Why It Usually Doesn’t End Well

    ‘”In polyamorous relationships, a couple decides they will give each other the freedom to meet, flirt, and hook up with other people. Sometimes they may invite another person into the relationship permanently, in what’s known as a triad.
    But it’s not as simple as finding a third person you both fancy. In fact, according to Dr Elisabeth Sheff, expert witness, speaker, and coach of polyamory and author of ‘The Polyamorists Next Door,’ straight couples often come into the polyamorous community expecting to find a bi woman to join them. This, she said, is called ‘unicorn hunting.'”

    Lindsay Dodgson,, 11/29/2017

  19. Polyamory Definitions: Learn What These Poly Terms Mean

    “This term also refers to a particular phenomenon in non-monogamous communities. Sometimes when married couples decide to open their relationship, they will start by looking for a sexy ‘third’ to have some playtime with. Some couples believe this will be the least threatening configuration to their existing relationship, especially if the couple is a straight man and bisexual woman (as is often the case). Some couples can get into a trap of coming up with a wishlist or predetermined set of demands for this ‘third.'”

    Professor Sex,, 7/4/2017

  20. Could You Be A Relationship Unicorn? Try Asking Yourself These Questions

    “‘Unicorn’ describes a person who joins a couple as their third partner, for sex or even for something more committed. It earned its mythical name because willing participants tend to be rare and difficult to find, though online dating has helped connect unicorns with couples more easily than ever (there’s even an app for seeking out a unicorn relationship, Feeld).”

    Britany Robinson,, 4/12/2017

  21. 7 Things You Should Know About Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships

    “Here are seven things you should know about CNM [consensually non-monogamous] relationships, according to science. …
    [1.] CNM relationships can take several different forms, from polyamory to open relationships to swinging to cuckolding—and many more. …
    [2.] CNM relationships are common. …
    [3.] Interest in CNM relationships is on the rise. …
    [4.] A lot of people assume that being non-monogamous necessarily means you’re less committed to your relationship; however, research finds that this isn’t the case. …
    [5.] CNM relationships aren’t the hotbed for STDs that so many folks assume. …
    [6.] You might be wondering how people in CNM relationships could have more partners, yet not have more STDs compared to people who are monogamous. …
    [7.] CNM relationships aren’t for everyone. …”

    Dr. Justin Lehmiller,, 3/15/2017

  22. This Is How Often You Need To Get Tested For STDs, Based On Your Relationship Status

    “Keep in mind that if you’re polyamorous or in an open relationship, you may require more frequent testing depending on your specific situation. Your doctor can offer more guidance on that front.”

    Zahra Barnes,, 10/21/2016

  23. Cheating And Consensual Non-Monogamy

    “Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is an umbrella category that covers a range of relationship styles that describe openly conducted multiple partner relationships. CNM ranges from polygamy and polyamory on the serious, long term relationship end of the spectrum, to open, monogamish, or swinging relationships that may have more emphasis on sexual variety and less emphasis on emotional intimacy with multiple partners on the other.”

    Elisabeth A. Sheff Ph.D., CASA, CSE,, 8/10/2016

  24. You Definitely Have Friends In Open Relationships

    “First, a clarification: ‘Open relationship’ for our purposes refers to any relationship where it is explicitly and consensually negotiated that the couple will not be exclusive with one another—this umbrella term includes swingers, polyamory, and friends with benefits. Why should you consider an open relationship? Well, maybe you shouldn’t.
    A recent, cross-national study of over 8,700 people found that 21 percent of single people reported having an open relationship at some point in their lives. Surprised? We were. That’s one out of five people, statistically enough to count a friend or coworker among them. But that number needs some context.”

    Sarah Rense,, 5/13/2016

  25. What Are Open Relationship Rules Like? Negotiating Non-Monogamous Boundaries, In 8 Steps

    “Here are eight steps towards setting your guidelines. …
    [1.] Make Sure You Have A Solid Foundation …
    [2.] Know Your Reasons For Opening It Up …
    [3.] Consider Lots Of Possibilities …
    [4.] Go Through The Hypotheticals …
    [5.] If You Can’t Agree On It, Don’t Do It …
    [6.] Find The Right Words …
    [7.] Put It Down In Writing …
    [8.] Make Space For Renegotiation …”

    Vanessa Marin,, 5/27/2015

  26. To Unicorn Hunters, From An Ex-Unicorn

    “There are plenty of women who are excited to do threesomes, or live in a triad, as the partner of both a man and a woman. I should know, I’m one of them! But there’s a difference between wanting to be in a triad and Unicorn Hunting.
    The main difference between people looking for a triad and Unicorn Hunters is that Unicorn Hunters tend to look at the third partner as an addition to their relationship, instead of realizing that you’re creating a brand new relationship, with three people instead of two.”

    Chelsey Dagger,, 1/5/2015