Our Sex Life Sucks…Should We Open Up Our Relationship?

It’s not uncommon for sex in a long-term relationship to go stale. For some couples, this can lead to questions about whether or not they should consider open up their sexual relationship with other people. These are options that people can consider, yet they need to seriously analyze their reasoning for moving to such a place before taking that step. Without such consideration, the relationship can face more problems that it did before walking into this territory.

Many couples do make open relationships work. These couples feel that one person cannot be your everything. However, many other couples go into this scenario with a mindset that this is a cure-all for relationship problems. When a couple is contending with frustration, hurt feelings, a sense of rejection, and poor communication, an open relationship isn’t going to erase these problems. In fact, if not careful, it can make them worse.

Open relationships are not to be used as a last ditch effort to save a relationship. Whether it be gay or straight relationships, I see this many times in therapy. There is a sense that “we are both struggling, we’re moving farther and farther apart, we don’t have sex, maybe we should try an open relationship.” Opening a relationship will not save it. Connection is important in any relationship. If connection is what you’re relationship is missing, you’ll have to work on connection regardless if you have an open relationship or not.

The problems with connection often become evident in relationships where one or both people struggle with vulnerability. There is only one way to build connection, and that is to move through vulnerability. You have to have difficult conversations with your partner. The importance of these conversations doesn’t go away just because you are allowing you and your partner to have sex with others.

Some couples will start talking about having an open relationship in response to finding out that cheating has been occurring. However, some people will give up their own personal boundaries, only to find that the deeper relationship problems and hurt don’t dissipate at all after the relationship is opened up. Open relationships are not about giving up your personal boundaries. When boundaries are given up, resentment is likely to result.

If you and your partner are accepting that one person can’t be your sexual everything, you’ll have to utilize solid relationship skills. What are the boundaries and rules? Can you openly discuss issues as they arise? In order for this to work, you’ll have to be able to talk openly and negotiate with each other. Open relationships are not for those who have communication problems in their relationships. This is when seeking out a sex therapist can help. With such a professional, you can talk about the expectations, insecurities, and boundaries in a setting that is non-judgmental.

Open sexual relationships exist in the fantasies of many people. For some, this is a legitimate option. For others, it’s best left only in their fantasies. For those who decide to go into this area, open communication, solid boundaries, and a good understanding of the self are all important. Professional support from a sex therapist can be extremely helpful when moving into this territory. Without this foundation, negative emotions can make everything that is missing in the relationship more pronounced.

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