The Problems of Open Relationships

One of the common questions that struggling couples have is whether or not they should open up their sexual relationship. There are many reasons that couples consider taking this step. Some of the common reasons that I hear from clients include the following:

  • Curiosity about other people.
  • A lack of desire in the present relationship.
  • Desire to add a new spark.
  • Wanting to experience sex with multiple partners at one time.
  • A need to work through a sexual mismatch.
  • Needing the excitement and newness of dating and sex.

Open relationships can work. Unfortunately for many of the people who I work with, there can be serious problems at the underbelly of the relationship. I absolutely don’t recommend that you enter into an open relationship as a cure or treatment for ongoing relationship issues, unless you work with a couples or relationship therapist to help you. This type of therapy can help you uncover your problems and create solid boundaries that can prevent future issues. In other words, if you establish an open relationship to avoid underlying issues, you can bring more conflict into your existing relationship.

It’s critical to know what you want in your current relationship. Opening your relationship can cause more problems if you neglect your partner, and spend more time looking for other potential partners.

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your partner. Instead, find a balance.

If you’re missing a sexual connection in your current relationship, sometimes you might benefit from working on this part of your relationship, before taking the step of an open relationship. Sex doesn’t always come easy, even for relationships where it used to be easy. You may have to be creative to make some changes. All relationships have their ups and downs and the sexual aspect of a relationship is no different.

Another mistake that I often see in clients who enter open relationships is that the boundaries are often too loose. Both parties are unclear of the rules, and when the unspoken assumptions of these rules are broken, it’s important to get back on track right away.

I also recommend that you watch out for game playing. Some people will use their relationship openness to make statements that they want their partners to read. This inevitably leads to relationship toxicity. Passive-aggressive comments, anger, jealousy and resentment are common problems that end relationships when other people are introduced and another feels left out or hurt. Watch out for these things and communicate!

When you sexually come into contact with other people, you are at risk of developing feelings for them. New relationship energy can be quite blinding and an easy way of further losing interest in your current partner. To deal with this type of energy, you must be honest with yourself about your feelings. This can help you identify what boundaries or conversations that you might need to have.

The takeaways?

  • Open relationships can work with good communication and boundaries.
  • Know your desires and discuss them with your partner.
  • Don’t use open relationships and sex to hurt your partners.
  • Be sure to honor your current partners needs.
  • Find a poly-, open affirming therapist to help you with your process if needed.
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