Talk Nerdy To Me’s: @StaffWriter
When someone thinks of a relationship, they often think that it must be monogamous. Monogamy is defined as having only one romantic partner at a given time. However, some couples choose to have open relationships in which both people can engage in physical intimacy and/or romantic activities with other people outside of their main partnership.
Different Types of Open Relationships
There are a few different types and levels of open relationships, each with its own rules and level of physical intimacy.
Some couples have open relationships in which they do not allow emotional intimacy outside the relationship at all.
Partners might give spouses permission to engage in romantic activities or encounters with other people but do not actually want to participate themselves.
Swingers are couples who engage in open relationships with other individuals or couples.
Some couples who swing will set rules for who their partner can engage with romantically and how far that might go (kissing, holding hands, etc.). In some cases, there may be specific boundaries such as only allowing opposite-sex partners or someone using protection when engaging in certain acts.
Not all couples in open relationships are swingers.
Is an Open Relationship Healthy?
Having an open relationship comes with many benefits. Sometimes, one partner in a monogamous relationship is not satisfied physically or emotionally and there isn’t anything that can be done about that within the confines of the primary relationship.
An open relationship gives couples more opportunities to experience all aspects of love without breaking up their partnership.
Some people are afraid an open relationship will lead to cheating.
However, it can actually make both parties feel better about themselves knowing they are able to engage in experiences outside the primary relationship if they choose to do so.
There are some disadvantages to having an open relationship as well.
If two people who have been used to getting everything they want from their partner start sharing them with other people, that could cause tension and jealousy.
Is an Open Relationship a “Real” Relationship?
An open relationship is a real relationship.
Some people who are in open relationships do not identify as monogamous, while some simply view their primary relationship as closed but still have other romantic encounters.
All relationships are different and there is no one-size-fits-all definition for what makes a perfect pairing.
Open relationships can be just as fulfilling and healthy as any other type of committed partnership.
How to Set Up an Open Relationship
If you are considering opening your relationship, the first step is talking about it with your partner.
The two of you should discuss boundaries and rules so that everyone is on the same page about this new arrangement. You might come up with set days or times when each person has alone time.
Working as a team to navigate the waters of an open relationship is important.
After you set up the rules, you might want to find a third party who can help guide you through this process.
Another experienced person or couple can support and keep the lines of communication open between the two of you while you go through this transitional phase.
What Does It Take?
Many couples consider an open relationship when one person in the partnership is not satisfied in their current situation and feels like they cannot be happy without engaging in other relationships and experiences beyond what their primary one provides.
It takes a lot of trust for someone to let their partner engage in physical intimacy with another individual. Opening up your relationship takes a certain level of maturity and ability to communicate. It also takes responsibility and accountability.
Can an Open Relationship Save a Relationship?
There are some relationship problems that might be better solved with time apart.
Physical intimacy is not usually one of them. Physical intimacy can make a couple closer but, usually, there must first be a foundation of emotional intimacy.
That is to say that an open relationship will not save a relationship.
Opening your relationship should be a mutual decision based on personal preference and need, not a last-ditch effort to gloss over deeper relationship issues.
Fix the emotional side of the equation. Work on your own physical intimacy first before inviting strangers into the equation.
Physical intimacy is one of the most basic ways for people to show love and affection toward each other.
Physical intimacy is important because it builds trust between partners, which strengthens the emotional bond between them. Often, couples grow apart without realizing how much physical intimacy played into keeping that special bond together over time.
Physical intimacy layered on top of emotional intimacy is vital in building strong relationships that last for years.
What Is a Semi-Open Relationship?
A semi-open relationship is an agreement between two people in a relationship where there are certain rules about what they can and cannot do outside of the relationship. This usually includes physical intimacy with other people.
A typical semi-open arrangement might specify that outside sexual contact is not allowed or allowed up to a point.
This type of agreement means that both parties will usually consent to their partner having outside relationships as long as those relationships follow the established guidelines.
In a semi-open relationship, one partner might be allowed to seek outside relationships while the other partner is not allowed.
The main difference between this and an open relationship is who is allowed to participate in an open relationship and how much (if any) physical intimacy is allowed.
What Is a Unicorn in an Open Relationship?
In an open relationship, a “unicorn” is a single bi/pansexual woman who joins an existing couple, perhaps a soon-to-be triad.
The term “unicorn” may refer to a bi/pansexual woman who is solely dating a couple (and not interested in the dynamics of having her own relationship within the three). It may be used to identify someone who is exclusively included in the physical part of the main relationship.
The unicorn lifestyle is not for everyone—it certainly has its challenges (being the odd person out comes to mind). Unicorn hunting can be difficult. Sometimes couples will settle by inviting other singles into their bed without considering an actual triad relationship.