Open relationships have been around for centuries, but the way we talk about them (and the fact that we're talking about them at all) is a relatively recent development. Along with the increased openness we now have around sex, there are more people showing interest in alternative relationship styles than in the past.
Open relationships have always resonated with me. I love my freedom and I get bored easily, so being in an open relationship seemed like something I would love. And I do. But along with loving it, there come challenges I couldn't have predicted.
So before you decide to enter an open relationship, it’s good to check in and see how you feel about everything that comes with this decision.
1. Open relationships require time. A LOT of time.
If you’re dating more than one person, it will take twice as much time as if you were in a monogamous relationship. Open relationships are time-consuming, which becomes obvious just in the first 1-2 weeks of dating multiple partners. Trying to schedule dates, making sure you spend enough time with all your partners, being there for all of them, finding ways to go deeper with them—it all puts a lot of pressure on your schedule, which is probably already packed.
2. There will be drama—and probably lots of it.
Open relationships trigger many insecurities and deep wounds. You will feel jealous. You will try to control your partner. You will experience it all, because in open relationships we lose what our "inner child" strives for the most—security.
Letting go of attachments and possessiveness is really hard. You will be triggered. You will have a reason to feel upset. Going into open relationships, you have to be aware that you will be faced with challenges that are not as common for exclusive relationships.
If you're seeing three different people, you will get three times more drama to deal with. Remember, they will be triggered by this situation just as much as you. The great thing about the challenges that come with open relationships is that they come with just as many opportunities to grow and humble your ego. And you will be holding space for all of your partners, who will be going through the same things. It's an incredible journey of self-evolution. Hard and demanding but very rewarding.
3. There can be only one leader.
The core of sexual tension in a relationship is polarity between the feminine and the masculine. The more we can step into these roles, the smoother the relationship, the better sex and the better everyday interactions.
The masculine wants to lead and the feminine wants to be guided. It's a beautiful dynamic when feminine energy allows itself to be led. In practical terms that can mean taking advice and asking for help. And it works wonders—in a monogamous relationship.
In a relationship where this energy is not equal (e.g. there is one person with more feminine energy and two with masculine energy), this dynamic can disturbed. Inevitably, that feminine energy will feel confused. And that can be very damaging to a relationship.
This is one of my biggest struggles. The more open you are with your partners, the more you discuss things, the easier it will be to handle. But it will never fully go away. Here again, two to three partners are the sweet spot for me. I find it easiest to navigate this dynamic. If I had more partners I would feel lost and confused.
4. Jealousy won't be your biggest challenge.
If you're dating one person exclusively, there is only one person you will have to break up with. But when you start dating more people, you have to break up with more.
This is not to say you WILL break up. But we all know that few relationships last forever. At some point, we part ways, and this is not easy. When you're in an open relationship, you are open to exploring. You'll go on more dates, so you'll experience more rejection—both being rejected and rejecting others.
I'll often meet men I would love to explore a connection with, but I don't. I don't because I anticipate that I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with that person, so I don't even want to go on a first date. It saves both of us from dealing with a brushoff later.
This has proved to be one of the biggest challenges for me and many of my friends who practice polyamory. So remember, along with the freedom of dating who you want comes the responsibility of being honest with them, even if that means rejecting or breaking up with them.
So, should you try an open relationship?
This is a very individual matter. Open relationships are not better than monogamous ones. Both types will trigger you, but they will do it in a different way.
Know what comes with both choices and go consciously with your decision. Don't expect everything to be perfect—it won't. But as long as you go into open relationships focused on the growth you will experience, no matter what happens, it will be worthwhile.