Q: What is an open relationship?
A: An open relationship is an intimate relationship typically between two people, which is consensually non-monogamous. Both members of the relationship agree to remain together but allow sexual relationships with other parties.
The idea of an open relationship is one that gets a few raised eyebrows.
Traditionally, monogamy (sticking to just one partner at a time) is what most people choose to stick to in Australia.
However, that doesn't stop people being interested in learning more about the rules of dating more than one person at a time.
Perhaps because movie star Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have famously been rumoured to have an open marriage.
People have taken to Tumblr, Reddit, an open relationship dating site for advice and stories about gay and straight couples who practice non monogamy.
WHO spoke to therapist and relationships expert Leanne Hall who recently appeared on Bride & Prejudice.
She tells all about the meaning of the word open relationship, the difference between polyamory vs open relationship and answers the question - do open relationships work?
What is an open relationship?
Leanne: While there are many different types of open relationships generally there refer to an agreement between a couple whereby they are free to explore sexual and/or intimate relationships with other people. Often referred to as non-monogamy.
What are the rules? Is there a standard set of rules you should follow?
Leanne: There are no “standard rules”, and each relationship and arrangement is different. Some agree to explore deeper emotional connections with other people, while for others - this is a “no no”, and only erotic/sexual experiences can be explored. The most important rule is to be extremely clear when communicating the terms of the arrangement with your partner - and review the arrangement regularly, working through any “surprise” emotions such as jealousy, resentment etc...
Do open relationship work?
Leanne: In my experience - no! This is because most people think non-monogamy will “save” their relationship. This is not the case, as it puts considerable stress on the relationship, often exacerbating an anxious and insecure attachment. Research suggests that non-monogamy only works in relationships where both people are secure and happy (i,e. A HEALTHY relationship). Having said that, most couples enter this kind of arrangement because their partner is not meeting their needs…..in other words, the relationship has problems. Whilst this may seem to work in the short-term, in my experience it only drives the couple further apart.
Do you have any other advice for couples looking to enter into an open relationship?
Leanne: Consider what needs are not being met in your existing relationship. While non-monogamy may on the surface appear to resolve this - put the shoe on the other foot (how will you feel when your partner is with other people?). If you do decide to enter into an open relationship, be clear with each other about expectations, boundaries and rules. And always make time for each other - communicate openly and honestly and be prepared to change the arrangement if one person becomes uncomfortable or unhappy.