The Truth About Couples in Open Relationships May Surprise You

Did you know more and more couples are choosing alternatives to monogamy? And it’s not just wild young couples in big cities. The middle aged married couple living next door to you or even your own relatives might be (consensually) sleeping with other people. It’s true.

So why do couples choose to go this route, and what kind of rules do they abide by? It’s complicated.

Celebrities have paved the way

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

Did you know these two have dabbled in the open relationship realm? | ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Since we tend to idolize celebrities in our society, it probably comes as no surprise that celebrity couples admitting to having open marriages has made the subject a little less taboo. While most Hollywood duos keep their relationships private, some have spilled the details on their open relationships. And some of those couples, like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith and Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, have been married for decades.

Open relationships: The statistics

lesbian couple laughing together

Could you imagine getting it on with someone besides your partner? | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Open relationships aren’t as rare as one might think. According to a 2016 study, one in five Americans have been in a non-monogamous relationship at some point. That means that, statistically, you’ve probably met one (or more).

The research in the study indicated that age, race, political affiliations, and socio-economic status didn’t effect the likelihood of someone experiencing an open relationship. However, people who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual were slightly more likely to have experienced non-monogamy.

Are we really hardwired for monogamy?

Wedding Dnace

All couples are different. | ASPhotowed/iStock/Getty Images

The main argument for open relationships all boils down to biology: Proponents say that, as human beings, we aren’t meant for monogamy. But does scientific research back up that claim?

According to six experts, monogamy isn’t inherently natural or always realistic … but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. We have free will, and it’s very possible for us to be happy being with only one person.

Not all open relationships are created equal

Young couples enjoying countryside

It’s not all the same. | iStock.com/Brian McEntire

Some people think that opening things up means that couples are simply allowed to sleep with other people, but the truth is a lot more complex. There are multiple types of open relationships that range from occasional partner swapping to being in love with more than one person at once.

When it works

group of roommates making pizza

Ask friends going through a similar experience for a few pointers. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

No matter what kind of open relationship you’re considering, prioritizing your current partner is one key to making it work. It’s easy to get swept up in lust and excitement when you meet someone new, but if you neglect your long-term love, they’ll probably get hurt and jealous — and understandably so.

If you’re considering opening things up, talking to someone who is in a healthy open relationship could give you some great insight.

When it doesn’t work

Frustrated Couple Sitting On Couch Quarreling

An open relationship is definitely not for everyone. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Obviously, some people simply aren’t meant to be in open relationships, and that’s perfectly fine. There are many things that can go wrong when you open yourself up to being intimate with others, from jealous issues to STDs to the relationships not being “equal.” If you and your partner are not on solid ground to begin with, or if there is a lot of hesitation coming from one of you, you should stick to monogamy.

How to tell if an open relationship is right for you

Couple Having Romantic Dinner

You’ll definitely have to consult your partner. | iStock.com/puhhha

If you’re curious about opening up your relationship, there are some signs that will indicate that you and your partner might be successful at it. If neither of you struggles with jealousy and you both admit that variety is the spice of life, it may at least be worth discussing.

Of course, you’ll want to proceed with caution. Talk to each other about what you are and are not comfortable with — and be fully honest. Setting healthy boundaries and respecting them will help. Just like with monogamous relationships, honesty is the best policy.

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