General Question

aeterna's avatar

What is an open relationship?

Asked by aeterna (66points) September 3rd, 2008

How do people act towards each other? Can they be in love? What are the rules? Are there any? I’m confused.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

29 Answers

stratman37's avatar

lemme guess, you’re a teenager!

aeterna's avatar

Yes, what does that have to do with anything?

stratman37's avatar

your last question just proves my point.

First, let me assure you that you are not alone in feeling confused. Be encouraged that what seems like a great mystery right now will make more sense as you grow older.

What are the rules of love? Boy, if I had the answer to that, there’d be a lot less divorce and heartache. Hell, country music would cease to exist!

Bottom line: communicate your wishes and concerns with your partner. Don’t let anyone treat you poorly. Never let anyone force you to do anything that you don’t want to do.

But then again, what exactly do you mean by ‘Open Relationship’?

aeterna's avatar

An open relationship as in when two people are “dating” but they allow each other to be physically intimate with others, I guess.

augustlan's avatar

I wouldn’t define it as two people “dating” and allowing each other to be physically intimate with others. That, to me, is just the definition of dating. Dating does not mean exclusively dating each other. An open relationship is a relationship in which the two people are committed to one another in all ways, but are free to have sexual encounters with others. That is, you are not free to have a relationship with anyone other than your partner, but you can have sex outside your relationship.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

Yeah, what augustlan said.

stratman37's avatar

well, good luck with all of THAT.

mozartpena's avatar

quote: ”. An open relationship is a relationship in which the two people are committed to one another in all ways, but are free to have sexual encounters with others.”

not necessarily to have sex with other people. it’s just that you’re allowed to mingle and have intimate (not necessariy) sexual relations with other people, while you are in a certain relationship with someone.

some people find it unbearable to have other relationships when you are in a relationship yourself. but it’s like testing the waters, before you actually commit. when the decision comes to commit, you know you are 100% certain.

our school psychologist taught this to us. hehehe

stratman37's avatar

just be sure and get tested before you return to the first person, eh?

augustlan's avatar

In any serious “open” relationship, protection from STDs would be SOP (standard operating procedure)

aeterna's avatar

Thank you everyone.

syz's avatar

An “open relationship” is a recipe for disaster. Doesn’t work.

JackAdams's avatar

Many folks who engage in wife-swapping (aka “swinging”) claim to others that they are in an “open” relationship, implying that, “It isn’t ‘cheating,’ if the ‘other person’ knows what you are doing, and with whom.”

In 1973, a married couple’s “open marriage” book was published, titled:

Open Marriage: A New Lifestyle for Couples (ISBN: 0380505002)
by Nena and George O’Neill

They were trying to promote their own swinging lifestyle to the world, claiming that group sex was “good” for a marriage, and that it was the reason that theirs would last “forever.”

Supposedly, if you believe the rumors, they separated (but remained married) about 4 years after the book was published, and he died in 1980.

September 4, 2008, 8:58 AM EDT

marinelife's avatar

A better way to go about open relationships is to date multiple people, but not have sex with any of them. If you find someone that you like enough to be exclusive with and to be intimate to the point of having sex with, then you have a committed relationship with that person while you explore your feelings for each other.

Sex is a complicated business between just two people. When you add a bunch of other people, it’s a mess and someone is likely to get hurt. Not to mention the dangers of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

JackAdams's avatar

Two people? Really?

I always have one with 3 people. Me and 2 babes.

September 4, 2008, 11:14 AM EDT

sarapnsc's avatar

How do people act towards each other? Like they love you, they act nice and smile and tell you your wonderful, but in all actuality, your just a quick fix for a horny need.

Can they be in love? No. When you love someone, you don’t want anyone else’s body, but the person that you love.

What are the rules? The rules are you sleep with whomever you want, and I’ll do the same, but whenever I want to hop on you, I can anytime. I want my cake and I want to eat it too.
Are there any? I’m confused. There is no confusion… it’s, I want what I want, when I want it. Your feelings mean very little, I’ll take them into consideration, but mine comes first!

People like this cannot possibly luvvvvvvv you. This is not love – this is desire, lust and gratification of ones own needs.

Why in the world someone would want a relationship like this is beyond me….I would not want a man I am in a committed relationship with or just a casual relationship with, knowing that they were stuck to some other womans body from a few hours ago. The thought makes me nauseous!

sinscriven's avatar

Don’t think anyone would blame you for being confused, it’s a really tricky situation and only a certain type of couple with a certain type of people can survive it much less thrive.

Augustlan put it perfectly in that it’s important to know that dating is only an assosciation, not a commitment. There are little to no emotional attachments and most of it is enjoying each other’s company and sometimes romping in the way, or a lot of romping depending on your style. It’s only when both agree to a commitment that it becomes the relationship where you’re expected to be “faithful”.

An “open relationship” is a committed emotional relationship, but with the understanding that sometimes you are attracted to other people and “instead of strain or wreck our relationship, let’s agree to keep things open to seeing and possibly sleeping with other people; however, we come home to each other.”

It’s a compromise between the emotional attachment and the human behavioral need to procreate.

As for the behavior between the couple? Stays mostly the same, except communication between them becomes much more important, you don’t keep secrets about your activity from your S/O because a lack of openness can generate suspicion, jealousy, and then all hell breaks loose.

As for rules with the “new” people, that really depends on the arrangement that the couple made, and it might always have it’s own variations. But generally, as i mentioned the open communication, ALWAYS using safe sex methods when sleeping with someone, and as a matter of respect you probably shouldn’t ever bring the screwbuddy home. All fuckery takes place outside the home, and the home is the “neutral zone”. And there will probably be off limits boundaries as well, namely friends and family, or whoever the S/O really doesn’t like.

As for love, the couple can be in love with each other, absolutely; in fact i think it takes a great deal of trust, love, and respect to be able to give their s/o that kind of freedom. Had their bond not been as strong then there’d be no point for a relationship, they could have just been single and dating each other, and other people at the same time. As for love with the fuckbuddies, that’s generally to be avoided, because someone will always get hurt. Either the fuckbuddy develops an attachment that will never come to fruition, or the taken person falls for the fuckbuddy and then that puts the relationship in danger. So it’s important to keep it at the “friendly” level.

Of course there’s exceptions where the partner wouldn’t mind “sharing”, but then this stops being an “open relationship” and goes into polyamory, and the belief that you can love more than one person equally without preference. This is something that really screws with Westerner’s concept of love, and isn’t swallowed so well so just in general love outside the relationship is bad news.

It’s something that is definitely not for everyone because it requires both people to have a healthy strong committed relationship with each other with very good communication, a deep level of trust, an open mind, and the ability to not become jealous. It is much more complex and not as self serving as sarapnsc believes it to be, as she’s more than likely never been in that situation herself.

If you’re considering this, really think about it. Do not allow yourself to be pushed into something you don’t want to do, if you don’t want this either demand it, or ask for an out. Also if you’re maybe the one bringing it up, make sure this is something you want to do because this what’d make you happy, and not just a license to cheat with a fall-back guy waiting; in that case you are better ending the relationship and going solo, as that goes against the whole concept of trust in these things.

I type way too much.

timothykinney's avatar

Reviewing the previous comments, I feel a disclaimer is required. I am NOT endorsing open relationships, especially for teenagers. I am also NOT endorsing sexual activity/promiscuity, especially by teenagers. However, an individual has asked a question about open relationships, which are defined inherently by sexuality. Therefore, to answer the question I need to consider sexual activity honestly. I will attempt, to the best of my ability, to do so without being lewd or improper. If I fail, I apologize. Please do not be offended. If you find you are becoming offended, please stop reading and do something else. Really, I don’t intend for anyone to take offense (religious, spiritual, parental, or otherwise)- I’m doing my best. If you disagree with my analysis, that’s a different matter altogether- I encourage you to criticize my reasoning.

Open relationships can work. But it requires, among other things, a high degree of maturity by all the involved parties. For the purpose of an example, I will assume you are a male interested in a female. If this is inaccurate (either because of switched genders or homosexuality), just try to follow along.

Who needs to be mature in an open-relationship? Consider the following:

1) You become jealous that she is sleeping with someone else. You worry that she will leave you for him. You try to think of ways to keep her from having free time.

2) She becomes jealous that you are sleeping with someone else. She tries to keep you from meeting friends of hers that she thinks are attractive. She insinuates that you are out getting laid when you go out with friends.

3) The mistress that you are sleeping with becomes jealous of you sleeping with your real girlfriend. She threatens you (in subtle ways) and tries to convince you to leave your girlfriend for her. ie she disrespects your open relationship.

4) The other man that your girlfriend is sleeping with becomes jealous of her and tries to convince her to leave you for him. ie he disrespects your open relationship.

5) You try to get around the immaturity of people external to your open relationship by not telling them that you are in an open relationship:

a) They see you with your girlfriend and think you are cheating on them.
b) They find out you are in an open relationship and feel you have been dishonest.
c) They think you are cheating on your girlfriend.

And so on…

From this we can see that all engaged parties need to have a basic level of maturity and tolerance. Feelings of jealously can arise, but they must be managed in a way that does not threaten the relationship. In this way, the integrity of the relationship is held as more important than trysts.

Next, it is very important to have a clear policy on honesty. Who tells who what and when? There are a couple of schools of thought on this point:

1) You tell each other everything.

Problems with this include:

a) Jealousy arises internally and either effects your friendships with the people she is sleeping with or effects the relationship itself.
b) You’re not sure how much detail to go into when describing your sexual adventures (Milan Kundera sees the description of the adventures as an erotic tale meant to excite the other, so this may not be a problem if you have that kind of relationship)
c) You’re not sure how to broach the topic of your sexual adventures (e.g., you go on a trip and sleep with someone else. You return home and are very excited to see your girlfriend. Neither of you is really sure whether to mention your sexual adventures before or after the two of you have sex again). However, again, if the sexual adventures are considered as erotic tales, then it becomes clear that you share them as a form of foreplay.

2) You don’t tell each other something (about sexual adventures) unless they specifically ask.

Problems with this include:
a) A sense that you are hiding something. This can erode the open relationship (which must be built on trust by the way) in a very subtle way before you even realize it is happening.
b) Finding time to go out with someone else without alerting your girlfriend that you are trying to sleep with someone else (because she doesn’t really want to know).
c) Telling your mistress that you are in an open relationship, but that your girlfriend doesn’t want to know who you are sleeping with…this sounds like cheating to the mistress (which she may find exciting nevertheless).

3) You don’t tell each other anything and you don’t ask each other anything, and if anything comes up it is denied (with the understanding that the denial is designed to alleviate the concerns of the partner).

Problems with this include:
a) A sense of hiding something erodes basic trust. (same as above)
b) The act of actually lying to your partner (even as agreed) changes the relationship psychologically.
c) If your partner suspects that are lying (even as agreed), she begins believing that you are sleeping with other people even when you aren’t. This defeats the whole purpose of not telling each other anything and denying everything.

At this point, the entire idea of an open relationship has been treated as a philosophic construct, yet (without going into detail) I base some of these things on reality. That said, I reaffirm that open relationships can work but they require a great deal of maturity, trust, communication, and planning to work. Furthermore, when an open relationship goes sour, it can go very, very poorly. I would say that the end of an open relationship is worse than the end of a closed relationship.

If you are considering an open relationship as an experimental modification of a current relationship, I would suggest the following:

1) Start by sleeping with other people on an agreed-upon basis. The idea is that if your partner has said “you can sleep with that woman” she feels more secure that you aren’t out going wild. She can then gauge her emotional response to your sexual adventure. This is a more controlled (but not fool-proof, it can still destroy the relationship you have) way of introducing the notion of openness. Note that I said your partner agrees who you can sleep with. This also means that you are agreeing who she can sleep with. A one-way open relationship is, of course, sick.

2) Start by participating in sexual encounters together. Open relationships are an extension of group sex. If you’re not capable of being in the same room as your girlfriend and her other lover, you’re probably not ready to have an open relationship. Theoretically, a foursome is the best way to start because both people in the relationship feel somewhat secure that they are not being left out. Using this line of reasoning, a threesome would be the next step. Finally, branching out into individual encounters without your partner present.

3) TALK. Sit down and think about what kind of open relationship you are thinking about. It is complicated. You should propose various scenarios to each other and then talk about how you think they would make you feel. If something makes you uncomfortable, talk about it, note what you’ve learned, and continue. You may find that you’re not ready for an open relationship. In which case, you have learned a great deal about yourself and participated in communication with your partner (which is laudable).

Okay, I’m starting to realize that I can’t cover all the aspects of open relationships in a single fluther post. So, I’ll leave it at this.If you are still interested in pursuing an open relationship at some point, I strongly recommend reading Milan Kundera, particularly “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Immortality”. Kundera treats the concept of open relationships more or less exhaustively in his novels. He does not do so explicitly, however. You have to be willing to think about the characters and their motives while you are reading the story. So there is some work involved on your part.

Finally, as a point of admonition: never engage in an open relationship with someone who is not sure they want to be in one. This kind of open relationship is doomed to be miserable for both of you. Both people must be committed to the idea that their private relationship is enhanced by sexual adventures with others. If one person is allowing an open relationship because they are afraid of being alone, they will quickly discover that this is not a balm which soothes.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

jca's avatar

i would be interested in hearing from someone who is or has been in an open relationship. i don’t know anybody who is or has, that i know of. i would be interested to know how they found it, if one partner got jealous of the other, etc. personally, i don’t think it would be for me. i think i would be jealous.

breedmitch's avatar

Actually, the best relationship of my life so far was what you might call open. We loved and cared for eack other very deeply, but often spent months apart (we were both in entertainment). The understanding we had was that it was acceptable to be intimate with another person, but only once. It could never happen again. It need not be discussed beforehand, but it always was discussed after. It was the most sensible arrangement I’ve ever been a part of.

May 18, 1994 12:00 AM EST

timothykinney's avatar

@jca you have.

stratman37's avatar

Me and Dot are swingers, as in to SWING!

jca's avatar

timothykinney: i don’t understand your answer. please explain what you’re saying.

Gbach's avatar

if you’ve been asked to be in one, that basically means the end, dont go that low. remain the rest of your dignity

augustlan's avatar

@jca: I think what timothykinney is implying is that 1) at least some of the people who’ve posted answers in this thread have experience w/ open relationships, and/or 2) you almost certainly do know someone who has been in one, but doesn’t advertise that fact. I’d say that in both cases, he is probably correct.

jca's avatar

Hi augustlan: i asked him privately what he was talking about and he explained. thanx anyway.

sahummell06's avatar

The idea of a monogamous relationship is not natural to human beings. It was, until religion became a huge issue, not standard operating procedure. If a person has ever been in a truly trusting relationship, then they would know that loving someone and having sex with someone are two incredibly different things. This is not for everyone. Jealousy and guilt abound if you don’t work out how you feel about love, sex, and the person you are in the committed relationship with. Tread lightly, but if you can get past the puritanical ideas of sex, the way we have been taught to be afraid or posessive of it, then it can be the most liberating and one of the most beautiful things a partner can give to the other.

Natechon's avatar

ok im 17 almost 18 in 3 mounths and i have been together with my girlfreind for 2 years and now she wants to have a open relatioship but i done because i only want her and she wants to have 2 guyes that she cares for and fuck each of them i just dont get y she would want to have sex with someone slese idk wht i do wrong i do everything for her and i cared for her forom since we werent even dating we have both been through alot and shes my firs sex patner and my first GF to put it that way and my mother has put me through so much hell and i just wish that she would only fuck me but she has been raped before and wats another guy that she does it willing with other than me whts that soppose to mean i love her and i have never raped her

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