Casual dating or an open relationship is an appealing concept to many people that just want to have some fun with other people.
You can go out once or twice and not have to worry about bigger commitments. So the question, do open relationships work, lies in the affirmative for them.
Then there are those that continue a long-term relationship with someone while still dating others. This sort of open relationship has some obvious perks to those that aren’t ready to commit, but really like the person they are with.
So, are these relationships a good idea or a dangerous prospect?
What is an open relationship?
An open relationship gives you the opportunity to seek relationships with other people while continuing to see your partner.
It basically means that you aren’t exclusive to each other and have the freedom to pursue other relationships. The rules for an open relationship always depend on the couple.
It is up to you and your partner to decide whether this means that you can be completely free to see as many people as you want. There is also the question of whether or not this should include sexual relationships or not.
So, how to deal with an open relationship?
Many couples can find an approach that suits them well.
Being in an open relationship isn’t uncommon for young people that aren’t ready to commit to use open relationships for dating. However, there are pros and cons of an open relationship. It is important to consider both sides before deciding if this is right for you.
What are the benefits of an open relationship?
The main advantages here are:
- The freedom to do what you want to do with multiple people
- The chance to meet different people and learn about yourself
- The opportunity to explore your sexuality with different people
Open relationship dating gives freedom from restraints
The main advantage here is that a casual relationship gives you more freedom to do what you want while dating. One of the problems with a committed relationship is that while you may care for that person, you end up in their world.
You can feel tied to that one person to the point where you lose yourself and some of the things you like to do. There can be times when the compromises become a little too restrictive. An open relationship removes this restriction.
You can spend time with multiple people on a range of dates where you get to enjoy a lot more experiences. This can be perfect for those that are younger, perhaps just out of college, that are looking to explore their options and learn more about the world.
The chance to learn and develop with other people.
Of course, experimentation with different dating experiences also means a chance to date different types of people.
If you commit to being with one person from an early age with no room to date anyone else, you could miss out on some great relationships.
An open approach makes it more likely to strike up a conversation at a bar or a concert with a like-minded individual.
You can spend time with them on dates completely guilt-free if you are in a casual relationship.
This freedom to date different people can help you figure out what your interests are, who you prefer to be with and who you are as a person. On that note, we often overlook the fact that we all change and evolve as we get older.
We get scared of outgrowing college sweethearts because our needs, opinions or situations change.
Experimentation in an open relationship is also ideal for those that are still coming to terms with their sexuality.
The freedom to be with other people means dating anyone you like without restricting yourself on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
For example, if you are bisexual or pansexual, but have only had committed relationships with one sex or gender, this is a great way to learn more about your tastes and preferences.
There is no reason to be stuck in a monogamous relationship with a heterosexual man, for example, and miss out on relationships with a bisexual or gay woman.
What about the downsides of an open relationship
You may think that you will be getting the best of both worlds when you agree to a casual relationship but that isn’t necessarily the case.
There are risks involved and there is a good chance that you won’t always be on the same page. If you are considering moving onto an open relationship with a friend or partner, consider the following.
- The level of honesty in the relationship
- The risks of involving different sexual partners
- The risks of falling in love with the wrong person
How open is this relationship?
There are many couples that use the term open purely to describe their ability to go out and seek other relationships.
It doesn’t always mean that they are open about the intentions, feelings or their experiences. It is important that you are comfortable with the level of honesty and disclosure in this relationship.
- Are you happier not knowing what happens when your partner spends a night somewhere else?
- Or, do you need to know everything for your own peace of mind about the relationship?
There are pros and cons to this amount of openness and honesty.
A lack of honesty about sexual partners
However, if you are closed off and secretive about your other relationships and experiences, this could backfire. What happens if you have been pursuing the same person without realising?
Should you both be aware of your sexual history for the sake of your health and well-being?
This leads to another important point. Is your partner practising safe sex when they aren’t with you?
You may trust them enough to be sure that they would never put you at risk like that. But, if they are having casual sex with other people, there is that risk that one of those other partners has an STI.
Falling in love with someone that’s not committed
These relationships can be great when there truly are no strings attached, as was advertised when you first started. But this can change quite easily.
One of you could end up developing deeper feelings where you want more from the relationship. You might even fall in love.
This could be a beautiful thing if the feeling is mutual and you decide to switch to a committed relationship. But, is that likely?
What happens when you begin to fall in love and decide you no longer want to sleep with other people, but your partner doesn’t feel the same?
- Can you bury those feelings to continue with what you have?
- Can you still watch them go out with other people knowing that you aren’t the only partner in their life?
It could be too easy to become trapped in a relationship that is only open and positive on one side. Either you talk to your partner and ask them to commit, continue with this unhappy situation or walk away.
Are open relationships right for you?
The best approach to any relationship will always depend on the personal feelings and situation. There is no golden rule for all couples. For example, if you are friends with someone that you have trusted for years, and you are both keen to try out an open relationship, it might work.
If you have that honesty and prior relationship then you might have a strong foundation where you get to have fun and experiment. If you are already in a committed, monogamous relationship then it might be a different story.
Some couples will try and fix a failing relationship by allowing partners to find what they are missing elsewhere.
This can be great for those that lack sexual fulfilment or that need a break from their routine.
But, it can be heartbreaking for those that now have to watch other people break down the protective walls around the relationship.
Consider your options carefully
If you are curious about the concept of an open relationship, take your time to really think about the pros and cons.
If you have someone where everything is casual and you both just want to have a bit more fun, it might work for a while. It all depends on what you both want out of the relationship.
If you are both convinced that committed relationships aren’t for you, and you have the emotional strength to see your partner with other people, give it a shot. Just prepare yourself for the moments when it stops being fun and you need to move on.