Do Open Relationships Work?

English: A symbol for radical relationships. T...

I’ve been asked about open relationships often as of late.  It got me thinking about it.  I’m currently in a monogamous relationship.  I have been in open relationships in the past.  An open relationship can work with the right people.  Honesty, security & heaps of communication must be involved.  I’m certainly far from an expert or experienced in this.  Officially, I’ve only been in one relationship that was labelled as an open relationship. Those of you who are please comment & add to the discussion. Certainly, there have been times when single that I chose to date more than one person non exclusively.  I was honest about the fact that there was more than one person I was dating at the time.  Some people were fine with it, others were not.  The one’s who were not chose not to date me.  All is fair in love & dating.

The Purple Mobius symbol for Polyamory, non-mo...

Some people cannot see the point of an open relationship, especially when the relationship is a marriage.  It certainly is not the best case relationship scenario for everyone.  However, there is a type of openness that open relationships have in their DNA that I think monogamous relationships could benefit from.  For example, I often hear people say how “disrespectful” they think it is for their committed partner to even look at someone as if they find them attractive in their presence.  I’m always baffled by the thought that being in a committed relationship renders the rest of the world unattractive.  I cannot for the life of me figure out how my partner acknowledging the beauty or sexiness of another human being disrespects me in any way.  Insecurity is the only explanation I can come up with.  I in no way feel less than if my partner notices someone else.  As a matter of fact, I may be first in pointing someone out: “Did you see THAT?”

Being secure is a necessary ingredient to being part of a healthy open relationship.  This type of relationship is not for anyone jealous or possessive in nature.  There will be times where jealousy is going to arise.  However, these times present moments for growth.  Instead of it popping off into an argument,  one can examine what these feelings are really about individually.  Is there enough love, trust & understanding between you & your primary partner to over ride these feelings?  Is there enough love for yourself to know that anyone that would choose NOT to be with you really would be losing out?  There is much lip service given to the saying “their loss”.  How many really, truly believe it of themselves?

English: A new and emerging symbol for Polyamo...

Marriage has a 50/50 chance of success these days.  There are numerous factors that play into this.  Honesty is one ingredient, it seems, that gets watered down before marriage.  People present a less than truthful picture of themselves to their potential life partners.  I hear story after story of how partners are before marriage & what they transition into afterwards.  The thing about open relationships is that in best case scenarios, there is no pretense.  The need to “perform” in order to keep a partner is removed.  One can say, do act in an honest way without fear of being punished or deserted.  How much success is going to be had in relationships where partners think, “OH, I could never talk to my partner about xyz!” ?

English: A schematic showing the monogamy rela... Which leads me into communication.  How successful is any relationship going to be if the two involved cannot have uncensored, open, honest communication devoid of the fear of being instantly flamed?  The thing I really enjoyed about being in an open relationship was knowing that my partner didn’t have anything to hide from me & vice-versa.  We talked about how the parameters of our “open relationship” were defined.  Each situation is going to differ based on the individuals involved.  We both agreed on what was acceptable and what was not.  Neither of us felt like there was anything to tip toe around.  We could talk to each other about anything & hope to at least be heard first even when there was disagreement.


I’m not saying that this type of relationship equals instant bliss.  Security, honesty & communication are important for any relationship.  Nothing is perfect.  Human happens.  Some people agree to open relationships not because they want to.  There are other people who agree to an open relationship because they don’t believe they can find a committed relationship.  That makes me feel sad for them.  Anything done with a power filled choice, I cheer lead for.  But agreeing to settle out of defeat makes my pom-poms wilt.  It is possible to attract what works for you English: A schematic showing the polygamy rela...individually in a relationship.  It may take some time but it is possible.  I decided that I was just supposed to be single & dating for the rest of my life.  I was open to whatever would present itself.  A committed relationship was not high on my list.  So, of course, that’s when I met my current boyfriend.

In relationships, as in life, sometimes, the power is in the release.  There can be power in the release of what we think  it should be like.  There is power in the release of what we think it should look like.  There is power in releasing rigidity & being open to uncharted possibility.  There is power in the release of taught & auto accepted behavior.  There is power in the release as long as there is a conscious CHOICE made to release it.  I was raised to think of monogamy as the only option for a relationship.  However, as an adult, I was able to explore other relationship options.  No matter what, relationships take work, so they may as well be in a structure that works for both/all of you.

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ESSENCE REVEALED – Essence Revealed is first generation Bajan born & raised in Boston.  She got her BFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and MA at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education.  Her writing has appeared places such as $pread Magazine, Corset Magazine, and 21st Century Burlesque.  She now performs & teaches nationally and internationally both solo and as a member of Brown Girls Burlesque.  Her favorite thing to do besides reading is to lay on the beach in Barbados to rest up for a night of calypso dancing.

14 thoughts on “Do Open Relationships Work?

  1. Herb says:

    Well done . My sentiments exactly. Sometimes the strength of a long monogamous relationship, breeds the security for opening. Some visits occur, but you always end up at home.

  2. Stas' says:

    Thoughtful assessment.

  3. soulof1 says:

    essence what you said is wonderful though still just the beginning of what is a more touchy subject matter. Though you hit on the bigger issues in deciding to open up a relationship, trust, honesty, communication. The toxicity of any of those three poisons the root of any type of open dialogue or open relationship. The one subject that isn’t easily broached is sex, the difficulties faced by the partners in an open relationship when one feels left out of the equation or feels any way reduced in an open relationship, is often hard to talk about or cope with, most especially when one or all of the major three have been hindered. In any case I loved what I read and await reading more when you post.


    • Agreed soulof1 this is like a flake of a layer that could be discussed in open relationships especially because I’ve not been in them much. I do believe that with these three elements as a foundation many challenges can be addressed.

      Navigating sex in an open relationship alone could fill a chapter in a book, I would imagine. Is anyone allowed to be dated? Or, for example, is the primary couple only allowed to date other women? How is safe sex navigated? Does sex happen separately, only together as a group, etc.?

      How is it insured that all involved are getting their needs met could be another chapter, probably. Have you ever been in this situation? If so what advice would you give to people curious about it?

      • soulof1 says:


        No in response to have i been in this situation, but I’m slowly entering into the conversation of it with my wife. She is and has always been bi. It wasn’t till after we were married and facing serious confusion as to what our relationship was going through that she decided she wanted to open up our marriage so that she could take on a lover or possibly a girlfriend. My initial frustration began because we had lost trust, and honesty in our marriage, in our relationship as a whole. Communication outside of our children began to feel forced and often led to arguments. Now fully separated but not sure whether to continue, she sent me this blog, and I was thankful for the read, but I was still left with the same confusion. While she wants to open up our marriage, she also doesn’t want to have sex with me. So, I asked the question: what is the point of adding a third to a relationship (marriage), that has no foundation, or a stable platform to begin with. We both don’t want lose what we have but we’re not sure how to begin to rebuild or repair. For her she sees us not having sex as ok and that our marriage can survive without it. As for me, I don’t see how we can remain married if I give her the freedom to have a girlfriend or have a lover and I can’t sleep with her, as we are the primary couple in this dynamic. And, as such our needs have to be met first, for I guess balance. I wish there was space to really get into the entire issue here but unfortunately there isn’t, though you know my wife more than I do, lol.

      • WOW. Yes, you are going through something that is well beyond this forum. It seems like you both want to work it out. Talk to a therapist could help with that. I & anyone else you speak with would be potentially biased. I’m sorry you two are having a tough time. I find it interesting that your wife sent you my blog. I truly believe this type of relationship is only possible & healthy if ALL PARTIES WILLINGLY CONSENT. Reference my wilting pom pom line. If there are going to be 2 people signing a contract, 2 signatures have to be on the signature line. One person cannot decide both parties agree to said contract, in my opinion.

        Your situation brings up the potential difficulty in open relationships ie… One person is not getting their needs met. This feels unfair to me. Relationships when working should be mutually beneficial I think.

  4. CL says:

    Nice article I respect your opinion I’m not personally a fan of open relationships because its not a relationship ? Why not just call it what it is … Friends with benefits ?? Or a mutual understanding that involves SEX … Mike Basiden , Mo’nique and some others have taken a lot of heat regarding this topic , However if it works then go for it maybe this is what more marriages need ??

    • Thanks for your thoughts. An open relationship is a relationship. It’s just not one that is “traditional”. It certainly isn’t one that we are taught about growing up to be a viable model for a relationship. It goes beyond simply friends with benefits.

      In my limited experience with it, it formed a bond that was deep because I was able to just completely be. It went beyond sex. Certainly, because attraction to others was on the table for honest discussion, other subjects were more easily discussed as well. That was a pro for open relationships. If one of the parties involved thought of it as just friends with benefits, I would imagine that to be a potential con unless both primary parties were on the same track.

      I guess that leads to another question: How does one define romantic/intimate relationship? Again, the answer to this is going to vary depending on the individual answering.

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