Can You Handle An Open Relationship?

By Ruth Purple

Open relationships are otherwise known as polygamous or polyamorous relationships. It is defined as a situation wherein couples go into mutual agreement to date and engage in sexual activity with other people although they still continue being in a relationship with each other. In the past, those who blatantly disregarded the definition of monogamy were called swingers.

Nowadays, however, a lot of rules in relationships have evolved, and the number of people in open relationships has increased dramatically. Although it has been something that was frowned upon back in the days, the social embarrassment that used to go along with being engaged in polyamory has seen a significant drop, not only among singles but among those involved in a committed relationship, even marriage.

It might seem like a novel idea but it actually has been around for quite some time already. While some people don’t see a problem with this kind of arrangement, polygamy and open relationships can still throw up some prickly issues and is no doubt never for the fainthearted. Can an open relationship survive in the long run, and what are its benefits and downsides? One of the premises of the concept of an open relationship is that it can enhance a couple’s trust, role flexibility, personal freedom and growth, and most especially introduce the idea of love and sex without the jealousy.

Some couples who are involved in it even maintain that it can in fact spice up an otherwise monotonous and lacklustre marriage. As much as it can do wonders to a marriage, it still can’t be denied that being involved in this kind of partnership has also its own share of threats, especially when it comes to health concerns.

Having multiple sexual partners can significantly increase the likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection. It is a common notion that gays and lesbians are particularly prone to these problems, but the prevalence of polygamy has radically increased even among heterosexual individuals. Also, there is always the possibility of getting pregnant, because sex is alive and kicking, just as it is even in the conventional, monogamous type of relationship.

Another major issue in an open relationship may be abandonment. There is always the concern that some people might steal or take one’s partner away if one permits other people to have sexual contact with him/her. likewise is the element of competition, because the partner may get a far better end of the bargain just because he/she is more gregarious and attractive, going out every night with a new date while you’re stuck at home, watching reruns of Friends just because you are the less attractive one.

Open relationships ultimately require an enormous level of honesty and maturity just like that of a monogamous couple, although the amount of communication needed to overcome problems are far greater and can be more draining. The topic of polygamy is a hot one nowadays, although it is definitely unresolved and debatable.

It may work for some people while others may find it hard to get past its sexual implications. Ultimately, monogamy or polygamy, every relationship has its own set of innate difficulties. Challenges are always part of the package, and it’s mostly up to the couple and the level of commitment they share in making things work.

The author of this article, Ruth Purple, is a successful Relationship Coach who has been helping and coaching individuals and couples for many years. You can read more work from her at

5 replies
  1. Oju
    Oju says:

    For the sake of clarity, the word “polygamy” is of a latin or greek origin and literally means plural (poly) marriage (gamy). It is an acceptable form or marriage in most indigenous communities in the world. As well as within some communities right here in the US. Opinions aside, there is no sex taking place outside of “the marriage” in a polygamous union among moral people who uphold their commitments. And like any marriage, its about more than just sex.

  2. JeiLThom
    JeiLThom says:

    I won't "knock" open relationships, but I will say that it requires both partners to be involved. If one wants to be "open" & the other doesn't, then the core relationship must be re-evaluated. And going into an "open relationship" should be done to enhance an existing strong bond, not to re-ignite an unstable relationship…it'll just magnify to negative issues and increase insecurities. I've seen successful open relationships b/t partners that are both committed to each other and both talk openly about everything about themselves. Being "open" is something for both of them, just for only one of them.

    Partners in open relationships understand that the sex is a physical aspect they can share with others but are emotionally committed to each other only. They're in love with each other, not with other people they may have sex with.

    • JeiLThom
      JeiLThom says:

      Being "open" is something for both of them, just NOT for only one of them.

  3. Rita
    Rita says:

    April, I agree with you. When you "become as one", no outsiders should be brought into that bond.

  4. April
    April says:

    It's a disaster waiting to happen

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