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Open relationships – can they work?

13 March 2014 6 comments

Over the last few days there's been a lot of media interest in Anna and Lucy DeCinque, 28 year old Perth twin sisters, who not only share the same bed but also share the same boyfriend. The three of them have sex together. It's an open relationship that they claim is working. Why can open relationships work for some couples and not others?

Open RelationshipsOpen Relationships

Yesterday whilst driving to work and listening to 92.9 on the radio the host asked callers to call in with tales of their experiences with multiple sexual partners. I have to say I was a bit shocked when a seemingly young lady named Tracey called in and told us she used to have sexual relationships with eight different men and one woman, simultaneously. They all knew about each other however it ended when she married one of the men. He apparently had the "best heart". Tracey was happy to report the open relationships she enjoyed with nine different partners worked well for her. It would be interesting to hear from the nine others if they thought the openness worked for them too.

By definition, open relationships are a form of non-monogamous relationships that usually come with some boundaries for all parties involved. They're not always limited to couples as in the case of 92.9 listener Tracey (although you might argue she was the common thread in nine couples). Open relationships mean there is an agreement whereby romantic or sexual relationships with others is accepted, sanctioned or condoned. Often the term polyamory is interposed for the similar term open relationships, however, there is a technical and distinct difference between the two terms.

Why do people have or want an open relationship? I've always thought it was because they were in a relationship that has gone stale or where the sex has become monotonous, boring and unexciting however it appears there are many other reasons including:

  • Partners having different levels of libido. Age or testosterone disparities can often play a role in this.
  • Difference in sexual fantasies, or unwillingness of a partner to fulfill them.
  • Timing! Often after a long term relationship or marriage some aren't ready to jump into a monogamous relationship.
  • Distance can be a problem with some relationships. Here in Western Australia some FIFO workers are in open relationships as they, or their partner, find the tyranny of distance too difficult to sustain a monogamous relationship.
  • New relationships, especially sexual, bring new levels of excitement, adventure, passion, and energy. These emotions can often be powerful, addictive, intoxicating and invigorating.
  • Religious and cultural beliefs that allow for open relationships (I'm thinking numerous wives).
  • Insecurities! If someone has been cheated on before, or has possibly been in a destructive relationship, I can see why they'd be afraid and hesitant to commit to one partner. Relationships aren't always focused on sexual fulfillment but often they're considered in order to satisfy emotional needs that another partner can't or won't satisfy.

Couples shouldn't consider an open relationship if their primary relationship isn't strong or if cracks are appearing in it. Romantic or intimate relationships with others certainly can't fix a broken relationship.

I haven't included swinging, threesomes or moresomes in defining the term open relationships although they're often referred to as forms of open relationships. I however believe there's an argument to say they're slightly different as swingers generally play together with their partner (although some couples aren't present, but might be in another bedroom for instance, in some swinging situations). Normally open relationships refer to partners agreeing to venture outside the bounds of having sex in front of each other. Swingers meet solely for sexual gratification whereas in an open relationship couples often behave the same as ‘normal couples' would ie. have meals together, go shopping, have sleepovers etc.

Many people, particularly men, would assert that we're not built for, nor are we capable of, being monogamous for long periods of time. This however doesn't mean that we're wired to be in open relationships with numerous partners. Open relationships require mutual honesty, maturity, respect and a lack of jealousy. They also require constant communication between all concerned to ensure everyone involved is content.

So how do you ask your partner if they're interested in an open relationship? What if they say no? Will that then plant the seed of you possibly cheating? Once the ‘cats out of the bag' is it hard to turn back? I don't really know the answer to these questions however my view is that a couple must start with an honest and frank discussion regarding what they want. Remember you're seeking permission not forgiveness. There's no grey area when defining what cheating is. Cheating is deceptive and employs no honesty. Open relationships require mutual agreement!

I personally don't think I could tolerate an open relationship however I know some people can. Jealousy is a factor that would stop most people considering an open relationship. As I mentioned earlier swinging is usually done in the same room and there are rules and boundaries. Open relationships are usually behind different closed doors but also with rules and boundaries. It's obviously hard to police or enforce certain rules and boundaries if there is no honesty. And I think it's just the thought of not knowing what your partner is doing with someone else that renders the prospect of open relationships difficult for most people to fathom.

So what rules or boundaries would apply to open relationships? In some instances they might be the same as those that apply to swinging but there are others that also apply. There are many potential questions that need to be discussed, and the answers agreed, before anyone should contemplate any form of open relationship. How often is it acceptable to meet with other 'partners', should you bring them to the family home, should you go out for dinner with them at highly visible restaurants, should you see them on weekends, do you conduct relationships with others in a clandestine fashion, do you have protected sex with them, what happens if a pregnancy arises, how emotionally connected are you planning to become with them, will you spend money on them and if so how much? I'm sure there are many more questions that need to be considered. In fact when couples start thinking it through and discussing it they may come to the conclusion that's it's either too hard or too risky to action. At the end of the day the preservation of your primary relationship should be paramount.

I've recently discussed the topic with a number of guys I know and most of them turned out to be hypocrites. They were all for open relationships where they were given the green light to see other women but they weren't prepared to allow their partners to have any form of relationship with other men. Unfortunately they didn't get it!

Founding adultshop.com in 1995 and co-owning The Court Hotel (gay and lesbian) for over eight years has helped me to be non-judgmental when it comes to people's sexual attitudes and preferences. What adults do in the privacy of their own home is their right and providing they're not hurting anyone, physically or emotionally, I'm totally at ease with what they do sexually or the types of relationships they want to engage in. I have friends in open relationships and it works for them. I salute those who challenge societal standards and in fact create their own. The reality is they don't need anyone's acceptance of what they want to do other than their partners.

Can open relationships works? Yes I know they can for some who are honest with themselves and their partner in what they want and their expectations.

As usual I need to say that I'm not an expert on the topic of open relationships however I hope I've given you some food for thought. I'd love to hear your views on whether or not you think they can work.

Delivering passion and pleasure.

Mal

sheridanb 13 March 2014 at 3:18 pm
Remember seeing a French film on SBS recently called "Happy Few" which followed the story of two couples who entered into an open relationship with each other. Not an overly happy film but probably worth watching for anyone thinking about heading down that path.
Jerry 13 March 2014 at 5:29 pm
Homo Sapiens appeared around 150,000 years ago and for all but the last 150yrs, there was no individual choice of marital partner, arrangement being essential for maintaining peaceful coexistence with neighbouring villages or tribes and thereby conferring a survival advantage. Men dominated women throughout much of the World and protected them as if they were a possession. Women were prohibited from seeking extramarital relationships, whilst the more powerful the man, the more sanction such extra relationships were deemed.The last 150yrs has seen massive societal change and the more progressive a nation has been, the more the spotlight has fallen on the need for gender equality, both in and out of the bedroom. With rates of cheating approaching parity between the sexes, open relationships have become at least theoretically attractive to many.Unfortunately, human nature isn't that easily overcome! Double standards persist and the majority of men do not want their women sleeping with any other males. Jealousy stems from the fear of being replaced by a man judged as superior by your woman - a primal fear with such profound implications for self-esteem.Open relationships are a very common subject of both male and female sexual fantasy but like many others, fulfilling them in real life is just a tad more challenging. All the issues mentioned above are real but the dangerous potential outcome is barely mentioned.......the destruction of working (at least some) relationships whilst pursuing an excitement that is most unlikely to be sustained if made permanent and exclusive. One can easily be fooled by the bright and shimmery, only to drown in the shallowest of ponds. Think hard before you try and communicate!!
knkitime 16 March 2014 at 3:01 pm
There are many reasons for an open relationship.Ranging from not getting what they need from the partner sexually, That they have a high libido and require more sexual attention,That they are best friends and love each other but they have kids, too much on and need certain physical needs met.However there are the other types.Those that shouldn't be together in a relationship at ll but do not feel right cheating so call it an open relationship, if you don't want to be with your partner - regardless of the circumstances then leave. They are only causing each other prolonged anguish and stopping themselves from finding someone they may actually want to be with.That one partner becomes emotionally involved with another - this is an affair not open relationship.When one uses the "open relationship" to emotionally and mental hurt their partner, either out of hatred, narcissism, control of dominating behaviour or even learnt life patterns from previous relationships or as early as our parents.Make sure the reasons are discussed before entering into such a agreement; I am a big believer in setting out guidelines and boundaries before hand - and even getting a counsellor on board to discuss the rationale before proceeding into an "open relationship". You may find that what you are really seeking is to find a emotional, mental and physical attachment with another but afraid to move on or be alone until you find it - but therein lies the problem - you are never really giving yourself time to work through the issues of why it didn't work - before starting a new relationship.So the pattern continues in every relationship there after and you will never be satisfied because the reason or what you are looking for are unclear and for the sake on not wanting to 'be alone". I believe that with the increase of younger men and women in what is classified as our "throw away society" do not take the time to really get to know the person they enter the relationship with, "there hot", "they drive a Beemer"....Working with younger men and women (30 and under) that they were given so much and looked after so much growing up because there parents may not have, that if they do not get what they want - it doesn't matter they move on. Also a lot of these generation may have come from broken and - new mingled families, even several times over, showing them that as a joke i heard a bride say "If the wedding isn't fancy enough, i'll just do it bigger and better at my next one!"...An open relationship is a decision a couple must discuss and come to the conclusion together, and know the reasons for this. I have heard a woman say "if i didn't say yes i would have lost him or he would have cheated on me as i love him". So she hasn't agreed to it, she has no other choice.As Malcolm stated a lot of men see it as "WOW an open pass!!!" unless your are smooth, hot, rich or charming, most of the time you really aren't going to get as lucky as you think... But for women it is easy to get sex, pretty much anywhere , anytime, even if you your in your sweats and baggy clothes...it's a simple online, phonecall, trip to a bar and saying to a single (or not)man, 'Want to go home a F**k, no strings just fun?"..Men can you handle the fact that your partner can and will get more playtime than you? How will you feel if you wanted the open relationship and discussed it with our partner and after mutual agreement decided to do it and she is out having sexytime and your left at home woefully desperately wanting for a response from any girl. Sometimes the grass is not nearly as green on the other side.If you want out of the relationship - but using the test the waters before you leave the security of the relationship - just do your partner a favour and be honest. The hurt will be less, it will not drag on forever and all parties (especially if kids are involved) will be happier if it consensual and amicable and most importantly - giving each other time to find themselves again and who they are (hopefully) before jumping into another relationship..Its called being an adult!!!!Sometimes we all forget that after 18 thats what we are suppose to be ADULTS, learning from our mistakes, growing, expanding, becoming an individual with moral, values, standards and own ideals and goals. Sometimes it feels easier to stand still at a certain age, have fun, enjoy every moment, break hearts, don't learn how to please a partner - why your pleasure is all your in it for. Only to wake up one day - older, sleazier, really bad lover - because you didn't care or take the time to really become that "Sexual Master" you claim to be. And find it hard to find anyone because your life patterns revert you backwards, never learning..We have all seen that lonely man/woman at the end of the bar "the regular", the cocky drunk one. they were once something...Now they are alone.Be honestTake your time love is not a raceDon't make promises (marriage) if you never intend to keep themCommunicate with each other openlyTouch each other gentle and tenderly every morning (morning breath or not) - not sexual just tender.If you both agree that you really love each other and want to stay together - but sexually you just don't fit - and you are BOTH doing for the right reasons then and open relationship is for you.
knkitime 16 March 2014 at 3:09 pm
There are many reasons for an open relationship.Ranging from not getting what they need from the partner sexually,That they have a high libido and require more sexual attention,That they are best friends and love each other but they have kids, too much onand need certain physical needs met.However there are the othertypes.Those that shouldn't be together in a relationship at ll but do not feel rightcheating so call it an open relationship, if you don't want to be with yourpartner - regardless of the circumstances then leave. They are only causingeach other prolonged anguish and stopping themselves from finding someone theymay actually want to be with.That one partner becomes emotionally involved with another - this is an affairnot open relationship.When one uses the "open relationship" to emotionally and mental hurttheir partner, either out of hatred, narcissism, control of dominatingbehaviour or even learnt life patterns from previous relationships or as earlyas our parents.Make sure the reasons arediscussed before entering into such a agreement; I am a big believer in settingout guidelines and boundaries before hand - and even getting a counselor onboard to discuss the rationale before proceeding into an "openrelationship". You may find that what you are really seeking is to find aemotional, mental and physical attachment with another but afraid to move on orbe alone until you find it - but therein lies the problem - you are neverreally giving yourself time to work through the issues of why it didn't work -before starting a new relationship.So the pattern continues inevery relationship their after and you will never be satisfied because thereason or what you are looking for are unclear and for the sake of not wantingto 'be alone". I believe that with the increase of younger men and womenin what is classified as our "throw-away society" do not take thetime to really get to know the person they enter the relationship with,"there hot", "they drive a Beemer"....Working with younger men andwomen (30 and under) that they were given so much and looked after so muchgrowing up because their parents may not have, that if they do not get whatthey want - it doesn't matter they move on.Also a lot of these generation may have come from broken and - new mingledfamilies, even several times over, showing them that as a joke i heard a bridesay "If the wedding isn't fancy enough, i'll just do it bigger and betterat my next one!"...An open relationship is adecision a couple must discuss and come to the conclusion together, and knowthe reasons for this. I have heard a woman say "if i didn't say yes iwould have lost him or he would have cheated on me as i love him". So shehasn't agreed to it, she has no other choice.As Malcolm stated a lot of mensee it as "WOW an open pass!!!" unless you're are smooth, hot, richor charming, most of the time you really aren't going to get as lucky as youthink... But for women it is easy to get sex, pretty much anywhere , anytime,even if in your sweats and baggy clothes...it's a simple online, phone call,trip to a bar and saying to a single (or not)man, 'Want to go home a F**k, nostrings just fun?"..Men can you handle the factthat your partner can and will get more playtime than you?How will you feel if you wanted the open relationship and discussed it with ourpartner and after mutual agreement decided to do it and she is out havingsexytime and your left at home woefully desperately wanting for a response fromany girl. Sometimes the grass is not nearly as green on the other side.If you want out of therelationship - but using the test the waters before you leave the security ofthe relationship - just do your partner a favour and be honest. The hurt willbe less, it will not drag on forever and all parties (especially if kids areinvolved) will be happier if it consensual and amicable and most importantly -giving each other time to find themselves again and who they are (hopefully)before jumping into another relationship..It's called being an adult!!!!Sometimes we all forget thatafter 18 that's what we are suppose to be ADULTS, learning from our mistakes,growing, expanding, becoming an individual with moral, values, standards andown ideals and goals. Sometimes it feels easier to stand still at a certainage, have fun, enjoy every moment, break hearts, don't learn how to please apartner - why your pleasure is all your in it for. Only to wake up one day -older, sleazier, really bad lover - because you didn't care or take the time toreally become that "Sexual Master" you claim to be. And find it hard tofind anyone because your life patterns revert you backwards, never learning..We have all seen that lonelyman/woman at the end of the bar "the regular", the cocky drunk one. Theywere once something...Now they are alone.Be honestTake your time love is not a raceDon't make promises (marriage) if you never intend to keep themCommunicate with each other openlyTouch each other gentle and tenderly every morning (morning breath or not) -not sexual just tender.If you both agree that you really love each other and want to stay together -but sexually you just don't fit - and you are BOTH doing for the right reasonsthen and open relationship is for you.
jeniferex 31 March 2014 at 10:33 pm
Hi all, I do not believe in open relationships not just because I am a christian but I wouldn't want to share my husband with other women and he would not want to share me with other men. To me it is considered promiscuity. I met him at http://www.howtofindluv.com
jimjas 9 November 2014 at 2:09 pm
Im in the proces of allowing my wife to have a fb, i work a lot and love sleeping with my wife but she doesnt work and is home most days, 2 week days she is alone between school hours. We have been together for 22 yrs , married 16. Happily marriage and no cracks, she has a very high sex drive and i feel i cant always meet her expectations. The idea of her with someone else can be extremely exci to me , but also sometimes leaves me feeling a little reserved or concerned or even jealous. Do i just need to bite the bullet and let it happen to see what happens, maybe all will be fine and i might be worried for no reason since its al new. I have planted the seed already and she has given 1 bloke head, but they were both very nervous and unsure if they enjoyed it. Now she has a few blokes texting her as sexting with possibility of a fb, we are open about it and i can read msgs that are written.
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