By Nick Anstett and Kayla Kyle
Elm Staff Writers
This week Nick and Kayla are talking about the complications of open relationships. What exactly is an open relationship? How do open relationships work? Nick and Kayla tell all. Next week, our goose and gander will talk about how to manage a relationship during summer break.
Nick says… There’s a moment in the second season of the cult comedy series “Arrested Development” where the ever-awkward psychiatrist Tobias Funke proposes to his wife the possibility of an open relationship to help their ailing marriage. However, even Tobias doubts the prospect prefacing, “This sort of thing never works.”
A friend of mine recently entered into an open relationship and stressed that while there is an understandable stigma against the concept, it doesn’t have to be something bad. “I think a lot of people use the idea of an open relationship as an excuse to cheat or to have sex with other people,” they said. “It becomes a reason to keep having sex with your current partner while [searching around].” In this way many open relationships act almost as the dying throes of a partnership on its last legs. If the need for a new sexual or romantic partnership has become an overwhelming need for one or both members of a relationship, more than “opening up” might be needed to fix things.
However, open relationships do not always have to be a stepping stone to a break up. Open relationships can prove to be as healthy and enjoyable for both parties as any other. In fact, for couples struggling with distance or different sexual libidos, they may even be preferable alternatives. What are the key factors to having a healthy open relationship then? “Consent and communication” my friend said. Rules have to be established early on by both parties about what sort of behavior is allowed and what isn’t. For example, if sex is the primary motivator, keep encounters brief and relatively impersonal and communicate with your partner every step of the way. Establish what sort of behavior is acceptable and how much should be shared with partners between encounters. In other words, make sure both parties understand what is going on. More so than others, open relationships operate on a clear basis of trust, communication, and respect between both partners, but that doesn’t mean that they are inherently impossible.
Kayla says… An open relationship is an interesting breed of relationship because it happens to be a cross between an exclusive relationship and being single. You have a boyfriend/girlfriend, but you also have the option of seeking out other sexual partners. Such a relationship can be a complex one (there are just so many moving parts); however, there are many reasons why some choose to initiate an open relationship.
Perhaps one of you is studying abroad, and while both of you have no desire of breaking up, you decide that this is a good time to test unmarked foreign territory and your significant other just isn’t interested in being celibate for such a long period of time; therefore, you both decide to initiate an open relationship (that way your passport isn’t the only one getting some action). Or maybe you find yourself in a seemingly long-term relationship where you’ve only ever been with this one person; therefore, both of you decide that you want to explore the surroundings to test the strength of your connection to one another before fully committing to a future together. Some may even create an open relationship to keep his/her options open (there are just so many fish in the sea) or as a means of self-discovery. Whatever the reason is it is important to remember that open relationships can be tricky and should not be pursued by those faint of heart. If you do decide to discover this exotic breed of relationship, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. It should not be a one-sided decision. It is important that both you and your significant other agree on an open relationship, otherwise it becomes a little thing known as cheating.
2. Communication is key. In order to avoid hurt feelings, accusations of cheating, and an explosion of pent up emotions, you should sit down with your significant other and inform him/her of your desire to have an open relationship (This also applies when you want to make an open relationship exclusive).
3. Decide on boundaries. While an open relationship is indeed open it may be useful to have boundaries so as not to deteriorate your existing relationship. For example, maybe you decide that siblings are off limits to avoid family tension or jealousy.
4. Always use protection. There’s nothing like an accidental pregnancy in which your boyfriend is not the father to ruin your relationship and/or reputation. Or rather an STD.
An open relationship can be a challenge, but it can also be fun and eye opening. It may help you discover more about yourself, your relationship, and sex in general. Just remember that there is a fine line between having an open relationship and cheating. Open the relationship with your partner and make sure you’re not just doing it to avoid a break up. (No one likes being strung along). As long as you and your partner maintain a steady line of communication and come to an agreement, your open relationship will have room to strut around.