Couples in open relationships are assumed to be emotionally unstable or "mixed up." A study suggests we relook at our beliefs. Afterall, about 8 million polyamorous folks exist.
The popular belief is that people in open relationships are not making healthy choices and are not aware of what they "truly" want. While a small population romanticizes open relationships without considering the integrity and emotional maturity it requires, most who believe monogamy is the answer look down upon the idea of open relationships.
Well, recent studies that focus on alternative relationships suggests that these beliefs could well be myths based on assumptions and the need to judge.
A new study published by the University of Guelph concludes that "older adults in open relationships reported being happier, healthier, and more sexually active than the general population of similar age and relationship status."
The key here is "healthier." By this, there could be many possibilities of their lives being better: they are taking better care of themselves, eating healthier, making lifestyle choices that are nurturing, and mentally healthy and more immune depression, anxiety, etc. While the study doesn't go specifically into what they mean by healthy, it reports that they were doing better than what we previously believed them to be.
The study also says that this group is not as emotionally "messed up" as the general beliefs are. Instead, they are just as happy and satisfied (emotionally and sexually) as are their monogamous counterparts.
Lead researcher and author Jessica Wood posed questions about how well the individuals in the study group managed themselves in their relation. Some of the questions included "how often they've considered breaking up, whether they confided in their partner and how happy they felt." She explains in the press release of the study:
“We found people in consensual, non-monogamous relationships experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships. This debunks societal views of monogamy as being the ideal relationship structure.”
An open relationship involves a consensual, non-monogamous relationship, where the partners agree to be involved with more than one partner sexually or romantically.
Now before you assume this is a relatively insignificant number, it is estimated that more than half a million openly polyamorous families reside in the U.S. In 2010, an estimated eight million couples were involved in some form of nonmonogamy. Open relationships seem to work well even amidst married couples.
So why is on the rise? Jessica's views offer some insight.
“It’s more common than most people think. We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support. Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensual non-monogamous relationships.”
However, this doesn't stop monogamous people from judging those in polyamorous relationships.
“They are perceived as immoral and less satisfying. It’s assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time. They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that’s not the case.”
Considering the shifting dynamics in relationships and the millennials moving away from the idea of marriage (40% believe marriage is getting obsolete), perhaps, it's time to have a more objective understanding of alternative relationships without the hinges of morality.
So what are the rules that people in open relationships follow? Experts suggest the following tips, which seem to be the norm in the polyamorous community.
Understand the different kinds that exist under the umbrella term of open relationships. Check which style is likely to be more in tune with who you are.
It is important to understand your needs, wants, boundaries, and be completely grounded in your truth before you agree to involve yourself with multiple partners. When you don't, you are likely to find yourself in tricky situations of jealousy, comparison, self-doubt, and angry fights.
Ensure that everyone knows what is it you are in for. Being honest about your feelings and expectations sets up a safe space for all parties to know what the rules are.
This is not a quick fix. It cannot magically save you from all the relationship troubles that you faced with your exclusive partner.
Who can be partners of your partners: Who are the people you will not want your partners to be involved with? Common friends? People at your workplace? Anyone, you might know?
Have a consent list for yourself, when it comes to sex: What acts are you okay with, are a definite no, and are willing to explore at some point. Knowing this will make things less awkward and definitely puts you at lesser risk of being off guard or feeling violated.
Well, at least your best friends. This way, they won't call you in panic ready to attack your partner when they spot them with someone else.
A lot of people in open relationships will tell you that it isn't all about sex or going on endless dates with multiple people. But you will need to be a lot more organized to ensure your personal life outside your relationship stays intact, as well. Get a planner or calendar and chalk in dates, dinners, even sleepovers.
While you might have a primary partner with whom you want to stay committed for life, the person who you should constantly be in sync with is yourself. Learn to say NO when you need to and keep a check on all the emotional residue that might be lingering within relating with multiple people. You are free to take a break from one or from all of them.