Open relationship yes or no?

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The open relationship seems to be on the rise. We get questions about it and we also see signals in the community. It seems that (thinking about) an open relationship is becoming more and more mainstream. This is part 1 of a diptych on this topic.

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Outdoor ads, podcasts and commercials on TV; the open relationship seems to be in the air. More people seem to be questioning whether monogamy is for them. Divorce has long since ceased to be taboo, but it is not always the solution either.

Two opposing basic needs come into play in an open relationship: the freedom of the individual, and staying connected to another, the primary partner. In a socially engineered society, we apparently seek to reconcile these needs. Opening the relationship can be a solution, but it is certainly not an easy path.

Secure connectedness as a foundation

As couples therapists, we work with the concept of safety within the relationship. When do partners feel safe with each other and when do they not? In a monogamous relationship, this can already be very difficult at times. In an open relationship, the sense of security can be completely compromised. Try feeling safe and connected while your partner is hugely in love with someone else. And you feel sad and have nasty, jealous feelings. It can then be dangerous to make yourself vulnerable, and show your emotions. But if you manage to talk about it well together, about those feelings, and tune in each time to see if it’s okay, then you can achieve a healthy open relationship. But, it does require quite a bit of work.

If the desire for an open relationship exists, the couples therapist can help by visualizing what counts as a safe connection for you. So sometimes that secure connection is already difficult within monogamous relationships. If another partner is added, that could be an obstacle. So how do you get from an insecure setting to a secure connection?

Next, what are the conditions?

This is difficult but not impossible. Above all, it requires a lot of patience from a couple. In Part 2 on this topic, we will discuss how to create that open relationship, and what are the essential conditions for doing so.

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