Open Relationships = Make or Break?
Spreading the seed, sowing the wild oats, playing the field – while there are many different ways to talk about ‘getting it on’, to this day, the open relationship has usually been the elephant in the room because of the threat it creates to traditional relationships.
Discussed only in hushed tones, out of earshot of married couples and hardcore monogamists, it has taken pride of place on the shelf beside swinging and cheating.
But is the idea of agreeing to let your partner be with other people outside your relationship really so strange after all?
Loved up celeb couples such as Will Smith and Jada Pinkett seem to think not. In fact, the Hollywood couple who boast a long and happy marriage attribute the ‘open relationship’ to the key to their success.
But outside Hollywood can the ‘open relationship’ really work?
According to relationship expert Lisa O’ Hara from Relationships Ireland (relationshipsireland.com) this is a tricky situation at best.
“An open relationship brings into question what exclusivity means and what commitment is to each couple.
“If the couple agree that is what they want, they will have negotiate the do’s and don’ts and their limits of what is okay.
“It is then up to each to respect them. It can lessen the intensity that the demands intimacy brings. But it is not something to be entered into lightly.”
So what makes people want an open relationship even when what they have is good?
“Fear of exclusivity may have it roots in fear of intimacy,” explains Lisa.
“To give your all to just one person makes you vulnerable to them; in essence you give them the power not only to receive deep love from them but also to hurt you by letting you down.”
“Long term relationships require adjustment and readjustments if they are to remain intact and happy.”
Oscar winner Mo’Nique is a fan of open relationships and was pretty sure what she wanted when interviewed on the subject.
“Could Sid have sex outside of his marriage with me?” the ‘Precious’ star asked. “Yes. That’s not a deal-breaker. That’s not something that would make us say, ‘Pack your things and let’s end the marriage.’”
Even if it happened more than once, Mo’Nique said she wouldn’t hold it against him. “What if it’s 20 times? So what?” she said. “We’ve been best friends for over 25 years, and we truly know who we are. Oftentimes, people get into marriages and they don’t know who they’re laying next to. I’m very comfortable and secure with my husband.”
Angelina Jolie too, told a magazine that monogamy wasn’t all that important to her. The mother of six added that she and domestic partner Brad Pitt never deny each other their freedom, even if that means being apart.
“Neither Brad nor I have ever claimed that living together means to be chained together,” she said. “We make sure that we never restrict each other.”
But according to Lisa, looking elsewhere might be the kiss of death for a relationship.
“It may seem an easy option to resolve what’s between you but it is wide open to causing anger, anxiety, depression and despair. These are all feelings to do with loss of exclusivity if one person is not okay with the arrangement and may eventually end the relationship,” explains Lisa.
“Sooner or later someone will start forming an outside attachment that will threaten the marriage, or one partner will tire of hearing of the other’s experiences.
“If you have a fulfilling relationship generally speaking, most people probably wouldn’t look outside it to have their needs met,” she adds.
But what if a person wants a secure relationship with someone who doesn’t meet all of their needs?
“Most of us will have some needs that our partner cannot meet sometimes, whether it is companionship, understanding, sex, as well as pastimes and again it depends on what the couple agree between them is okay.
“It might be accepted that you wouldn’t have sex with someone outside your relationship but it’s perfectly okay to indulge in hobbies and interests with friends/colleagues/family,” she adds.
“Modern society recognises the monogamous couple primarily but there are many couples having relationships with other people such as affairs, that are known to both parties in the couple and are accepted.
“Perhaps they feel if they object that it’ll mean the end of the relationship or that the other relationships or affairs meet a need that the main relationship cannot.”
Lisa also has key advice for anyone considering the option of an open relationship.
“If you are planning to embark on an open relationship you should ask what is missing in this relationship and see if you can bridge the gap first. Explore your own conscience and how you would feel about sharing your partner with someone else. “What do you imagine are the risks? Can you live with it? If you are not happy with them doing this, then you really have to look at what the relationship is giving to you that would make you want to stay and if it what you really want. If not, will you have the courage to leave?”
Relationships Ireland is one of Ireland’s leading counselling agencies providing services to those with problems in their personal relationships. For more information call 1890 380 380 or see www.relationshipsireland.com
Top 10 tips for staying a happy couple
1. Never sleep on an argument. Resolve your arguments before you turn out the light at night and things will usually look better in the morning.
2. Communicate and don’t bury your frustrations. Talk and listen openly to each other.
3. Don’t let anyone else come between you and your spouse.
4. Share financial responsibility.
5. Divide household and parenting responsibilities.
6. Edit yourself. Avoid saying every critical thought when discussing touchy topics or arguing.
7. Be affectionate. Stay connected to each other by a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back, or just a kind word.
8. Don’t let an argument get out of control. Back down, use humour, a caring remark. If tempers flare, take a 20 minute break and return to the topic when you’re calm.
9. Prioritise each other. Take time out for some conversation, a walk or a quiet dinner.
10. If you think your marriage is in trouble, get help early.