Open relationships have unique structures, advantages, and dynamics—and they also have a different set of challenges. Since our cultural acceptance of open relationships is just beginning, some signs of an unhealthy open relationship aren’t well known. If you’re involved in non-monogamy or thinking about giving polyamory a try, read the signs below so that you know what to watch out for and how to prevent some common downfalls.
Discomfort About Your Arrangement
When you first opened your relationship, you likely spent much time discussing your boundaries. If you didn’t, you need to do that as soon as possible. You and your partner(s) probably made a list of behaviors you were okay with and other activities that made you feel uncomfortable.
Sometimes, people want to seem easy-going, confident, and trusting, so they omit things that concern them. Other times, what someone was okay with in the beginning may have changed. Maybe some circumstances have arisen that couldn’t have been foreseen. Lastly, some people were pressured by their partner(s) to allow behaviors that made them feel jealous or insecure. In any of these cases, it’s okay to change your mind and back out of the agreement, but it’s important to tell your partner(s) immediately. The longer you wait, the more resentment will brew.
Telling them that you are no longer okay with your original agreement can be intimidating. You might worry that they will make you feel like a scold or a killjoy. But, if you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner(s) will want to hear about your experience and make every effort to help you feel secure, cared for, and prioritized.
Privacy Has Disappeared
Most open relationships have consistent communication about their partners, sexual activity, and more. This can help mitigate jealousy and keep you on the same page. But in some open relationships, the expectation is that every detail must be reported to your partner. Unfortunately, a lack of privacy can do damage even in open relationships, and all partners must be permitted space to breathe.
It Feels One-Sided
If you’re in an open relationship because you want your partner to have new experiences but you aren’t interested in exploring, that’s okay. However, sometimes partners get roped into open relationships, and, after time, they feel used. If your partner spends their time dating and never has time to help with household chores or child-rearing, you’re at risk of having your relationship ending. Open relationships especially should monitor how much each partner is contributing. And even if one partner isn’t interested in dating outside the relationship, they should have time for themselves.
Further, some open relationships have a very outdated structure, like polygamy. If one partner has endless freedom and the other is expected to remain sexually faithful, that’s clearly unfair. If one partner is asexual and has no desire to seek out other partners, that’s different. However, clear communication is essential to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that both parties are equally interested in and comfortable with the open arrangement.
For more info, watch my video for an introduction to non-monogamy.
Tips for Having a Healthy, Long-Term Open Relationship
Navigating an open relationship is tricky and having a therapist who understands the legitimacy of open relationships is crucial. Contact me for a free consultation today.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to take the sex quiz for women.