Relationships come in many forms, from platonic friendships to monogamous, romantic unions that can last a lifetime. When two decide to unify and live out their life paths together, it can be a bit of a struggle to know what works and what doesn’t as it pertains to the dynamic. But the beauty of it is that each couple can make up their own rules for how to maintain a relationship according to their own preferences.
One dynamic that’s often looked upon as taboo—yet has been experimented with for centuries—is the “open relationship.” And though sharing partners isn’t the first thing the average person thinks about as a way to improve his/her union, this dynamic actually has its benefits. The late Ruby Dee and her longtime husband Ossie Davis spoke openly about how they once experimented with an open marriage, and admitted it helped to strengthen their love and appreciation for one another.
Being in an open relationship doesn’t mean a free-for-all experience with no rules or regulations. Rules must be set into place in order for the union to work. But once they’re all set up, there are quite a few benefits, contrary to popular belief.
Removes the Fear of Infidelity
Infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorce and breakups for couples around the world, and cheating happens for many reasons. Whenever one or both partners begin to feel the relationship has taken a turn for the less pleasurable, ideas about finding what one wants outside of the relationship begin to creep in. Lack of satisfying sex, absence of intimacy/romance, breakdowns in communication, and a shortage of affection can all lead to a person desiring to look elsewhere for what he/she needs.
Having an open relationship—where either partner is allowed to have extramarital affairs or partners on the side (for those who aren’t married)—takes the possibility of infidelity out of the picture. No longer are you going behind the other’s back for fulfillment the way you need it. The deceit is the harshest part of infidelity, but being in an open relationship with someone and knowingly having a partner on the side eliminates the deception and the possibility of infidelity all together.
Once the fear of getting caught is removed, there are other insecurities that must be faced—one of them being jealousy of that other person within this unconventional dynamic. But jealousy is just one of those emotions that needs to take a back seat in order for an open relationship to work.
Removes Jealousy from a Relationship
Jealousy is a huge contributor to the breakdown in many marriages and relationships. For many, seeing the love of their lives being cared for and adored in the same way (if not even better) than the way s/he treats them is like a dagger to the heart. Jealousy cannot exist within an open relationship, so couples must learn how to push envy to the side in order for it to work.
For some, this may seem improbable. But anything is possible with hard work and persistence. Juju Mama, celebrity love coach and avid supporter of “progressive love” (her wording for living polyamorously) consistently speaks about how jealousy has no place within an open relationship, and often talks about how difficult things were in the beginning for her and her husband.
But the key thing is, they overcame that strong hold of jealousy and now live out their lives happily and fully in the progressive love. Juju Mama also speaks about how banishing jealousy from their relationship has helped both of them create a bond that’s now stronger than ever. Removing jealousy may be difficult, but it can help create a stronger connection between partners and helps eliminate extra stress.
Even though open relationships mean sharing a life with multiple people in an intimate way, there are still necessary rules for regulating activity that will have to be upheld by each individual. Once these rules are set, it’s up to each person to follow the guidelines. And it’s the responsibility of both to trust that the rules are being followed according to the relationship contract.
Being in an open relationship forces each person to exercise trust; in turn, trust helps with building a bond that can become unbreakable. It’s one of the key components to a successful relationship. And by being aware of the extra activity outside of that relationship, and trusting your partner enough to know that s/he is adhering to the boundaries set in place, couples test that trust daily. Everything takes practice in order to perfect, and an open relationship forces couples to practice and strengthen this trait daily.
Creates a level of healthy competition
It can be easy for people to take what they have for granted, especially when they believe nobody else wants what s/he has. But when someone else comes around who expresses interest, it puts a person in a mode of competition to vie for the love of his/her life. Being in an open relationship is a direct reminder that there are others out there in the world who would enjoy your partner as much as you do, and vice versa, making one aware that anything can happen at any time.
We all have the desire to compete naturally, and when one believes another is outshining him/her in the department of love, it forces one to step up their sex game and relationship skills all together. Being in direct competition with someone knowingly places one’s skills under scrutiny in comparison to another, and no main piece wants to play second fiddle to a side dish. Being in an open relationship will always keep the main partner on his/her toes in ensuring that s/he provides the best experience for his/her partner to maintain longevity and happiness within the union.
Encourages creativity in the bedroom
Being in an open relationship allows other individuals into the bedroom who have different sexual experiences and preferences. Kinky sex may not be something you’re into. But if a side partner is into this type of thing and the connection between you two is strong, chances are the less experienced partner will be open to experiencing what the side partner has to teach. The things you learn can then be brought back into the bedroom when you get together with your main partner—creating a springboard for conversation for greater sexual experiences between you two.
Most people seek sparks of creativity from watching videos, reading books, or taking classes. But interacting with someone else who can lend a hand as a direct teacher, who’s also attractive and comfortable to be around, is the best learning experience. Once the main partner knows that his/her partner is having these great experiences with his/her side partner, s/he’ll want to have those same experiences in order to keep up and not be left in the dust. Creativity in the bedroom keeps things spicy and interesting, leading to more fulfilled sex lives and relationships overall.
Needless to say, open relationships may not be for everyone. In fact, less than five percent of the entire U.S. population admits to going polyamorous (even less than that within the African-American community. Committing to an open relationship doesn’t mean living in the lifestyle for an eternity. Think of it as experimenting with openness for a moment in time that can lead to a lifetime of deeper understanding about how relationships work.
If there’s no other example to look to for how open relationships can strengthen relationships, use Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Everyone’s experience will be different. But when ego and jealousy are removed and trust is built, you’ll be surprised at how much can be accomplished within an open relationship through growth and sincere bonding at its core.