Marriage Counsellor Gets Candid About Open Relationships and Shares 6 Rules of A Satisfying Open Relationship
The Holistic Living Marriage Counsellor has seen many cases of open relationships in her 30 years of practice. She has noticed that open relationships are becoming increasingly common and they come with their own share of pros and cons. They can either have a negative or valuable impact on the partners’ connection levels, emotional and mental health depending on several factors such as comfort, communication, respect and honesty.
The Holistic Living Marriage Counsellor gives us a deeper glance into the the reality of open relationships and what factors can make and break a healthy marriage.
What Is an Open Relationship?
The standard meaning of an open relationship is one in which partners can have consensual sexual relations, or at times even emotional attachment with others.
Open relationships are different from swinging. Swinging is concerned only with having sexual relationships and are generally done during parties and such events.
At the same time we cannot confuse open relationships with Polyamory because in this partners have alternate committed relationships that can be both sexual and emotional.
We can say that open relationships are finding a middle ground between swinging and polyamory.
As a Marriage Counsellor I cannot give the exact definition of an open relationship. In the most basic sense open relationship happens when partners decide to engage in sexual relations with people outside their marriage with consent on both the ends.
Is Open Relationship Common?
In my 30 years of experience as a Marriage Counsellor I have seen many couples wanting to try open relationships, swinging or polyamory. Unfortunately there is so much stigma, stereotype and fears attached to it that partners feel sceptic and restrict their feelings and urges.
Young adults are generally more inclined towards it as compared to older couples. Major reason is because the younger generation are all about breaking the old systems and following their hearts while older couples hold themselves back because they are concerned about societal views, family pressure etc.
Indian couples approach open relationships with more caution. I completely understand that. However, more awareness can help in establishing a healthy open relationship.
Are Open Relationships Healthy?
Yes, open relationships can be healthy and satisfying. It depends on the communication, honesty and boundaries shared between the partners.
I remember some 5 years back I had a couple who started an open relationship but could not understand how to deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with it. One of the partners felt uncomfortable but was not able to communicate effectively. The lack of understanding between them led to a conflicting marriage.
It took a while to work on their communication and conflict resolution but gradually both the partners reached a middle ground. It was amazing to see both of them feeling more satisfied and happy in their marriage and their decision to pursue open relationships.
Therefore as a Marriage Counsellor I encourage couples to openly talk about their feelings, needs and wants. It is important to know and stick to your priorities. Exploration and innovation are needed to make a relationship work but both partners need to have a mutual understanding that their primary relationship and respect for each other’s feelings and opinions comes first.
Working as a marriage counsellor I have seen that many couples seek open relationships because there is a lack of passion or intimacy between them. I suggest they go for marriage counselling and resolve their concerns before plunging into non-monogamy.
In these scenarios when couples don’t address the real problems affecting their marriage then open relationships can become toxic and problematic.
What Are Some Important Rules For A Healthy Open Relationship?
All relationships are unique. We have an unfortunate habit of comparing our relationships to others but each one of us has our own timeline, ways of loving and expressing that love. Working as a Marriage Counsellor, I have observed some basic patterns and rules that can be helpful.
However there are some generic guidelines that couples can follow:
- Set your boundaries and be specific about them. Before starting an open relationship, have an open and honest conversation about what is okay and what is not okay. Things like frequency of sexual relations, whether it will be someone you know and trust or complete strangers, what kind of sex is okay etc.
- Discuss your emotions. It often happens that partners begin their open relationship on a positive note but down the line feel uncomfortable or fearful. No matter what it is best to tell your partner about how you feel.
- Healthy communication style. Your partner may be willing to honestly share their thoughts and feelings but what matters more is how you receive and respond to their feelings. Be an active listener and empathise with your partner.
- Prioritize your primary relationship. Keeping in mind that you have a shared responsibility towards each other can avoid conflicts and resentments.
- Be respectful and mindful of your partner’s sexual and emotional needs.
- Schedule timely check-ins. Once in every week sit together and discuss your thoughts and feelings.
These are some basic rules and guidelines that can help in establishing a healthy and satisfying open relationship without taking a negative toll on your primary relationship.
Two most important factors are honest and empathic communication with each other.
What Is The Downside of Having An Open Relationship?
Working as a Marriage Counsellor, I have had cases where couples are under the assumption that an open relationship is the major enemy in their relationship. After a few sessions of marriage counselling the real issues come to the surface.
As I have said before, when couples jump into an open relationship believing that it is the solution to all their problems it results in bigger problems. Never start an open relationship for wrong reasons but make a well-thought and mutually accepted decision.
The downside of open relationship is the violation of sexual and emotional boundaries that can make the partner feel ‘cheated’ and ‘betrayed’. This generally happens when there is lack of honesty, trust and effective communication. That is all.
Any Last Piece of Advice For Couples Having An Open Relationship?
Advice is overrated. Do what works the best for you and your partner without compromising your own mental, emotional and sexual needs. I am not saying this because I am a Marriage Counsellor but I have seen marriage counselling genuinely help a lot of couples find their connection and create a healthy and loving marriage.
Relationships are such an important part of our lives and I feel that we need to value our connections more because true and honest connections have become a rare case.