Q: What is the psychology behind me allowing my significant other to have sex with other women? I have always been open minded about it, but people judge me when I tell them that it's okay for me.
A: Having an "open" or "polyamorous" relationship is a very new concept for many people (although, it’s actually been a common type of relationship throughout history). While there isn’t a lot of research on these types of relationships yet, what little there is shows that open relationships function much the same as closed relationships, with the couple being able to maintain long-term intimacy and commitment, as long as they can communicate with each other openly and honestly about sex and their relationship. Open relationships can be challenging, because they require a lot of communication about emotions, boundaries and how to stay close to one’s primary partner throughout the experience. But, they can be very satisfying relationships too. A lot of couples who are in open relationships say that the extra communication involved helped to deepen their romantic relationship with their partner.
One major challenge that is common among people in open relationships is the stigma and misunderstanding they receive from others. It can be hard to feel like no one else really understands or accepts your romantic relationship (welcome to the LGBTQ+ community!). In this case, it may be wise to limit who you discuss your relationship with, keeping it to trusted and understanding friends and family. Also, being in an open relationship can sometimes involve educating your loved ones about what an open relationship is and how it can be just as healthy and loving as a closed relationship.
If you’d like some more information on how to have a healthy open relationship, you can check out the sources below. Of course, there are lots of other helpful resources on the internet as well.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.