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An open relationship is a catch-all term for a pairing that is consensually non-monogamous. Although the primary partners intend to stay together, they agree to take on other partners with each other’s full knowledge. These additional companions may be for the purposes of short-term dating, long-term dating, sexual encounters or romantic companionship. The primary partners may choose to share lovers or seek out individual companions.
The rules of an open relationship are as individual as those in it. Sometimes the relationship resembles a swinging or BDSM play partner scenario, where it’s mainly physical in nature. Other open relationships may operate like traditional polyamory, which places more emphasis on cultivating a lasting emotional connection. Some couples have very specific rules about their open relationships. For example, sex with another person may only be allowed on out-of-town business trips.
Open relationships aren’t suitable for everyone as jealousy is often an obstacle. Opening a relationship successfully takes communication and trust. There are also no one-size-fits-all rules for open relationships. Partners must work together to establish the boundaries that work for them.