So you want to open your relationship?
Updated: Nov 20
Great! Monogamy is a construct in our society that serves its purpose for many people. For a lot of us, though, the idea of committing sexually to one person for the rest of our lives is preposterous.
Maybe you’ve been with the same person for a while, and in discussing fantasies it transpires that you’re both interested in a threesome. Or you’ve just started dating someone and don’t want to commit solely to them, whilst also assuring them that you’re serious about what you've got going on. Or perhaps you have a kink that your partner doesn’t, and they’re happy for you to explore that with someone else who really loves it.
Whatever your reasons, let’s talk about some different terms you might hear thrown around when you start looking into open relationships. With so many people looking for different things, it’s always important to clarify exactly what it is that you’re seeking - otherwise you’re unlikely to find anyone who fits into your situation. I’m basing these definitions on my own experiences, and those of my friends and acquaintances, as well as generally accepted meanings. The more you explore, the more you’ll realise that each individual likes to describe their own situation in their own way!
An open relationship tends to refer to a couple who have their own stable and secure relationship, but who date and sleep with other people, usually independently from each other. It’s unusual for any of these dalliances to hold the same weight as the core relationship between the two people at the centre. Things like family events, children, and work socials will tend to remain separate from these extraneous relationships.
I’m going to preface this by saying that I loathe the term “swingers’ and avoid it wherever possible. It reeks of middle-aged key-swapping couples, and has been given such a bad rep by popular media. However, it’s still a common term, so I’ll cover it succinctly by saying that couples who “swing” are generally exploring sexual exploits with other couples and singles, often in social or party environments; it's very much rooted in group sex or swapping partners for an evening. Couples will usually stick together at an event, and it’s about fulfilling hedonistic tendencies more than building meaningful relationships.
Often confused with open relationships, poly relationships refer to people who have multiple relationships that hold equal weight. Some people form a “triad”, meaning it’s a three-way relationship that works in the same way as a two-way relationship, but with three people who relate to each other in every direction. Others will have a “primary” couple at the core, and each of them will date separately - for example, I know a woman who has a primary boyfriend, whom she lives with, and they each have a different girlfriend. They all know about each other, but he has no direct relationship with her girlfriend, and vice versa.
The allegedly elusive bisexual woman looking for couples to have threesomes with. The male equivalent is a “Blue Fish”! The unicorn trope comes from the idea that couples look for a girl who is no more than an entity to show up and fulfil their fantasy. This creature is so rare as to be almost mythical! Be wary of “Unicorn Hunters” who seek out a third for a threesome but give no thought to her emotional needs. I don’t particularly enjoy being referred to as a unicorn, except jokingly with friends, because it reduces me to a sentient sex toy. When I join a couple for a night of fun, I expect to be treated as a friend as well as a lover, with my own wants and needs.
Hopefully you’ve now got a better idea of what it is that you’re looking for in your vision of what opening your relationship will look like.
Got questions? Let me know!