What Does It Mean When People Say That They Are in an Open Relationship?

In an open relationship, couples are free to date more than one person, but are still committed to a primary partner.
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In an open relationship, two people create a commitment but do not see each other exclusively. In other words, they are a couple, but are also free to date other people. Unlike cheating or adulterous relationships, people in open relationships tell their partner about who they are seeing. Many couples also set ground rules for open relationships regarding the level of physical or emotional intimacy involved with secondary partners.

1 Dynamics of Open Relationships

Open relationships are not widely accepted by the public and are seen as “risky” because partners may not take precautions during acts of emotional or physical intimacy, explains social psychologist Amy Muise in the article “What Are People's Perceptions of Open Relationships?” published in “Psychology Today.” However, Muse argues that open-relationship arrangements can be as emotionally fulfilling and safe as traditional monogamous partnerships when individuals engage in emotionally and physically safe practices. On the other hand, some mental health professionals disagree that open relationships are healthy, explains WebMD. Unless both partners in a couple are fully in favor of the arrangement, open relationship can lead to jealousy and undermine the couple’s primary relationship.

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.