Well, many nonmonogamous folks would argue relationships belong on that list

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

The first says “open relationship” is an umbrella term that encapsulates all other forms of nonmonogamy, like monogam-ish, swingers, and polyamory.

The second (and more common) definition, says that open relationships are one type of nonmonogamous relationship under the Ethical Nonmonogamous umbrella.

Here, usually, open relationships are thought to occur between two people in a primary relationship who have agreed to open up their relationship sexually – but not romantically.

So, while “open relationship” always suggests that the relationship exists outside the One Person Is My Everything framework (aka monogamy), to find out exactly what someone means by it, you gotta ask.

“Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, having a loving and/or intimate relationship with more than one person at a time, with the consent of all people involved.”

LGBTQ-friendly sex educator and licensed psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD, author of “Building Open Relationships: Your Hands-On Guide To Swinging, Polyamory, & Beyond” offers this definition of polyamory:

So no, polyamory isn’t the same. While loving and romantic relationships with more than one person are explicitly allowed in polyamory, that’s not necessarily the case in open relationships.

Usually, folks in open relationships don’t feel like their current relationship structure (aka nonmonogamy) is a hardwired part of who they are.

hornet reviews

There’s no one point. Generally, people enter open relationships because they think it’s going to bring them more pleasure, joy, love, satisfaction, orgasms, excitement, or some combination of those.

Sex educator Davia Frost notes that often people who are polyamorous see it as being an integral part of their identity, much like some people see being gay or queer

  • You and your partner both have a lot of love to give and believe you can love more than one person at once.
  • You want to explore your sexuality or sexual relationships with someone of a different gender.
  • You and your partner have a case of mismatched libidos.
  • One partner is asexual and not interested in sex, and the other would like to have sex.
  • One partner has a particular kink or fantasy that they want to explore that the other has no interest in.
  • Seeing (or hearing about) your partner have sex with someone else turns you on, or vice versa.

Unfortunately, determining if an open relationship is right for you (or right for you and your partner) isn’t as easy as taking an online quiz and taking the answers at face value.

Sex educator Davia Frost notes that often people who are polyamorous see it as being an integral part of their identity, much like some people see being gay or queer

  • Start by identifying why you’re monogamous and what that means for you. What messages about monogamy did you receive growing up?
  • Address if or why you’re interested in opening your relationship. Is it because you’ve developed feelings for someone else and would like to act on them? Is it because you or your partner have a lot of needs that might be better met by more than one person?
  • Now allow yourself to imagine what your life might look like if you were in an open relationship. Get detailed. Where will you live? Will there be children? Will your partner also have other partners? What kinds of sex will you explore? What kind of love? How does this fantasy make you feel?
  • Next, learn more about ethical nonmonogamy. Start by reading about open relationships and polyamorous literature (more on this below), going to polyamorous MeetUp groups, and following folks who practice ethical nonmonogamy or polyamory on Instagram and Twitter.