Whenever I hear someone openly admit they are in an open relationship or marriage, they are met with accusations of cheating or not being in a “real” relationship. Their relationships are not taken seriously, and sometimes even laughed or scoffed at.
But actually, open and poly relationships can be some of the healthiest and most loving relationships of all.
As a sex educator, I teach healthy relationships and building boundaries in my class. When I start asking, “What does it mean to respect someone?” or “What does it mean to trust someone?” my students start listing how these elements show up for them in their relationships.
Sometimes couples share similar sentiments; sometimes they disagree. What's most important to me as a sex educator is having my students examine what trust, honesty, and respect actually look like in real life for them — and then teaching them how to communicate that to their partner/s.
My friends in open or poly relationships always seem to have a good grasp on what they want out of a relationship and know very well how to communicate that to their partners.
Cultivating a relationship where there’s healthy communication, honesty, respect, and trust can be hard to achieve for people even in traditional monogamous relationships, but those in an open or poly relationship must ensure that these elements are being honored. In fact, open and poly relationships really show us how important a healthy relationship is.
One author describes her experience in an open marriage, “It’s like kids. You don’t have a kid to fix your relationship. Finding outside partners isn’t going to fix your relationship. That’s not going to fix anything. You have to have a strong base of communication in order for this to even happen.”
Solidifying the elements of a healthy relationship in their relationship is what keeps open relationships strong.
The author goes on to say, “Since we’ve opened our marriage, it became more intentional. We recognize that we have certain needs and we can’t always meet them for each other. But that doesn’t mean we love each other less. If anything, it forces us to communicate.”
People assume that when you are in a relationship with multiple people, or in an open relationship, trust, honesty or respect are automatically not there. That is absolutely not true.
As someone in a monogamous relationship, I have learned a lot of important life lessons from my friends in open relationships and poly relationships. While I choose not to be in an open or poly relationship, their relationships are the epitome of healthy communication, trust, honesty, and respect.
Open and poly marriages truly show us how to communicate effectively and in a healthy manner without any toxic attributes.
These relationships show us that love can take many forms, not just the traditional form we’re used to.
Open and poly relationships also teach us that there is no limit to how much you can love someone.
I've learned from my friends in open relationships and poly relationships that you can’t quantify love and that whatever love you have, whatever form it takes, what matters most is that its healthy love. To achieve this, you can’t just think about yourself, you have to think about how the person/people you’re in love with feel as well.
One last thing that I’ve learned is that jealousy is natural for everyone, but what matters is we not only think about how we feel but we communicate that, have a healthy conversation about it, and actively listen to our partner/s.
Monogamous couples can learn how to build or continue to build a strong foundation for love from people with an open relationship or marriage. Monogamy is not the only kind of love, but if it's love for you, open marriages and poly relationships can really teach us amazing life lessons.
[Reprinted with minor changes from: & written by Angelique Beluso. Follow her at @AngeliqueBeluso.]