When 3 Is Company, Open Relationships That Work.

Posted on November 3rd, 2009

42-21244230What happens when 3 is company? 

Two Hollywood celebrities – Will Smith and Tilda Swinton – have recently garnered a great deal of attention for their relationships.  In interviews, Smith has said “Our perspective is, you don’t avoid what’s natural and you’re going to be attracted to people…. And if it came down to it, then one would say to the other: ‘Look, I need to have sex with somebody. Now, I’m not going to if you don’t approve of it’.  Swinton has been photographed publically with both her long-term partner (with whom she has children) and her younger, artist lover.  These two actors are helping to bring into the spotlight an idea that has never been highly publicized: open relationships.

Open relationships come in many shapes and sizes.  The most well known, due to its glamorization by the media, is “swinging.”  Swinging opens a relationship up to sex with other partners only, not emotional bonds.  The couple can choose from several different forms of the practice to find one that satisfactorily meets their needs.  One option allows the partners to have sex with others only if it is with another couple.  A second option deems sex acceptable only if both halves of the couple are present (though they do not both need to participate).  Other options stipulate that sex with others can only be in the form of a threesome, or that sex, quite simply, can be with anyone else, at any time.

Another common form of open relationships is known as the “Primary/Secondary Model.”  In these cases, a couple in a serious, long-term relationship takes precedence and all other relationships are secondary.  More time and emotional involvement is devoted to the primary relationship, and often times its members are granted “veto power” (the ability to indisputably veto any other relationships).  The primary partners also retain all power to create the rules for the relationship – secondary lovers rarely have a say in the situation.

The “Multiple Primary Partners Model” refers to circumstances when 3 or more people, all equal partners, are considered a primary relationship.  A group marriage in which all partners share financial, domestic, and child-rearing responsibilities, for example, is a common way this form is expressed.  In these cases, relationships outside of the family are typically not allowed, and new members must be approved of by all before becoming a part of the relationship. This is technically referred to as “polyamory” rather than an open relationship (the latter refers only to sex with multiple partners, while the former refers to multiple emotional attachments).

A final variety of open relationship is the simple “Multiple Non-Primary Relationships Model,” in which no one involved is in a committed (“primary”) relationship.  All members are essentially single, and spend time with each other purely for enjoyment.

Interested?  Focus on communication and respect.  Learn each other’s boundaries, be honest always, know that jealousy never completely disappears (you’ll learn to work through it in healthy ways), and create unique rules that work for your individual relationship.  Though sometimes a little tricky to navigate, open relationships can be very rewarding, life-changing experiences.  For more relationship advice visit us here.

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