"What is an open relationship?" is a carousel posted on Marjani Lane's IG page. This is the all text version of all of the slides.
exploring your options in non-monogamy
An open relationship is where one (or more) of the partners desire and seek out sexual (or intimate) connections outside of the established relationship. Open relationships are consensual. The term open relationship is commonly used interchangeably with polyamory. while it is understandable that people would consider anything outside of monogamy "open", this is not necessarily correct.
SOUNDS LIKE POLYAM?
It's not. Polyamorous relationships can be open relationships, but not all polyamorous relationships are open. Polyamory is focused around the desire and pursuit of multiple loving relationships - typically with the focus of long-term. Open relationships are more so focused around establishing strictly sexual relationships outside of the relationship. It is important to understand that even if someone is in an open relationship that it does not mean they are polyamorous, polymonoflux, or a swinger. Assuming this is the recipe for miscommunication and boundary overstepping. Ask if you are unsure.
HOW IT CAN LOOK
both parties are emotionally monogamous and in an open relationship where one partner seeks outside sexual connections.
the mono partner is emotionally monogamous but in an open relationship with a polyam person. they both seek outside sexual connections.
both parties are polyamorous and in an open relationship. in addition to seeking out parties for love, they can seek out outside sexual connections.
Arguably, in open relationships, there usually is hierarchy in terms of value of those outside relationships. For a relationship anarchist, they will more than likely value those sexual connections the same as their other intimate ones. Typically this hierarchy is not explicitly discussed with the people who are casual flings. for a longer term sexual partner, like friends with benefits this may be discussed more in depth.
To be clear - this does not mean that it is ethical to treat someone as disposable. People who are dealing with people in open relationships still have a right to have their boundaries respected - even if the relationship is casual and short-term. it is good practice to avoid people who won't respect those terms.
FREE FOR ALL!
Open relationships get stigmatized as a free for all when in reality most successful ones have a few boundaries to navigate. There can be boundaries related to barrier protection, how much private information can be discussed, or if it is a don't ask don't tell application just to name a few. Someone announcing that they are in an open relationship does not mean they are free to do whatever they please. It the responsibility of all parties to educate themselves on the boundaries and expectations. If veto can utilized to end an open relationship connection - all parties need to be aware. If there is a chance a casual connection is evolving to something more emotional or romantic - all parties need to be aware. Don't let an open relationship go sour due to poor communication and dishonesty.
Open relationships are almost always defined are sexual in nature. However, someone people may utilize open relationships for casual or short term encounters focused around other forms of intimacy and that's okay. Some people have open relationships where they just go on romantic dates with people with no sex. some want the physical intimacy (like cuddling) with no sex.