Open Relationships: Can they work?

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Who wouldn’t want to have their cake and eat it too?” rhetorically answered Buter County Community College sophomore, Karlee Kovalchik, when asked why she thinks people get into open relationships.

So can open relationships really work? College Magazine investigates why people seek out these relationships and if they can really be successful.

In any type of relationship, especially an open relationship, being on the same page is essential. Miscommunications can easily occur if either partner is unclear about the boundaries and conditions of the agreement. After all, while it may be open, it is still a relationship.

It’s important to have a mutual respect for one another and to make sure that this is what you both want. If one of you wants the openness more than the other, then the other person is eventually going to get hurt.

If you are the one suggesting the open relationship, ask yourself if this is just your way of breaking up without actually losing the person. Are you being selfish? If your partner is the one suggesting it, ask yourself if it’s truly what you want and what you are comfortable with. You might also ask if you are just afraid that you will lose them if you don’t agree.


If both parties are on the same page, then open relationships can have their benefits. Sometimes, having openness can be like “test driving” a relationship. This can really be helpful, especially in new relationships or long-distance relationships, and can actually ease the pain if it does not work out.

If that summer fling of yours were starting to become a long-distance relationship, then maybe an open relationship would be a good thing to consider. Then, if you both go off and start to lose interest, breaking it off won’t be so heart breaking. On the other hand, if you both decide that you don’t want to see other people, then it could turn into a committed relationship.


As great as “test driving” a relationship may sound, it could end in some serious damage if it crashes and burns.

As noted in Men’s Fitness, David Barash, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Washington and co-author of The Myth of Monogamy said, “Having an open relationship can work really well for some people, however, as people, we're also inclined to be sexually jealous of a partner being with someone else, and from a biological standpoint, we're resistant to that partner having another relationship."

Jealousy is a big factor if you let it get to you.

“Jealousy can’t exist in an open relationship if you want it to be successful,” says Kovalchik. “I think the most difficult thing about open relationships are the feelings, because once you start to genuinely care about someone it becomes harder to imagine them with someone else.”

So can an open relationship really work? Consensus: probably not, but it depends on the couple. If you are both on the same page and it is what you both want, then it MIGHT work. Avoid jealousy, establish boundaries, and ask yourself why you want to be open. Then, buckle up because it could be a bumpy ride!

Sophomore > Journalism and Sociology > Penn State University

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