20 Reasons Why Open Relationships Don’t Work (2022)

Wondering about the pros and cons of an open relationship? In this guide, we’ll focus on why open relationships don’t work.

That’s not to say open relationships can’t work, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and we’ll explore what these are in the guide below. 

In my role as a life coach, I am often helping clients understand what moves are right for them to make in their romantic lives, as well as professionally, spiritually and personally.

That’s why I’m excited to share this guide with you.

So, let’s dive in.    

What Is An Open Relationship?

An open relationship is when two people have agreed to be in a romantic or intimate relationship, but also that they’re both allowed to continue pursuing relationships with other people. It’s also known as a non-exclusive relationship, a polyamorous relationship or consensual non-monogamy.

Couples might set up unique rules that they believe will make their open relationship work well for them. Some might have a ‘main relationship’, while others prefer a free-for-all. 

However, it’s a given that everything is agreed upon beforehand. Otherwise that’s not an open relationship. That’s cheating.  

Related: Stages Of A Healthy Relationship

Do Open Relationships Actually Work?

Open relationships can work. Data suggests around 4-5% of Americans are in an open relationship. The thing is: it takes a lot of hard work to overcome the hurdles that threaten to send their relationship burning to the ground.

Below, we’ll explore the list of reasons why open relationships do not work. Throughout it, we’ll also explore some of the personal qualities needed to keep your open relationship strong and healthy.

Open Relationships
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Why Open Relationships Do Not Work?

Here are 20 key reasons why open relationships end in tears.

1. They Take A Lot Of Time

Picture how much time you need to commit to a successful relationship with one person. If you want that level of intimacy with multiple people, you’ll have little time for anything else.

Related: Relationship Test – Proven By Tony Robbins

2. It Brings Out Insecurities

We all know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people, but most of us can’t help it. Indeed, it would be only natural to compare ourselves to our partner’s other partners.

That’s when our insecurities, uncontrolled emotions and symptoms of low self-esteem can bubble to the surface. Are they better in bed than me? Is she better at specific sexual acts? Does he do things with other sexual partners that he won’t do with me?

If you have one primary partner in an open relationship, it’s best to talk about these feelings in a frank and honest discussion, perhaps over a nice sit-down dinner. Open communication is key.  Otherwise, your insecurities will continue to grow until they become unmanageable.

Honestly, you will need to have incredibly high self-esteem to stop your insecurities from eating you alive in an open relationship. 

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3. Your Partners Can Become Jealous  

You’re probably going to have to spend a lot of time managing your partners’ feelings, especially jealousy. A lot of them would prefer to have you all to themselves or at least be your ‘main relationship’, rather than you being considered as ‘public property’. 

4. YOU Can Become Jealous 

If you struggle with jealousy when you see a partner flirting with someone else, an open relationship might be tough for you. In this situation, you will know your partner is sleeping with someone else.

It can be easy to tell yourself that you’re genuinely cool with your partner sleeping around, until the moment where he’ll rock up to a date smelling of another woman’s perfume. These are the types of moments that can test your feelings in any one relationship, even if it’s considered the ‘main relationship’ among polyamorous people.  

Jealousy doesn’t just surround sex with other people either. It might even rear its ugly head if a partner is spending more time with someone else than you.

Related: Therapist Hacks How To Save A Relationship That’s Falling Apart

5. The Rules Are Unclear

Yes, you’ll spend time establishing ground rules – for your primary relationship at least – but it’s not as easy. You might come across situations where you have no idea what’s off limits and what isn’t. 

Sometimes, you’ll agree to be completely truthful about everything. Sometimes, you’ll have a spoken or unspoken agreement about what you should and shouldn’t tell your partner. 

But, sometimes you’ll want to tell something or ask about their other relationship, especially if you’re feeling a bit threatened. If you feel something’s whack about their other partner, it’s hard to keep that to yourself.   

It can get complicated, for sure.

Open Relationship
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6. It’s Difficult To Remain Honest

Honesty and open communication are key to success in any type of relationship. But it’s a lot more difficult in an open relationship, because you’ll have to admit to being sexually intimate with other partners.

Sometimes, you might get uncomfortable or want to spare someone’s feelings, and that’s sometimes when honesty disappears. At this moment, an open relationship can quickly deteriorate. Honest communication is a must if you want this experience to last.

7. It’s Completely Natural To Fall In Love

You’re fighting against human biology when you try to have a meaningful sexual relationship with more than one partner. When we have sex, our body releases a hormone called oxytocin that makes feel emotionally closer to our partner. It’s nicknamed the ‘love hormone’ and it makes us want to develop our relationship with that person only.

I’m not saying that fighting that feeling is a bad idea. But it’s extremely difficult.

8. Your Relationships May Become More Shallow

If you’re spending less time with each of your partners – and both of you are sharing bodies with other people – there’s an argument that this could lead to more shallow relationships.

A lot of polyamorous people get around this by having one ‘primary relationship’ who they spend most of their time with, then going off with other people less often. There’s still an argument that this would tarnish the intimacy of all your relationships though.   

Related: Why Do Most Relationships Fail

9. It’s Not Real Freedom

A lot of people in open relationships are attracted to the freedom of the polyamorous lifestyle. But there’s not as much freedom as one might expect.

It’s not just a ever-lasting party filled with unlimited sexual partners. Polyamory means still considering your partners’ feelings. Indeed, polyamorous lovers are often caught up in what their other partners would think of their behavior.

10. It’s Difficult To Be Comfortable  

When you’re going around being sexually intimate with other people and your partners are too, it’s difficult to get comfortable in the relationship. Very often, there’s a slight doubt about the future of your relationship and that can be stressful for both of you.

11. Power Imbalances Are Common

Who likes who more? Who has more partners to choose from? Who’s more committed to looking for a new partner? These questions tend to cause an inherent inequitable balance of power in an open relationship. Sure, this can be present in a traditional relationship too, but rarely to such a large extent.

12. You Might Lose The Opportunity To Meet Someone Amazing   

There’s someone out there that would be such a perfect match for you. Let’s call them your soulmate. There’s every chance that you would be so happy spending your life just with this person forever.

But what if you meet your soulmate and they’re turned off by the polyamorous lifestyle? You might miss out on this amazing lifelong personal experience with them.

There’s an argument that you’re more likely to meet them while in an open relationship, compared to being locked in a monogamous one. But the fact you’ve been with more than one partner at a time can still cause complications.

13. The Fear Of Losing A Partner Stresses You Out

You might have a fear of losing your monogamous partner too, but you’re more likely to worry when you know they’re sleeping with other people.

14. It’s Not The Way To Save A Bad Relationship

A lot of open relationships are born out of desperation to save a monogamous one. This almost always ends in heartbreak, because the desperate partner is rarely fully committed to the idea of polyamory.

15. It Attracts People Who Aren’t Good At Monogamy

What kind of people are attracted to monogamy? People who are loyal, trustworthy, family-minded and ready to love one person with all their heart. 

Oftentimes (although not always), those who want an open relationship are sex-hungry people who don’t have these qualities.

Related: Clear Signs He’s A Player

16. Other People Will Judge

Polyamory still has a stigma and you may find that some of your friends or family aren’t on board with your love life. They might tell you to get in a “real relationship”.  

This in itself might not ruin your life, but it’s still uncomfortable to deal with.

17. There’s A Higher Risk Of Sexually Transmitted Diseases  

If you have one sexual partner who is faithful and clean, the risk is essentially zero. 

When you multiple sexual partners, the risk multiplies substantially. No-one wants an incurable sexually transmitted disease, that’s for sure.

18. You Risk Paternity Confusion 

These unplanned circumstances do happen! If one of your partners does get pregnant, there’s a high chance of a “Who’s The Daddy?” situation. No man or woman wants an unplanned circumstance of this nature. You might even end up resolving it on a daytime TV chat show!  

19. It’s Not A Good Environment To Raise Children

It’s widely agreed among sociologists that children are best off being raised in a stable household with one mum and one dad.

20. Your Future Is Uncertain

You could put a positive spin on this and say an uncertain future is exciting. You could also argue that everyone’s future is uncertain by definition.

Still, most people would agree it’s best planning some sort of future for yourself. Surely, it’s important to have some idea of where you’re going to be in 10 or 15 years.  

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Pros And Cons Of Open Relationships

Pros:

  • An open relationship does arguably give you more freedom to live a full and exciting life. There are likely to be less rules stopping you from enjoying fun and exciting experiences, compared to monogamous relationships.
  • It can be considered a cure to the boredom and monotony of dating the same person forever.  
  • You’ll learn a lot more about yourself and what you want in a partner by being in multiple relationships. 
  • You’ll learn a lot about honesty and trust. Hopefully.
  • An open relationship can be great for couples who have mismatched libidos or sexual preferences. 
  • Multiple partners generally means more dates. Dates are fun!
  • Multiple partners generally means more sex. Sex is great!
  • When you date multiple partners, you increase the chances of meeting that one person who is perfect for you.  

Cons: 

  • Open relationships are time-consuming. 
  • They expose your insecurities.
  • You’re more likely to deal with partners’ jealousy or become jealous yourself. 
  • The rules are often unclear. 
  • It’s more difficult to remain honest with a partner at all times.
  • When you fall in love, this typically causes problems, not joy.
  • Your relationships are typically more shallow.
  • You might miss out on your true soulmate if they’re not into polyamory. 
  • There’s often a lot more drama, stress and arguments.
  • You’re prone to having your feelings hurt more often.
  • There’s a greater risk of STDs and unknown paternity.
  • It’s not a good environment to raise children.  

Frequently Asked Questions About Open Relationships

Do Open Relationships Work
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Let’s round off this article with the answers to some frequently asked questions about open relationships. 

What Percentage Of Open Relationships Work?

This is a difficult question to answer, and the answer would likely be misleading. After all, what percentage of traditional relationships work? Very few. Around 50% of marriages end in divorce. Does that mean they all ‘didn’t work’? They worked for a while, at least. 

How would an open relationship be defined as working or not working? Is it if the ‘main partner’ leaves? Is it if any two partners stop sleeping together? With all these questions, it’s difficult to trust any data that exists.

I found data suggested that 92% of open marriages fail. I also found data suggesting that 76% of people said their open marriage relationship was better than average. So, which one is it? And were these participants adequately prepared for an open relationship in the first place?

Rather than look at the data for the global population as a whole, it’s probably better to consider whether an open relationship will work for you. The guide above will help.     

Related: Clear Signs Your Male Friend Has Feelings For You

Why Open Relationships Are Toxic?

As we’ve explored, there’s a higher chance that you’ll experience dishonesty, jealousy and stress in an open relationship. 

However, there are ways to manage this if you really think an open relationship will be good for you overall. 

Open Relationship Is Killing Me

As with any other type of relationship, you have to be prepared to leave if it’s doing more bad than good for your mental health or your self-esteem. This is as true if you have one partner as it is if you’re in an open relationship. 

Open Relationships Are Selfish

If this is what you think, you are not ready for one. An open relationship should only occur if both partners are on the same page. They should both agree it’s a good idea. There should be no need to convince a partner to get into one. Indeed, that would be a selfish thing to do.  

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I Want An Open Relationship, But He Doesn’t

Even if you manage to convince an unwilling partner to get into an open relationship, it’s likely to end in disaster. An open relationship is difficult enough when both partners are fully on-board. If one person has doubts from the start, you’re fighting a losing battle.

If you’re sure you want an open relationship, you need to be willing to let an unwilling partner go. However, it might first be worth exploring why you’re unsatisfied with your current relationship as it is, perhaps with the assistance of a relationship counselor.  

Opinion On Open Relationships

Thanks for reading my guide on why open relationships don’t work. 

Hopefully, it has given you a stronger idea of how to make an open relationship work if you’re considering whether to spread your dating wings in this manner. 

If you want to share an opinion on life in an open relationship, feel free to do so below. 

It would be so great to hear from you.