Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Open Relationships

In today’s world, the traditional concept of monogamous relationships is being challenged by an increasing number of people exploring alternative relationship styles, such as open relationships. While this subject was once considered extremely taboo, recent years have seen a surge in curiosity and openness to non-monogamous relationships.

Dedeker Winston, a dating coach with over a decade of experience in non-monogamous relationships, has witnessed an explosion of interest in this area since 2016. Similarly, Sarah Levinson, a counselor specializing in sexuality and relationship dynamics, has observed an increase in interest in open relationships over the past decade.

There are numerous ways to engage in non-monogamy, from sharing finances and living with multiple partners to allowing occasional “free passes” for partners to engage in sexual relationships outside of the primary commitment. Open relationships can look different for different people, but they often involve prioritizing a two-person partnership while engaging in primarily sexual relationships outside of that core commitment.

Recent data from dating apps such as OkCupid and Hinge have shown a growing interest in open relationships. OkCupid reported a 7 percent increase in users seeking non-monogamous relationships in 2021. Hinge data also revealed that one in five users would consider trying an open relationship, and one in ten has already engaged in one.

While societal attitudes toward consensual non-monogamy have become more positive in recent years, the general perception still leans negative. Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a Kinsey Institute research fellow, has found that most people have fantasized about non-monogamous relationships at some point, but relatively few practice it in real life.

Levinson believes the perception that open relationships are “unhealthy” may contribute to the hesitancy to explore them. Religious beliefs and cultural norms can also play a role in deterring people from engaging in alternative relationship styles.

However, Winston sees a growing trend of people, particularly millennials and Gen Z, moving away from the idea that one partner can fulfill all their needs. As a result, individuals are exploring more creative relationship structures that make the most sense in their lives.

While Levinson doesn’t foresee open relationships becoming a global phenomenon due to cultural barriers, OkCupid’s head of global communications, Michael Kaye, believes that the behaviors seen among daters today have always existed. Still, people are becoming more open and transparent about their desires.

As society continues to evolve and embrace different ways of connecting, open relationships and other non-traditional relationship styles may become more commonplace, offering new opportunities for individuals to build fulfilling and unique connections with others.