We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: the ways that opening up your relationship can improve your sex life.
Q: “I was wondering if you could talk about the potential sexual benefits of being in a non-monogamous relationship. My partner and I have been mulling over whether or not to open up our relationship for a few months. We’re both pretty logical people, and we’re trying to think through all of the possible angles. This wouldn’t be the main reason we’d do it, but we’re still curious. Do people’s sexual relationships with their partners improve when they open up their relationships?”
A: Thanks for the question! It’s great that you and your partner are being so thoughtful about this big decision. Even though you essentially said this in your question, I’ll still point out that you shouldn’t open up your relationship simply to improve your current relationship. Opening up your relationship can bring some heat back into your sex life, but there are also plenty of ways that opening your relationship can damage your current relationship. You want to make sure you’re on board with non-monogamy in other ways too, so it’s a good idea to check out some of my past articles on opening things up.
That being said, should you decide to give it a try, here are eight ways that non-monogamy can fire up your sex life.
1. There’s More Novelty
At the very least, non-monogamy shakes things up! You’re navigating new partners, new rules, and new activities. There’s risk and uncertainty. On your own, all of that newness can be thrilling. As a couple, the intensity of opening up your relationship can also help you and your partner bust out of your normal routine (because let’s face it — it’s far too easy to slip into a rut in an established relationship). You might feel so inspired by the novelty that you decide try out some new things together in the bedroom, or you might find that your usual activities take on a new intensity.
2. Those Honeymoon Stage Butterflies
As amazing as long-term relationships can be, there’s nothing quite like having a set of physical firsts with a new person — first kiss, first touches, first makeout, first time taking someone’s clothes off, first time hitting each of the bases. One of the incredible things about non-monogamy is that you can get to explore all of the chemistry-riddled newness of other relationships while still enjoying all of the comforts of an established relationship. You’ll probably get so fired up from that honeymoon stage buzz that you’ll bring that energy home to your established partner too.
3. You Can Explore New Boundaries
Different people have different sexual interests, so if you and your partner open up your relationship, you’ll both have the opportunity to explore new boundaries. Your sex life is naturally going to become more varied. You might find a new partner who is into something you had never considered before.
For example, perhaps a new partner teaches you the nuances of rope play, or introduces you to a dom/sub relationship. Or you may find a partner who is into something that you’ve always liked, but that your current partner wasn’t comfortable with. You may even want to explore with a partner who is of the opposite sex than your current partner. This mostly benefits you individually, but you can also bring some of your new skills or interests back to your partner. Or you and your partner can explore new partners together! It can be intensely arousing to watch your partner hook up with another person.
4. Your Communication Improves
Non-monogamy requires a lot of communication. There are more people, more feelings, and more boundaries. You have to discuss your rules with your partner, and your situation with new potential partners. You’ll also get more practice with some of the basic communication that great sex requires, like asking for what you want and giving feedback. All that communication is going to improve your sex life.
5. You Might Feel More Authentic
Some people identify so closely with non-monogamy that it feels like a sexual identity. If you and your partner feel drawn to non-monogamy for philosophical reasons (like believing that monogamy isn't one-size-fits-all), you might find that opening up your relationship makes you feel authentic. It might feel like you’re taking ownership of who you are, like you’re not trying to fit your square peg self into a round hole, that you're not having to pretend you're never attracted to other people. That sense of authenticity can enliven you and your sex life. It can also be affirming to your relationship. Every time you return to your partner, it can feel like you're choosing to be with them over and over again.
6. It Takes The Pressure Off Your Partner To Be Everything
Opening up your relationship comes with it’s own challenges, of course, but one if its great benefits is that it takes the pressure off of your partner to be everything to you. We want so much out of our relationships these days. We want total comfort, but we also want passion and intensity. We want a best friend, we want a lover, and sometimes we want a caretaker. We want to be merged and we want our independence. We want sexual compatibility, and we want to be surprised. That’s a tall order for one person! It can be exhausting to feel like you need to meet every single one of your partner’s needs.
Non-monogamy can take a lot of that pressure off by allowing you to get some of those needs met by other people. It opens up space for the two of you to focus on what does work in your relationship.
7. It Can Help Manage Mismatched Sex Drives
In a similar vein, non-monogamy can help you and your partner get closer to the amount of sex you both desire. It takes the pressure off of the lower sex drive partner to have sex when they don’t want to, and takes the pressure off of the higher sex drive partner to go without sex when they want it. If you want more, you can go out and find more. If your partner wants less, they don’t have to find other partners.
8. Jealousy Gets You Fired Up
There’s something about knowing that your partner has been with other people that can make sex between the two of you feel even more intense. Jealousy isn’t a fun emotion to feel, and you certainly shouldn’t try to make your partner feel jealous, but there’s no denying that it really can inspire some serious passion. Of course, there is such a thing as too much jealousy, which is why communication and honesty in open relationships is so important.
Wishing you both the best of luck!
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