Mental Health

Things to Consider When Considering an Open Relationship

By February 29, 2024No Comments

This blog is authored by Brock Jones, MA, QMHP, a member of the IntraSpectrum Counseling clinical team.


Open relationships, or consensual non-monogamy, (an umbrella term for relationships in which all partners give explicit consent to engage in romantic, intimate, and /or sexual relationships with multiple people) are becoming more commonplace and openly discussed, both among queer partnerships and cis-het relationships. With this, new conversations are beginning, and you might have questions. This brief article will suggest some topics and conversation starters you might consider with your partner, on your own, or with your therapist.

What is an Open Relationship?
An open relationship is a type of relationship where all partners involved knowingly and freely agree to engage in romantic, sexual, flirtatious, or emotionally intimate actions with others outside of the relationship. There is no one-size-fits-all model for open relationships and ultimately the terms of an open relationship are established and agreed to by those in the relationship.

Some relationships may occasionally open things up together. Others may create specific agreements in the context of their relationships while having a more flexible agreement for ongoing openness might work best for some relationships. Some relationships might grow into or experiment with consensual non-monogamy, or it might be agreed to from the start. Some people only date other non-monogamous people or poly people, and know that they are seeking that in a relationship.

Whatever you decide to pursue, successful models share in common:

  • open communication
  • honesty
  • mutuality
  • support for the primary relationship

Things to Consider

  1. What are you hoping for? Non-monogamous relationships can offer increased sexual satisfaction and explorations. An open relationship can offer the chance for partners to explore their sexuality, romantic interests, and intimacy beyond normative monogamous models and usual roles.
  2. How will this support your relationship? Studies have indicated higher degrees of intimacy and satisfaction among open couples, and that openness is a context for discussing desires, feelings, and boundaries among partners. Creating an open agreement with your partners can be a way to discuss important aspects, values, and appreciation in your relationship.
  3. What are the drawbacks? Open relationships don’t work well for people who desire monogamy or exclusive sexual relationships with their partners(s). Opening a relationship will not fix current relationship problems or meet the need for intimacy in your current relationship. It may bring up feelings of jealousy or distrust, and the distinction between sex and romance can be hard to maintain.

Mental Health Considerations

  1. Anxiety and worry:  Open relationships can be difficult to manage and may cause an increase in worry and stress in your current relationship. Having access to coping strategies, helpful ways to manage anxiety, and tools to reduce its impact increases the likelihood of success in your open relationship, and your ability to recognize when things aren’t working for you.
  2. Self confidence and support: An open relationship can impact how you see yourself and your partner, and might result in comparing yourself to others in ways related to sex and ways not. It’s easy to fear that you or your partner(s) become less desirable. Emotional support in the primary relationship and from outside sources like friendships, community, or your therapist.
  3. Intimacy with partners: Open relationships take openness to hard conversations too. Your relationship will change and grow as a result, and you and your partner(s) should be prepared to do this together. Open relationships can be a healthy addition to your relationships partnership but are dependent on a firm foundation.

Discussing Open Relationships in Therapy
Speaking to your therapist about an open relationship can be done in individual work or relational work together with your partner(s). Your therapist can help you identify your values and make a decision aligned with those values as you consider an open relationship. They can help ensure you have the right support, and guide you in implementing your values into your open relationship, especially when communicating your boundaries to others. You don’t have to know if an open relationship is right for you to discuss in therapy, and you can use therapy to help you clarify why an open relationship might not be for you. You’re free to come to therapy without your mind made up, and full of questions.


This blog is authored by Brock Jones, MA, QMHP, a member of the IntraSpectrum Counseling clinical team. IntraSpectrum Counseling is Chicago’s leading psychotherapy practice dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, and we strive to provide the highest quality mental health care for multicultural, identity, kink, polyamorous, and intersectional issues. For anyone needing affirming and validating support, please click here or contact us at