Open Relationships vs. Monogamy

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Most people enter relationships with the idea that they will be exclusive and monogamous. While this understanding works for many, some people are more in favor of open relationships. Whichever type of relationship you choose to have, there are pros and cons for each.

Pros of Monogamous Relationships

Monogamous relationships, whether marriage or life partners, are a norm in American culture. According to the article “Marriage Today: Exploring the Incongruence Between Americans’ Beliefs and Practices,” published in the “Journal of Comparative Family Studies” in 2010, about 85 percent of American adults reported that they expected to get married, while 94 percent reported wanting to marry their "soul mate." Monogamy means a commitment to being with only one person sexually and romantically. In a monogamous relationship, people find comfort in having someone to devote emotional and physical intimacy to and to put their trust in. This goes hand-in-hand with the ideal family situation for those who want children: two parents to raise kids together.

Pros of Open Relationships

Although open relationships aren’t as common in American society, more couples have been opening up to the idea in the past few decades. An open relationship is a relationship wherein both parties are committed to one another, but agree to additional sex and dating relationships outside of the relationship. Each open relationship is different, depending on the terms agreed upon by the couple. The idea of an open relationship is that the couple can have the emotional closeness of a monogamous relationship, but keep their sex life non-exclusive. In the book "Open Marriage" by Nena and George O'Neill, the authors found that people in open marriages claimed there were some benefits, including better sex within the marriage, greater self-esteem, and sexual satisfaction.

Cons of Monogamous Relationships

Although the purpose of monogamy is to have an exclusive, committed relationship, some people question the practicality of long-term relationship commitments like marriage. According to a 2011 statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the divorce rate in America was 3.6 per population of 1000. When one or both people in a monogamous relationship experience a rough patch, dissatisfaction or temptation, there is a chance that one or both will commit infidelity. In 2010, the General Social Survey reported that 19 percent of male respondents and 14 percent of female respondents admitted to cheating when asked whether they had been unfaithful in marriage. “The Meaning of ‘I Do’: a Mixed Methods Examination of Newlyweds’ Marital Expectations,” a study cited in "Marriage Today," reported that some newlyweds confessed to sexual or romantic thoughts about someone other than their spouse and some even engaged in flirting or emotional or sexual affairs.

Cons of Open Relationships

Open relationships are not for everyone. One of the biggest issues of an open relationship is jealousy. There is a possibility that one partner’s outside fling will be seen as a threat to the relationship. Sometimes partners are not able to agree on relationship terms that satisfy both of them. Usually one partner is more keen on having an open relationship than the other, which may cause problems. Open relationships require more trust, complete honesty and sensitivity to your primary partner.