Open relationships allow students to date in new ways
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 03:02
Senior Rose McNeill says she does not want to feel that a potential relationship or friendship with another person is limited because she has a boyfriend. For this reason, she is part of an open relationship.
“No one has every single interest in common with their partner, so it makes sense to be able to spend time with other people who do have those things in common with you,” McNeill says.
McNeill, who has been with her most recent partner for four months, has been involved in open relationships throughout her time at college. She says she feels that she has a better relationship with her partners in open relationships because it takes away the expectation and pressure that one partner will satisfy all of the other’s needs.
An open relationship can have many different interpretations and tends to vary as much as the couples engaged in them, but “According to Psychology Today,” an open relationship is where two parties agree to be a couple but also agree to form a non-monogamous relationship.
Psychology professor Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, who studies relationships and couples, says although an open relationship may be unconventional, it is not necessarily unhealthy.
“I would define a healthy relationship as one where both parties are able to grow and ultimately, let each other flourish,” Laurenceau says. “This can be achieved in an open relationship, but I imagine that it would be very, very difficult.”
Laurenceau says in his experience, humans seem to be made for serial, monogamous relationships and adult, sexual activity is usually at risk for emotional involvement or attachment. Even if the couple in the relationship is able to stay emotionally unattached, there’s a serious risk that those outside of the couple will not be able to remain detached, he says.
Despite these issues, Laurenceau says because younger couples on average lack the stressors that older couples have (such as careers or children), they may have an easier time maintaining an open relationship.
An anonymous source stated in an email message that he has been in what he says is a committed and open relationship with his girlfriend for over a year. Jenkins says he knows of eight other college couples involved in open relationships and having an open relationship may be ideal for a college student.
“This relationship model might be better suited for college kids since it allows freedom to explore, which can be especially important in long term relationship in which future commitment is predicted,” the source says.
He says open relationships also work for individual seeking casual relationships that are unsure about committing.
In the time he and his girlfriend have been together, he says they have had few problems as a result of the rules they devised and follow but which include a clause about choosing partners who are a low risk for forming emotional attachment. Despite these rules, the source says they hit a rough patch early on in their relationship.
“One partner got obsessively attached because of poor judgment in choosing a partner and difficulty taking strong action to reject said partner,” he said. “But the foundation in our relationship was strong enough that with regular discussion on the subject, we found a way to excise said partner.”
The source says while he and his girlfriend approach their open relationship as a way to experience sexual pleasure with other partners and discourage any risk of intimacy outside their couple, not all open relationships follow the same model.
Both the source and McNeill say their relationships gets them what they want, but they are not always easy. They admit that jealousy is an issue, and that their relationship style isn’t for everyone because of this issue. McNeill says that envy is only human and in order to deal with it she and her partner simply talk.
“If they get jealous, make time for them,” McNeill says. “It’s just about making sure the other person in the relationship knows you care about them.”