On open relationships: A look into the unconventional

When I used to tell people that my boyfriend and I were in an open relationship they’d stare at me for a moment and then ask: “... but that’s only an idea, right? Like an option you have but don’t actually use?” to which I’d have to reply that no, actually it is both an option that we have, and an option that we use. Well, I say we, but mostly it was me that took advantage of the – freedom? I guess that’s what you’d call it. And I know what you’re thinking now, if you were the only one in your relationship using the freedom of the open relationship surely that’s cheating? If you can’t commit then maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship at all!


So, so wrong.

See, I love my boyfriend. In fact, I can safely say that since becoming involved with him I have grown as a person completely. I’ve realised that I’m – wait for it – no longer afraid of commitment. Yep, you’ve read that right, and I’ll repeat it: I’m not afraid of commitment. In fact, I love it. And I know that now because we spent around 4 months of our relationship with the freedom to see other people. Now, I’d like to clarify that we made a mutual decision to end the open part of our relationship recently, not because it wasn’t working but because we’ve both decided that we don’t need that option anymore. The open relationship was great whilst it lasted, it helped us both cope with distance and, funnily enough, helped us build an incredible amount of trust between us. There is nothing I would hide from him anymore, out of respect, love and the knowledge that there is nothing we can’t work through after this experience.

Getting into the open relationship was again a mutual decision. We’d come to that point in summer where decisions had to be made. Since I live here in the UK and his more permanent residence is abroad there was the question of distance playing on our minds, followed by the fact I’d be going off to University a hefty way away from home and he’d be coming back to Hertfordshire after the summer meaning even more distance. So, we were faced with the question: to break or not to break? But, there was a third option. Had he ever thought of an open-relationship? It was something I’d always marvelled at, so just decided to throw out there as it was an option worth exploring. I mean, at that point we already knew that breaking up was an option we’d both work hard to avoid so why not try this?

Of course, I left the decision making to him because it had been my suggestion. I never wanted to force the concept onto him, but if we were both comfortable with it I would be happy to try. To my (almost total) surprise, he decided that open-relationship it was, so off we went. It was a hard prospect to digest at first, what are the boundaries? What if this breaks us apart? What’s going to happen if we get jealous? A lot was going on in my mind but I guessed the best way to overcome doubts was just to try it.

So we did, over the summer, throughout my trip to Europe with friends and his time in Germany. It was kind of weird, at times I wasn’t sure if it was the right decision to make at all. But something that kept taking me by surprise was the fact that despite the freedom I had to be with whoever I wanted, my boyfriend was the first thought of my day and always my last thought at night. The freedom never diminished my love for him, just made me miss him more. After a while it even became boring, I didn’t want anyone but him anymore.

All throughout the open part of our relationship, we’d always be truthful about the things that happened. I never hid anything from him, nor did I avoid the question of whether he’d done much himself. It just became a part of our regular discourse. I think the most important thing that came out of it was the sense of confidence and security that both of us had; we knew that no matter what happened, at the end of the day, we loved each other and that’s who we wanted to be with. That’s the greatest part, the fact that we love each other so much nothing else comes between that.

I know open relationships have a dodgy reputation, a lot of people just think it’s a ‘free-pass to cheat’, and I guess the pessimist’s way of looking at it does show exactly that. But the reasons for open relationships are always more complex. For me, the open-relationship really helped me cope with his absence because of the distance we had between us. I’m a physical person, I like affection, I like to be physically near someone. It’s comforting. I guess you could call me out on that, slut-shame me – or something of the sort, your call. For me, the open relationship helped me adjust to my new surroundings at university. I felt so lonely without him and I sought comfort, something that he was completely okay with and, quite frankly, supportive of me doing. That’s our business.

Sometimes open relationships work better than closed ones. Sometimes it works vice versa. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable with the direction that your relationship is headed in. I’m not trying to preach that this type of relationship is the key to love and sex and all the success in the world. I’m just merely providing my own account of it, and it’s a positive account, one that I’m happy with.

I’m glad to be back in a closed relationship with my boyfriend, I love him so much that I don’t want to share him, nor do I want myself to be shared. But the thing is, I’m not regretful of our open relationship. I think it was a good experience to have, and who knows maybe we’ll revert back to it in the future.

If you’re thinking about suggesting this to your partner, I’d go for it, there’s no harm in asking. And if you’re getting into an open relationship I only have a couple of tips: be honest, be open, and make absolutely sure that you are staying safe. Other than that, have fun and enjoy!


MASHA is a Russian-born, British-bred English student at the University of York. In her spare time, she likes to sleep and avoid all responsibilities. She is a big lover of food and likes to brag about her ability to burn pasta. With future plans still undecided, her path in life is not walked but rather stumbled through, learning along the way.