Ethical non-monogamy is on the rise. A poll from 2016 found that 17 percent of people under 45 had engaged in sexual activity outside of their relationship with the consent of their partner. Separate research found that young adults ages 18 to 29 were most confident with ethical non-monogamy, and this attitude grows increasingly out of favor the older the individual is.
A new poll conducted in 2020 found that 32% of Americans preferred a non-monogamous relationship, including fully 43% of millennials. It’s clear that society is beginning to acknowledge monogamy as a legitimate option for couples opposed to a lifestyle enforced by law.
Dating sites for open marriage
To answer all of your burning questions concerning open relationships and ethical non-monogamy, we spoke with sexologist and sex and relationship educator Jamie J. LeClaire for the lowdown on all things open relationships, and we selected the best websites and apps to use, too.
What Is an Open Relationship?
Open relationships are any type of romantic, sexual or otherwise intimate relationship that is practiced outside of the bounds of strict two partner monogamy. There are many ways in which they can be practiced, including partnered non-monogamy, swinging, polyamory, solo polyamory, solo non-monogamy, and combinations of these – even where one partner is non-monogamous or polyamorous, while another partner is not.
“These are just general conceptualizations, not rigid categories,” says LeClaire. “There is plenty of room for flexibility and personalization, and you might find yourself wanting to practice different types of open relationships with different partners, or at different times of your life.”
Do Open Relationships Work?
“Open relationships that work well involve consent, consistent communication, respect, honesty, trust, emotional transparency and setting respective boundaries,” lists LeClaire. “For some open relationships, there might involve a certain level of commitment and fidelity, for example, within the bounds of a three partner closed polyamorous couple.”
Because there are so many options available to those in open relationships, all communication must be crystal clear. Basically, that means no secrets.
What Are the General Rules of Open Relationships?
The great thing about open relationships is that as there are no hard and fast rules, you and your partner(s) get to make them based on what works best for your relationship(s).
“Just as no two monogamous relationships are exactly the same, neither are open ones,” states LeClaire. “There are ‘best practices’ that make the different types of open relationships more fulfilling and satisfying for all involved,” referring back to the points discussed earlier about open communication, transparency with emotions and setting boundaries. Boundaries should be heavily considered and/or discussed with all partners involved when determining how you’d like to practice your specific version of an open relationship.
“Your preferences and desires are a big part of the equation when figuring out the blueprint to your ideal open relationship situation,” adds LeClaire. “There are a lot of different aspects you will want to consider when making these decisions.”
Are Open Relationships Healthy?
The short answer? Yes, they definitely can be very healthy, liberating and fulfilling option for tons of people.
“Healthy open relationships are ones practiced ethically and consensually, taking everyone’s needs, desires, and boundaries into consideration,” says LeClaire. One recent study found the same levels of relationship satisfaction and emotional well-being between folks who practice monogamy and those who practice open relationships.
“If there is any difference in ‘health’ between those who practice monogamy and those who practice non-monogamy, I believe it would related to the fact that society still considers monogamy as the norm or the default, while non-monogamy is still stigmatized and often not treated as legitimate by family, peers and even healthcare providers,” they add.
The Best Dating Websites and Apps for Open Relationships
Perhaps the most notorious non-traditional dating site, Ashley Madison has been helping individuals who are married or in committed relationships seek affairs since 2001. An extremely easy to navigate layout and no nonsense approach is likely what keeps people coming back to the site year after year. Because it’s the closest thing to a household name in terms of dating sites for affairs, the site naturally attracts a similar-minded user base, which affords a seamless approach to finding open relationships. Profiles also feature a member feedback area where others have previously ranked the profile, which helps in identifying who you might want to contact and who isn’t worth your time.
If you’re seeking an LGBTQ male, Grindr has the largest database to choose from. Because queer people generally don’t subscribe to heteronormativity, open relationships are more common among queer communities, so finding someone interested should be fairly simple. With 3.8 million daily active users, Grindr is the most widely used gay dating app across the globe, accounting for 74 percent of gay men, according to research. To aid in your search, users can filter profiles by age, tribes (jock, nerd, discrete, etc.), type of relationship (casual, dating, relationship, etc.) and so on. Using geolocation, Grindr showcases the nearest active users where you’re able to browse a limited distance away, unless you pay for a membership.
The sex-positive hookup site is an industry leader reputable in helping people arrange all sorts of relationships. The site has a huge database of members and a plethora of ways to search, explore and interact. The homepage features an active newsfeed and the site offers various groups, chat rooms and live webcam sessions. On AdultFriendFinder, you’re presented with matches based on ‘Cupid Preferences’ that filters members based on what you are looking for. If you want to be a bit more assertive, you can browse members, run various searches or play a Tinder-like swiping game. If you’re looking for a hookup site that focuses on sexual preferences, AdultFriendFinder is the way to go.
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If you’re in an open relationship, Feeld was basically tailor made for you. The app originally debuted as 3nder, the “Tinder for threesomes”, but quickly changed things up after getting sued by Tinder. After the rebrand, the app became less about threesomes and expanded their horizons to be more inclusive, catering to a number of non-normative relationships models (poly, open, bisexual, etc.). The app offers 18 different sexual identifications and uses Facebook to verify users – that means no bots! The app also lets you pair your profile with your partner as well as the option to hide your profile from friends to assure privacy.
Though the user base isn’t the biggest, PolyFinda, as you can probably assert by its name, is specifically designed for polyamorous couples and “honest, ethical people who like more than one.” The app is exceptionally specific about the type of person you are looking for with a mass of options to choose from for sexual orientation and the relationship model you seek. In addition to the standard match and chat system, Polyinda offers access to poly coaching sessions, insightful articles on poly dating and group chats to assist in navigating potential relationships.
#Open is an app explicitly for open relationships and hosts an inclusive, sex positive community that’s completely void of judgement. Users can join solo or as a couple, offering 24 gender identities and 23 orientations. Users are encouraged to personalize their profiles with hashtags that express your sex and relationship preferences and boundaries. A supporter of the LGBTQ community, #Open also asks for preferred pronouns, which is a simple, rare and appreciated feature on any app, website or document. With a Tinder-like matching system, #Open also lets users search or browse profiles and hosts group chats for larger discussions. Not to mention, the app is giving one dollar to Planned Parenthood for each new profile up to $69,000. So let’s give credit where credit is due.