Open Door Policy: The Truth About “Breaks” and Open Relationships

July 5, 2012  |  

By Nicole Thompson


Sometimes, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. Lust assures us of this. It’s most evident when we hear celebrities, such as Mo’Nique, Brangelina, and rumors about Demi & Ashton and Will & Jada discussing their open relationships, partner swapping, breaks…or any pardons which allows a person or their significant other to see other people, in regards to dating or sex. For some, this arrangement can work; couples are able to detach sentimentality from affairs, and allow their boyfriends and girlfriends…or in some cases, husbands and wives, to roam free like pasturing cows.

For others, the notion is nothing short of ridiculous. Clinging to the idea of monogamy, most men and women don’t want to see their significant others hooking up with random co-eds. The reality of many relationships, especially long term pairings, is that infidelity will occur. It’s up to the couples, however, to decide if the lapse in judgment will break them or simply test the strains of their bond. All things considered, if you are contemplating adopting this relationship style, there are a few things to be considered, including whether or not your relationship possesses the necessary amount of trust to have a successful non-monogamous relationship.

Generally, the reason why most couples take “breaks” is so they can take time for personal reflection and growth. That time apart is intended to help them better gauge the current state of their relationship. Unfortunately, when some people suggest breaks, what they really mean is that they want a free pass to go hook up without having to carry around all that pesky “I’ve cheated” baggage. Breaks aren’t like the other topics being that there isn’t an understanding put into place, granting permission to frolic about with someone else, but it does open the door to the possibility. If you and your partner routinely take breaks, with the intention of cheating, then perhaps you two should come to an understanding or break things off indefinitely, especially if you were still hoping to be exclusive and your partner has not been.

For couples who’ve been together for a while, they understand that that the “open” aspect of the relationship refers to being open-minded to the choices that their partner makes, with the hope that their partner will do the same. Some couples don’t intend for their partners to stray but find boundaries limiting and detrimental to their partnership. In order to maintain trust, some like to put a few restraints in place, such as regulating who their partner can sleep with, or even instituting a policy where the couple has to meet their significant other’s lover prior to the tryst. The situations where “open door” relationships are the most successful are the ones in which couples are honest, but don’t dwell in the facts. The devil is in the details, meaning that no one really wants full disclosure. At the end of the day, people simply want to know that their partners are satisfied and that they are still loved, which can be difficult to believe when your partner is giving you a blow-by-blow about his most recent BJ.

There are several ways to know if an “open” lifestyle isn’t right for you. Mainly, if you’re the jealous type –easily roused by suspicion, or overtly aggressive. Before taking that final step toward an open relationship, consider doing role playing exercises, such as “strangers at the bar” or “boss and secretary.” Also, try the observation game, point out people you would sleep with to one another, and mentally take that person home with you that evening.

Tip: If you have issues with communicating your interactions, perhaps you and your partner can keep a shared journal about your experiences.

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  • When did Black folks became so immoral? SMH Jesus help us

  • Eps

    The key to it is: communication and honesty. The most successful open relationships have those 2 things. But to be honest, humans have spent the majority of their 200,000 year history in non-monogamous relationships.

  • Joshua Thirteen

    But Rachel, we were on a brake!

  • Angel


  • Southern_gal

    VERY interesting article!!! I just recently broke up with my bf… he used the “taking a break line,” and even was man enough to say he wanted to sleep with someone else. You see, I’m waiting until I get married to have sex so I couldn’t really satisfy him on that level. I often wonder if we would’ve established an open relationship from the beginning if we would still be together now… But, he really wasn’t the greatest communicator so that would’ve went down the drain anyway, I guess… But interesting article nonetheless!

    • commenter

      Way to stick to your principles. You are much better off without him.

  • Kay

    I’m glad my religion frowns upon fornication and extramarital partners. While I’m not judging anyone, its nice to know that my path is already laid out for me.

    • commenter

      Excellent comment. I agree with you. My religion is the same.

  • IllyPhilly

    Honestly, I agree with “breaks” not just to screw around, but to have your breathing space. I can’t judge anybody who wants to be up under their mate and sleep in the same bed, but that’s not me. That’s why I loved Frida Kahlo’s marriage or at least the way they lived. The people I know who do that stay together longer.

  • Gimmeabreak78

    I hope all the “open relationship” folks have fun playing the “Guess who gave me chlamydia?” game.

  • Nick

    My girlfriend and I have an open relationship whereas she on occasion has another lover or two a month. At first I wasn’t keen on the idea of her sleeping with other men but it’s actually exciting to watch her perform the way she does. I’ve seen sides of her I couldn’t imagine possible and her being with other men is arousing and I love it. Just understand swinging isn’t for everyone but a young couple like me and my girlfriend (both late 20s) make it work because we love each other. It’s all about open communication.

    • IllyPhilly

      And to each its own. and I agree it’s all about communication.

      • Cindie

        It’s “really all about” catching and spreading STD’s and HIV/Aids

    • gracie

      Oh wow, just wow!!!