The Role of Sexual-Orientation in Open Relationships

Since 2015 when same-sex marriage was legalized federally in the United States, many great advents have been established in the domain of sexuality. First and foremost, openness and acceptance towards the LGBTQ community have been more widespread than in any other time in the United States’ history. The role of gender in our culture and society has been clarified and is being more widely studied now probably than at any other time throughout history. Finally, open relationships are shifting closer and closer to a practice that is seen as a norm, rather than something that is off on the fringes. 

Given such advents in sexuality, many have asked what the role of sexual orientation is in the context of open relationships. Do things change if you are gay, straight, bi, or anything in between? This is something that is, of course, reasonable to ask. Relationship norms tend to vary across differing sexual orientations. For instance, those in the LGBTQ community tend to be more open to the idea of open relationships, whereas straight individuals might be more skittish about the idea of an open relationship. 

Here are a few questions that commonly accompany the main question of “what is the role of sexual orientation in open-relationships.” :

As a straight person, what if my partner wants to experiment with the same sex?

If you have agreed upon an open relationship with your partner, there should not be anything wrong with them experimenting with the same sex as themselves. It might very well be the case that your partner is bi-sexual and there isn’t anything wrong with that. If anything, you might even want to be more encouraging of your partner if they bring up that they have been seeing someone of the same sex. Even with the destigmatized state of same-sex relationships, people still have a difficult time coming out about it. It would be even worse if you set the stage for an open relationship only for you to stultify your partner’s opportunities to be more in touch with who they truly are. 

Should I Be Worried That My Partner Will Switch over Fully to Same-Sex Relationships? 

This is a reasonable worry. After all, before LGBTQ folks eventually come out, they sadly force themselves into heteronormative relationships. Which is to say, they act like they are straight by being in “straight” relationships, due to the implicit but unwarranted shame that comes with being LGBTQ. If your partner begins to see people of the same sex in your open relationship, it is very unlikely that your partner will fully enter over into fully same-sex relationships. This is primarily due to the fact that most people in the LGBTQ community are quite comfortable with who they are sexually by the time they get out of high school. In this case, it is very likely that your partner is simply bi-sexual, and wishes to have sex with both sexes. 

On the other hand, you might want to pay attention to the state of your relationship with your partner. This has little to do with sexual orientation, but, if your relationship is on rocky waters with your partner, you might want to work things out a bit more before entering into an open relationship –this is because they very well might simply leave you as a result of finding someone else in this context. 

Ultimately, however, if your relationship is built upon trust and transparency, you truly have nothing to worry about. In this case, there really is no way that you will lose your partner to someone else.

If I am straight, does this mean I have to have same-sex partners too?  

In the context of a healthy relationship, you do not have to do anything that you do not want to do. And if your partner says that you do, it cannot be considered a healthy relationship. Hence, the short answer here is no: if you do not want to have same-sex partners, you do not have to. Your partner’s decisions, and their decisions only. It is best if you encourage their decisions, of course. However, they cannot impose their decisions upon you. They cannot tell you, “because I act this way, you must too.” That would be a form of tyranny and such tyranny is best done away with by getting away from such a person. 

Where Should Lines Be Drawn or Not?

Firstly, lines should not be drawn at your partner wanting to have same-sex relations. This would be unfair, and frankly, discriminatory. Where lines should be drawn, however, is when you feel that the person your partner is seeing might not be the best person for them. Maybe this person is controlling or is a drug addict. If you are worried about your partners’ choices in secondary partners due to the character –not gender, sex, or sexual orientation– of said secondary partners, you have every right to tell them that you are uncomfortable and need to talk. Finally, lines should not be drawn on who your partner sees if you simply deep down don’t want to see your partner with anyone else. If you have such feelings and can’t get over them, you shouldn’t be in an open relationship, to begin with.. 

In short, we don’t expect sexual orientation to play a huge role in open relationships. At the very least, it should not play a large role. In reality, it is a quite trivial component of what can make an open relationship make or break. The bigger components are honesty, compatibility, and the willingness to be vulnerable to your feelings and the feelings of others. Indeed, if sexual orientation becomes a huge deal for you in the sense that you do not like your partner seeing people of the same sex, you should probably have a reality check. It might be the case that you are dealing with unconscious bias and this is becoming discriminatory. All such behavior will serve to do in the context of your open relationship is to ruin it. It is as simple as that. “Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) 

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