Relationships are very complicated. Not everyone views them the same exact way across the board. When it comes to giving strict definitions to relationships, this often does not work out very well. This is due to the fact that relationships at bottom, vary widely in terms of the dynamics between participants. Some people view relationships as a source of love and solace, whereas others view relationships as a source of pain and resentment. The dynamic of a particular relationship is going to deeply affect the way in which those who are in that relationship define what a relationship.
The same goes for an open relationship. However, this gets very complicated, as it seems that those who are outside of open relationships in our culture have some sway when it comes to defining what an open relationship is. Such people generally view open relationships as a hedonistic sexual free-for-all, whereby there are no responsibilities between parties and it is just an open invitation for sex with as many people as possible. And for some people in open relationships, this is how they might define an open relationship too. But the dynamic of those not in open relationships having sway over the definition of open relationships derives purely from misinformation and the stigma against polyamory.
Aside from this, however, the way in which those in open relationships define them is also a matter of the dynamic of the relationship. Or, more precisely, what such people would like the dynamic of the open relationship to be like. Some people view open relationships as simply having multiple romantic partners. Such people would define an open relationship the same way most would define monogamous relationships: a commitment towards someone emotionally, sexually, and practically. However, the only difference in the definition with reference to open relationships, is that such commitment is towards multiple people.
Other people might have the polar opposite view. This view might be more akin to that of the stereotypes and stigma surrounding open relationships. That is to say, many who pursue open relationships pursue them in the hopes of more sex. There isn’t anything wrong with this, of course, but this is a very different way of defining open relationships than the definition mentioned earlier.
Fundamentally, there are three reasons why people have their own definitions of open relationships. The first is that people simply desire things from their relationships and in turn, seek to implant those desires onto how they want their relationships to be. The second is that the dynamic of their relationships are a certain way, and this shapes how they define their relationships. The third, and perhaps most troubling, is that the stigma against open relationships has created a definition of open relationships that has become popular –to the point where many who are in or are interested in open relationships, ascribe to this definition.
The question now is: what should you do with your definition? The main answer is that you should not keep it to yourself, because fundamentally it is not just your definition of open relationships; rather, it is an explanation on your intentions when approaching an open relationship. Such intentions are crucial to communicating with others when pursuing an open relationship, as, others might not have the same intentions as you do. If you do not express your intentions when pursuing an open relationship, you might run into the trouble of having a mismatch in values with your potential new partner and that will inevitably lead to the dissolution of the relationship. Or, even worse, it might cause a toxic relationship environment. Hence, getting at how you define open relationships is a very crucial factor in determining how you will approach them in action.