Proactive Strategies to Avoid Common Failures in Open Relationships

couple in bed, not facing one another, clearly in an argument.

Many monogamous couples are discovering the potential an open relationship has on saving their relationships. Because of this, couples may sometimes think that open relationships are a cure-all. But in the end, open relationships are just like any relationship: if you don’t do the work, it may fail. And doing the work entails being aptly aware of the common obstacles.

Today, we’ll examine what those common open relationship failures are and how to navigate them.

There are a variety of issues which could serve to break down an open relationship. And unsurprisingly, these are often the same culprits which serve to derail monogamous unions.

But there’s a distinction which should be drawn between the two. Monogamous relationships don’t come with the prerequisite of communication. That may sound absurd because we “assume” it’s built in, but in reality, it isn’t. When people marry, they don’t say, “so to confirm, you can’t have flirtatious chats with a girl you meet online.” This is because it is assumed you can’t. Fair or unfair, these assumptions create an atmosphere of non-communication.

When you begin an open relationship, you must communicate all aspects of what you and your partners boundaries are. This results in a centerpiece feature of the open relationship being communication.

We point this out because this can lure some open relationship partners into believing their work is finished. Its also a valuable distinction for struggling monogamous couples considering an open relationship to understand.

Here’s a handful of potential issues which could derail your open relationship:

Boundary Issues

A boundary issue occurs when one or both partners go beyond the agreed upon open relationship standards.

This typically occurs in a not so obvious or dramatic way. In a monogamous relationship, the typical boundary breach is a physical encounter. Ironically, in an open relationship, the breach often centers around an extended communication with an approved partner.

The good thing in an open relationship, as we mentioned, is that you must set boundaries to be in the relationship. But sometimes, partners get lulled into thinking things are all good and they fail to continue to communicate.

Boundaries should be explored consistently both for the reason of confirming and for continuing partner dialogues. Sometimes boundaries fall in an open relationship because time has passed and a partner may feel they aren’t beyond the boundary.

Keep talking. It’s what got you started, it’s what will keep you happy.

Managing Expectations

For couples scared by past monogamous relationship doldrums and dramas, the initial stages of the open relationship may feel like that of a dream. Suddenly, there’s communication, new adventures, and a renewed sexual appetite for one another.

This can lull partners into thinking there won’t be any hurdles. And when this happens, an entitlement to happiness sets in and things begin to fall apart. Because when trouble arises, it feels almost undeserved.

But all relationships have struggles. You averted many initial struggles because you opened up with deep, involved communications. But if those communications didn’t continue (see the section above), issues seeped in. Even if communications did continue, it’s not a panacea for every struggle.

For a relationship to be awesome, people must endure and overcome struggles. It’s a natural path to success in anything.

But one thing you can do is not allow yourself to believe your new open relationship will be all roses. That’s not to squash your excitement or positivity; far from it. Its to say, expect issues to happen, but further, understand you’re going to do the work to overcome them.

Time Management

With extra partners comes less time. When partners are new to the open relationship, we find this one to be the biggest surprise. Oddly, it would seem that managing time between more partners would intuitively insert itself as a struggle, but most people never consider it.

Managing time and balancing multiple relationships is complex stuff. It can lead to some partners feeling less desires, or jealous, or unwanted. It can lead to you feeling all of these things.

Learn to be transparent about your schedule. Expect transparency from others. Again, it all comes down to proper communications. Communications is the centerpiece of must solutions to relationship problems.


Open relationships aren’t a cure all. They do, however, offer incredible benefits to partners who are willing to do the work. But even when you do the work, you’ll still encounter struggles. The key is setting appropriate expectations so that you are able to counter struggles with solutions.