9 Healthy Habits We Can Learn From Open Relationships

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The difference between infidelity and polyamory boils down to one very fundamental virtue.

Studies show that between 30 and 60 percent of married individuals in the United States will cheat at some point in their marriages. Infidelity has increased significantly among married couples in their 20s, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that, "Between 1991 and 2006, the numbers of unfaithful wives under 30 increased by 20 percent and husbands by a whopping 45 percent." Many people assume that affairs are a symptom of a larger problem in a relationship. But according to the Psychotherapy Networker article "The New Monogamy," "35 to 55 percent of people having affairs report they were happy in their marriage at the time of their infidelity."

So what's causing so many people to cheat? Some feel it's a matter of viewing sexuality and commitment as two mutually exclusive concepts. As the Networker article suggests, many individuals in intimate relationships are making exceptions to sexual fidelity or taking alternative approaches to their sexual freedom — and that can work as long as those decisions are agreed upon by both partners.

No matter what the agreement, though, there is one fundamental quality that, if compromised, can destroy any relationship, open or otherwise, and that's honesty. One might say that the true dangers of non-monogamy lie in the deception. As the Networker article describes it, "The key to these [open] arrangements, and what makes them meaningful within the framework of emotional commitment, is that there can be no secrecy between partners about the arrangements."

Maintaining intimacy means breaking down restrictions and building up trust. It means staying close to someone without losing your unique sense of self. While it may seem counterintuitive, what I've found is that avoiding affairs often means offering partners more freedom, increased independence and open communication.

Here are some dos and don'ts that, based on the principles of open relationships, that can keep you and your partner excited about each other and less likely to grow apart.

1. Hold on to your friendships. Your friends bring out different aspects of your personality that are authentically you, and these relationships help keep you from losing yourself in your relationship. Good friends also offer diverse and distinct attributes to our lives. This counters the unrealistic pressure we put on ourselves to get everything from just one person or one relationship.

2. Expand your world; make new friends; try new things. Research shows that having a number of close friends adds years to your life. When relationship partners shrink their worlds to accommodate each other, the relationship suffers. Instead, meet your partner’s friends and have him or her meet yours. Try new activities together, and be open to each others' interests. Keep reading ...

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This article was originally published at PsychAlive . Reprinted with permission from the author.