Dating Beyond Borders: Can Open Relationships Work?

Today’s generation is filled with some unique romantics.

Among the tens of millions of people in long distance relationships, nearly 33% are college students and young adults. And as they’ve begun to establish long-term unions, “traditional” relationship standards have since changed.

The world has seemingly morphed into one big social yoke, with the forming of romances having broadened over time. Adults between the ages of 23 and 38 — who fall under Millennials and Gen-Z — have not only been the largest to embrace cross-cultural relationships but non-monogamous ones, too.

According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, searches for terms like “polygamous,” “non-monogamous” and “open relationships” have steadily increased the past decade. And in a follow-up study by YouGov, an internet-based market research firm, researchers found that 20% of Americans under the age of 30 have engaged in non-exclusive relationships.

The percentage of open relationships is telling. It’s a realistic look into the minds of young romantics, as they’ve proven to be interested in loving from afar and by the bundle.

Between the two generations, evidence suggests Millennials are more open to non-monogamous unions. According to YouGov, the firm determined nearly half of all Millennials have considered non-monogamy, with long distance relationships widening their level of optimism.

For Stephen Adams, the idea of a successful open relationship, especially one split by an ocean-wide distance, is unattainable.

Adams, the owner of smoothie and juice bars Odyssey and Grand Central Nutrition, maintained a relationship with his former partner while she studied abroad in Chile. Through his three-month experience, and having witnessed others, he says acts of non-monogamy “ruin” the essence of a relationship.

That’s just not me,” he said. “The whole part of a relationship is to be exclusive to one another. I don’t personally think it will work like that.

“We’re territorial creatures, we’re attached,” Adams added. “The point of a relationship is to solidify that attachment, so whenever you break that attachment, it has some type of impact on the relationship.”

Though, Adams says, the possibility of an open relationship working out is based on how others define their romance. While some relationships are built on exclusivity to start, other couples might have considered being “friends with benefits.” Either way, he says, it’s an understanding that should be etched out by the people involved. Otherwise, a person’s actions could be mistaken for infidelity — and justifiably so.

Adams’ apprehensions are also common among a large number of Millennials. For every one of them that’s open to non-monogamy, there’s another who feels being exclusive is how relationships last, which research suggests has been proven to be true.

According to Susan Winter, who’s recognized as one of New York’s top dating experts, open relationships eventually fade over time. Why? In most cases, someone likely preferred a monogamous romance, but went along with an open relationship to appease their partner’s request.

Between the people Adams knows who attempted an open long distance relationship, none of them firmly hashed out the factors that came with it. Instead of addressing potential feelings of guilt, secrecy and uncertainty, they maneuvered independently, he says, ultimately shortening their union prematurely.

Rather than fully embrace an open relationship, revert to a monogamous one or break up, Adams says he’s seen couples engage in dishonest acts.

“I know dudes with girlfriends, and when they’re not around, they have girls that they kick it with,” said Adams. “I don’t think that was known between both of them. Maybe it was something kind of understood, or maybe they knew [their boyfriends] were talking to somebody. I still don’t know how open it is if the other party doesn’t know about it.”

So, for an open relationship to work, along with the constraints that come with dating abroad, it’s an effort few can match. Adams doesn’t feel someone should pursue one. But if they do, he says, they need to establish a solid understanding beforehand and be fully committed to everything that comes with a non-monogamous relationship.

“I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re ready for that,” said Adams. “Don’t do it just to do it. At the end of the day, we mix and mingle every day. But if you feel that you’re ready and you understand what comes with it, then cool.”

— Jetset Times

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