5 Open Relationship Horror Stories From Couples Therapists
Things can go very wrong if you don't establish clear boundaries.
Monogamy is the norm, but it may not be the right choice for every couple. Before you open your relationship, however, make sure you're prepared for any potential bumps down the road. Allowing yourself and your partner to see other people while staying together can be liberating and exciting. It can also go horribly wrong, creating new issues between you and your significant other. We talked to couples therapists and other relationship experts to find out what they've heard. Read on for the five open relationship horror stories they shared.
She walked in on him in bed with another girl the first weekend.
It doesn't always take long for open relationships to turn sour—especially if you don't communicate properly beforehand, according to Kimberlin Shepard, LMSW, licensed relationship and couples therapist in New York.
Shepard says she saw this problem play out with a couple in their late 20s who decided to try an open relationship. They had been experiencing some issues and wanted a little space from each other without breaking up.
"Without setting appropriate guidelines, the boyfriend brought a girl home with him the first weekend of their new relationship status," she tells Best Life. "The girlfriend was under the impression the open door policy still applied, and she showed up to his place unexpectedly to find him in bed with another girl. Needless to say, neither party was happy, and this is when they then came to me for couples therapy."
He felt pressured into it after quitting his job to watch their kids.
It's also important to make sure both parties are actually on board with the idea of an open relationship. Cain Parish, a relationship coach and author specializing in dating, relationship, and sex culture, says he was once approached by a man for advice after he felt that his girlfriend had "essentially pressured and manipulated him aggressively into an open relationship."
According to Parish, the man had already quit his job in order to raise their children as a stay-at-home parent. After giving up most of his independence for this, he was then approached by his girlfriend about trying non-monogamy.
"He suspected it was a result of her having feelings or desires for other people in her life, and wanting to explore those with or without his permission," he shares.
Parish says the man agreed to open their relationship because he didn't want to cause problems for his family—although it ultimately led to more issues.
"With no professional or social life to speak of, it essentially amounted to him giving his girlfriend permission to cheat on him whilst he stayed at home with the children," Parish notes.
The initial enthusiasm turned into feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
Opening your relationship can take a wrong turn even if both parties are enthusiastic about the idea. Sophie Cress, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist with over eight years of experience working with SexualAlpha, recalls a couple she met who had "embarked on an open relationship journey with high hopes."
According to Cress, the pair had been together for several years at that point, and felt that forming new connections outside their relationship could be enriching.
"However, as their experiences unfolded, it became a stark open relationship horror story due to the profound emotional upheaval it caused," she shares. "What made it particularly harrowing was the intensity of the emotions involved. One partner began to form connections with multiple external individuals, each of whom brought unique qualities and experiences."
These new connections offset "profound feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in the other partner," Cress explains. "As a result, they began to question their self-worth and their place within the primary relationship. The relentless waves of jealousy and self-doubt strained the core partnership, leading to emotional distress that neither partner had anticipated."
The partner who initiated it wasn't prepared for potential emotional connections.
Tina Fey, relationship counselor and founder of the love and dating website Love Connection, tells Best Life she witnessed a similar scenario to Cress. But according to Fey, it ended up being the partner who initiated the idea of an open relationship who became uncomfortable with the emotional connections their significant other was developing outside of the primary partnership.
"They failed to communicate their comfort zones beforehand," she says. "The partner who initiated the idea was comfortable with physical encounters but struggled emotionally when the other partner formed a more emotional connection with a third person. This situation revealed a lot about their own insecurities and codependency issues that they were not aware of."
He started canceling plans with his wife to be with his new partner.
Along with setting emotional boundaries, Erdenay Kokden, a seasoned relationship expert and founder of Amazing Love Quotes, says it is also important for couples to set logistical boundaries, like time spent with outside partners. One open relationship horror story Kokden remembers involved a couple who decided to open their relationship without establishing these rules beforehand.
"So the husband often canceled plans with his primary partner to be with his new partner, leaving his wife feeling neglected and unimportant," Kokden says. "Both partners should agree on how they will allocate time between their primary relationship and outside connections. Regularly revisiting these agreements can ensure that both individuals feel valued and prioritized."
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