When people hear the words “open relationship,” they sometimes jump directly to the idea of having sex with other people outside their primary partner. While that’s definitely part of opening up a relationship, that’s not the only thing that might interest someone in having one.
“Exploring nonmonogamy tends to highlight strengths and weaknesses in relationships, which provides opportunities for personal and relationship growth,” therapist Dulcinea Alex Pitagora, Ph.D., LCSW, tells Self. “Along with that growth might come a realization that an open arrangement could help both partners feel more satisfied — or that the relationship isn’t working.”
Although we already know that communication is essential to all relationships, a 2020 study published in The Journal of Sex Research has found that those in an open relationship tend to communicate more and better than those in a one-on-one relationship. Because there are rules to abide by, boundaries that are to be respected, consent that needs to be discussed, and consistent ongoing dialogue to make the open relationship work, communication really thrives among the primary two partners.
Of course, yes, getting to engage in sexual activity with others and explore things that maybe your primary partner isn’t into is also a pro. But above all, the effect that communication has on two people in a ENM is a selling point for some.