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    Here’s Everything You Wanted To Know About Open Relationships But Were Too Afraid To Ask

    “A threesome is actually a great place to start with open relationships because both primary partners are involved and you can kind of see how the dynamic works.”

    On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed open relationships. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

    Listen to BuzzFeed Daily on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever else you might listen to your favorite podcasts!

    So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to author and sex educator Gigi Engle about the ins and outs (and do's and don'ts) of open relationships. Here's some of what we learned:

    BuzzFeed Daily: So, I don't know if you've been following celebrity news, but Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have recently started speaking publicly about their open marriage for the first time. And you know, we're not going to speculate or weigh in on the dynamic of their specific relationship today, but we wanted to talk to an expert about open relationships and how they work in general. So first, would you mind giving our listeners a brief explanation of what an open relationship is?

    @starz / GIPHY

    Gigi Engle: Sure, an open relationship is when two primary partners decide to open their relationship. Usually, this means in a sexual sense, which means that the other partners are allowed to have sex with outside partners, and there are different dynamics as far as disclosing your sexual relationships with outside partners. It's very subjective, but basically, it means that you're in a monogamous relationship that has opened up sexually. 

    BuzzFeed Daily: So how is an open relationship different from polyamory?

    @freeform / GIPHY

    GE: Usually, people who are open are in a dyadic partnership between two people, and they are having sexual relationships outside of the primary partnership. But it's not usually romantic or dating. It can be, but there are lots of gray areas — the lines are not very hard. 

    But polyamory usually means that partnership is open to romantic relationships outside of the primary partnership. And this can happen either in a hierarchical structure where two partners are primary and they have secondary partners, or it can be in a non-hierarchical relationship where all partners are equal, which is usually where you see things like a triad, which is a three-person relationship or a quad, which is four people.

    BuzzFeed Daily: What are some of the usual reasons a couple might decide to have an open relationship?

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    GE: There are a lot of reasons. We have a society that praises monogamy as being the ultimate form of commitment, but really, human beings aren't necessarily supposed to be sexually monogamous. So you can want love and want a primary partnership while also wanting to have sex with other people. Honestly, there are just so many hot people in the world, and Foucault is the person who said that "it's just insanity, that there are so many sexy people in the world and we can't really have sex with them." He didn't say it that way — that's how I'm going to put it. So basically, it's about sexual variety and wanting to experience sexuality with other people, and it's very healthy and normal.

    BuzzFeed Daily: Can you talk a little bit about what some of the benefits are like in addition to that? And maybe what some of the drawbacks might be?

    @originals / GIPHY

    GE: As far as benefits go, there are a ton. So human beings tend to get into what's called the "Coolidge effect." When you are sexually monogamous with one person, you tend to get a little bit bored. Things can fall into a cycle, like a routine. You can kind of lose that sexy spark. And so things stop being as interesting sexually and opening yourself up to other sexual relationships can really strengthen your primary partnership because you start to become excited about your sexual relationship with your primary partner again. You get to experience other people. You get to bring back some of that oxytocin and dopamine that you first experienced when you were first with your partner and had all that new relationship energy. 

    It comes to be very liberating and paradoxically very bonding for the primary partnership because you get to experience what's called compersion, which is where you're excited for the other person to be having these wonderful experiences and you guys get to grow together in that way. So it can be very liberating. 

    As far as drawbacks go, I think the obvious one is jealousy. Just because you're in a very healthy, open relationship doesn't mean that you're not going to experience jealousy. That's a human emotion. The key to dealing with jealousy is acknowledging it, being able to acknowledge your partner's feelings, and talking about it. The thing about open relationships is that people think it's all very sexy and everybody's like banging each other all the time, but really, it's like 99% talking and 1% sex.

    BuzzFeed Daily: So for some people who have only been in monogamous relationships, something like being open might sound antithetical to what a romantic relationship is supposed to be like. Do you get that a lot?

    New Line Cinema

    GE: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, people think that if you're in an open relationship, it must mean that there's something wrong with your relationship, that one person isn't happy. Usually, if it's a heterosexual relationship, people will assume that the man asked for it, and the woman is just going along with it. I have a couple of friends who are in relationships that are very happily open or very happily in triads. And there's so much questioning around whether the male partner pressured my friend into it. And she's like, "Not at all. It was my idea if anything."

    And it's just not true. It's more like we are playing into these cultural sexual scripts that say that monogamy is the ultimate form of relationship status. But honestly, it wasn't until the agricultural revolution that we really started having monogamous relationships, it's not really natural to the human way. And a lot of people aren't really designed to do monogamy. So it's more breaking down these cultural scripts and understanding that these narratives aren't real. The only reason that they're real is that we've decided they are as a society. It doesn't mean that they're true.

    BuzzFeed Daily: As you mentioned, there's a lot of communication that needs to be happening in order for an open relationship to work. So how would you suggest partners go about talking about this stuff with one another?

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    GE: If you want to have an open relationship and talk to your partner about it, I think there are a couple of foundational things that need to be discussed first, which is that firstly, that you can't really have an open relationship as a way to make your relationship better, like if you're in a relationship that's rocky or there's been infidelity or anything like that. Basically, if the relationship isn't super solid, you can't open the relationship — it will almost always lead to a breakup. 

    Also, both people have to be completely down for it. One person wanting to open the relationship and the other person not wanting to open the relationship is a recipe for disaster. So when it comes to bringing it up, I would always recommend having an outside person to facilitate this, like a couples therapist or sex therapist or a sex coach who can help explain this and help you and your partner negotiate some of the boundaries. Because if you've never done this before, it can be very it's a very vulnerable time, and it can be very scary because, for somebody who hasn't thought of this before, the partner who they're having this information brought to them, it can be very jarring. But usually, in a really good, open dynamic, both people have talked about it and are interested in it — for instance, talking about threesome fantasies, or talking about maybe even having a threesome. A threesome is actually a great place to start with open relationships because both primary partners are involved and you can kind of see how the dynamic works. And that's definitely where I would start: discussing the possibility of having a third person in your sex life together. Then you guys can negotiate that together.

    We also discussed Aaron Rodgers and Shailene Woodley's statements about Aaron’s COVID status, following his comments on the The Pat McAfee Show on November 5.

    Christian Petersen / Getty Images

    That day, in regards to getting vaccinated, Aaron -- who recently tested positive for COVID -- said he wouldn’t quote “acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something."

    A few days later he went on the show again, saying quote "I acknowledge that I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading.. to anybody who felt misled by those comments I take full responsibility."

    Meanwhile, Shailene took to her Instagram story to defend Aaron from media stories that he’d broken quarantine to go get some coffee, claiming that the man in the accompanying photos’ feet were much smaller than Aaron’s.

    Plus, in her upcoming memoir, Jamie Lynn Spears reveals she threatened to file for emancipation when she was 16 and pregnant.

    As always, thanks for listening! And if you ever want to suggest stories or just want to say hi, you can reach us at daily@buzzfeed.com.