How to handle imbalance in an open relationship

So you decided to open up. Perhaps you both started working out, updated the wardrobe, honed your pick-up lines and then proceeded to both create sexy Tinder accounts. You’re now 2 months into it and there’s a slight hickup. She’s been on 12 dates, while he’s been on 2 – both of which ended with a hug and a “nice to meet you, have a great night!”.

He’s an attractive guy, perhaps even objectively more attractive than her – so what gives? Why is she so much more successful?

This is, sadly, not that uncommon.

Why does this happen?

If you haven’t guessed it on your own, I’ve illustrated it with a little Venn diagram to make it more clear.

Supply and demand .. basically

It’s basically just supply and demand – Market powers at play. The pool of available candidates are vastly different in the two scenarios. A man in an open relationship will, for the most part, experience that he can only attract the relatively modest group of single women looking for casual fun and the very small group of women experienced in open relationships.

The woman on the other hand will have the pick of a vast pool of single men. They are often more likely to be looking for casual experiences. They are likely also more open to engaging in an open relationship on a “friends with benefits” type basis.

Your milliage may vary and it’ll probably depend a bit on the country, but for the most part, this is the lay of the land.

So all things being equal, a woman will have an easier time finding partners in a sexually motivated open relationship, than a man. When starting out you should have this in mind and decide how you want to deal with it.

Does polyamory change this situation?

Yes, absolutely.

Many men who would be willing to have sex with someone in an open relationship, will not be willing to engage in that relationship in a romantic fashion. We’re sadly lacking some hard statistical evidence here, but from the relatively modest groups of people we personally know living a poly lifestyle, most have reported it’s about as hard to find sustainable male and female partners.

When it’s not just a purely sexual relationship, other factors come into play that even the playing field.

That said, we’re aware most people who are interested in open relationships are not interested in poly. For most, it’s about fulfilling sexual desires that the primary partner alone either can’t or won’t. So a purely sexual motivation.

What can we do about it?

Assuming you’re set on a sexually motivated open relationship, there are things you can do to make your situation better. Here are some tips to consider.

Tip #1 – Live with it. It’ll get better

Yeah, we know – not the greatest tip. But honestly this is what most people should do.

While the woman may be able to get 3, 4 or even 8 times as many dates as the man in a short amount of time, this will even out over time in practice. Yeah, you can go on a bunch of dates, but you can’t realistically maintain 8 different “friends with benefits” anyway. So over time you will likely both have one or two regular sexual partners. She’ll just have had a larger pool to choose them from initially (and perhaps more “trial runs”).

All in all, if you are okay with the fact that she will be having sex with more people initially, just let it happen and stay the course. It will likely even out over time and you’ll be fine.

Just make sure that you are actually okay with it. It’s not about weathering the storm. If the first 6-12 months of your open relationship feels like torture, it will do more harm than good to your longterm primary relationship.

Remember – an open relationship is the extreme sports of romantic entanglements. It can and will go wrong if you don’t take precautions. You have to feel it out and not just sacrifice yourself.

Tip #2 – Fix existing imbalances

One of the major issues we often see is that the man and the woman in the couple are just objectively not at the same level. While this may not matter within the primary relationship, people outside the relationship will not feel the same way.

If the woman is a young, fit and beautiful women who spends 4 hours in the gym and eats right, while the man is significantly overweight and hasn’t seen the inside of a gym in 5 years, the initial imbalance of an open relationship is not the primary problem.

While it is true open relationships, poly, swinging and the like are for all shapes and sizes, the brutal reality is that not all shapes and sizes are equally successful.

All other things being equal, a healthy and fit person will simply have an easier time finding partners. Both initially and in the long run.

So if you’re a couple where one of you is fit and the other is not, this would be the first thing to fix. You’re probably experiencing a much greater imbalance in the number of dates specifically because of this. People are just too nice to tell you to your face, that that’s the reason.

You can’t really change what god gave you, but you can make sure it’s being shown in the best possible light through diet, exercise, grooming etc. You can do it.

Tip #3 – Create a counterbalance

So you’re pretty sure you’re already equally fit and attractive, so Tip #2 isn’t relevant for you? Guess what – the solution from tip #2 still is.

As we’ve covered, an open relationship is initially imbalanced in the woman’s favor. How do you balance this? Well, how do you balance yourself when you’re teetering over a cliff? You counterbalance the weight.

As a man, you should not aim to be as fit and attractive as your female partner. You should aim higher.

The sad truth is that a very fit semi-ripped man is likely to be about as successful as a chubby untrained woman. It’s unfair, I know. But that’s simply the reality that most people will experience.

So if you, as a man, really want to experience an open relationship where you’re equally successful throughout, make sure that you are as attractive as can be and significantly more fit than your female partner.

It likely won’t fully balance it initially, just due to the lower supply of available women – but it will be much better.

Tip #4 – Practice social skills

No amount of abs will counter horrible game. Just as with tip #2, if your social skills as a guy are subpar compared to your female partner, fix this. The easiest way to do this is practice with your partner. While it may be awkward to hit on your existing partner for practice, it’ll be significantly less awkward than trying (and failing) with strangers.

She should also be very interested in helping you out. After all, the more successful you are, the more likely her open relationship will last.

Unlike tip #3, we wouldn’t suggest deliberately outperforming your partner on this one though. This will likely just create resentment or manipulative patterns that no one wants. When it comes to social skills, you should try to improve together. At the end of the day, you should both be interested in improving each other’s social skills and none of you need to be pickup artists.

Tip #5 – Set limits

If you feel like you’ve done what you can to balance your experience, but the imbalance is still problematic, we would recommend renegotiating the limits on your open relationship. Specifically we would suggest imposing shared limits on the number of prospects and dates you engage with at any given time.

Specifically, you could agree to only arrange a fixed number of dates per month. If she happens to have four candidates for each date, she’ll just have to pick one.

You could also choose to limit the number of active prospects. Essentially saying you can only have x number of people on your chat at any given time.

There are many options here. How you arrange it is really only limited by your shared imagination. What you should be focused on is what you’re mutually comfortable consenting to at any given time. You have to mutually agree on this one, with no pressure in either direction.

Now, this may seem unfair to the most successful person. It’s not like it’s necessarily their fault they’re more attractive on the market. At the end of the day though, they may be the most successful person in the couple, but if they’re not careful, they may inadvertently have to be successful as a single person instead.

In an open relationship, the limits are always up for renegotiation. Limits that both parties are not truly comfortable with are not true consented limits. It’s all about consent and consent can always be withdrawn. If you can’t live with that, an open relationship is likely not for you. Your first and foremost concern should be your primary relationship.

Take care to continously renegotiate terms, so you’re both always happy and comfortable. This is the best way to ensure longivity in your relationship.


Inline images courtesy of Bruce Mars and Towfiqu Barbhuiya – thank you.
Post image courtesy of Elena Mozhvilo – thank you.

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