May 29, 2024
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA
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The Pros and Cons of No-Strings-Attached Relationships


No-Strings-Attached Relationships are Pretty Popular, Especially With Young People. Let’s Talk About How They Can Work, What’s Good, and What You Need to Know. 

We’ve all been in our early 20s and thirsty. Life is moving very fast and we’re leaving home/university, trying new careers, making friends and meeting different people. It’s exciting and scary and weird. We want affection, but we don’t want to be tied down. We want to try new things! We want to have a good time! This is where the “no-strings-attached” relationships arrive. Of course, no-strings-attached relationships aren’t exclusively done by people in their early 20s, but that seems to be the most frequent time. 

What is the difference between open relationships and polyamory?

 No-strings-attached relationships are also sometimes called “open relationships”, “friends with benefits” or “ethical non-monogamy”. Polyamory is different, although there can be some overlaps. In an open relationship, both parties are free to date and sleep with other people; polyamory is where multiple people are in a relationship together – a “throuple” or a “quad”, for example. There are various rules which people use to define and understand their situations; I would argue that the essential ones are 

  1. Use protection (condoms, dental dams, PREP etc.)
  2. Be honest (in a kind way)

Some people do cheat or are unfaithful, and will claim to be in a closed relationship but still have sex with others. Infidelity is not the same as an open relationship, and the difference is in honesty. 

What are some issues with no-strings-attached relationships? 

Forbes has come up with two problems which often occur in no-strings-attached relationships. In an article written by Mark Travers, Ph.D, he discusses the good and the bad parts, and where things often go wrong. His first issue is one we all anticipate: people getting attached. Sex is complicated, and our bodies produce oxytocin, which makes us feel like we’re in love. Lost in a chemical haze, it can be difficult to separate out actual fondness. 

Open relationships often occur between friends with some existing attraction, which further messes with our feelings. If you enjoy someone’s company, then you sleep with them, both the rational and hormone-driven parts of our brains would quite like them to stay around. If you also know that they’re off to see someone else, you might get jealous. Open relationships can lead to monogamous partnerships, or they can return to platonic friendships, or they can end in a messy and complicated way. I’ve seen the latter happen the most frequently, to be honest.

Promiscuity and the risk of STIs

Travers cites another issue with open relationships, and that’s how easily STIs can be caught and spread. Contraception and STI prevention is difficult and will really depend on your age, genitals, sexuality and reaction. It’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional about your options and it might take a while to find the right thing for you. All of this seems obvious, but as 20% of the US population has an STI, it’s apparently important to remind everyone. Use condoms, get tested regularly, and be honest with whomever you’re seeing. Most STIs are treatable, and it’s best if you seek medical help as soon as possible.

What are the benefits of open relationships? 

All of this feels very negative. People should have as many sexual relationships as they like, and open relationships are a great way to meet people and figure out what you enjoy. I think one-time hookups can be pleasurable and flings are a lot of fun. Having an open relationship doesn’t mean that you won’t settle down one day – but you don’t have to! If you’ve tried people your age, people a little older, same-gender people, different-gender people, kinky people, vanilla people, people from the same background and people from different backgrounds, if/when you do look for a long-term closed relationship, you’ll know what you like. 


No-strings-attached relationships are a lot of fun. They allow so many possibilities and suit people in a variety of situations. Sometimes they don’t work out – but that’s the case for quite a few marriages, too, and we still love a wedding! So if you’re single, and there’s someone you like, and you think you might have a good time with other people, too… go for it!
Rachel Hall, M.A., completed her education in English at the University of Pennsylvania and received her master’s degree in family therapy from Northern Washington University. She has been actively involved in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, and coping with life changes and traumatic events for both families and individual clients for over a decade. Her areas of expertise include narrative therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and therapy for traumatic cases. In addition, Rachel conducts workshops focusing on the psychology of positive thinking and coping skills for both parents and teens. She has also authored numerous articles on the topics of mental health, stress, family dynamics and parenting.

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