Defining an open relationship is a little bit more complicated than you might think. Fortunately for those who are curious, it’s becoming a lot more common for people to discuss nonmonogamy and the ways that it impacts their lives.
There is an abundance of information about open relationships that can be hard to navigate and confusing to fully understand. To make it easier, we’re breaking down what it means to be in an open relationship and how to go about bringing it up with a partner if it’s something you’re interested in trying out.
An Open Relationship Is An Agreement Between Two People In A Relationship To Pursue Nonmonomagous Sex
The definition of an open relationship is hard to pin down because it can be rearranged to suit people’s various levels of comfort with nonmonogamous relationships.
Generally, it’s accepted that open relationships are consensually nonmonogamous relationships between two people in which one or both partners agree to pursue sex and intimacy with other partners.
Open Relationships Are Not The Same As Polyamory
Open relationships are not the same as polyamory, which allows partners to pursue intimate and emotionally committed relationships with more than one person at a time, with the consent of all people involved. Polyamorous people can have more than one serious boyfriend or girlfriend at a time.
Open relationships are also different than swinging, which is when a couple engages in sexual activities with another couple purely for sexual gratification. There is no emotional connection involved.
Do Your Own Research And Encourage Your Partner To Do Some Too
Jumping headfirst into an open relationship without having a game plan can put your current relationship at risk of ending in a strange way.
Luckily, as the concept of nonmonogamous relationships gains popularity in our modern society, people online are opening up about their experiences with these types of relationships and there are tons of great resources to help people understand the specifics of it.
The Key To An Open Relationship Is Clear Communication
The key to making an open relationship work is communication that starts long before you actually enter into an open relationship agreement. Start by doing some research online and chatting about what you find with your SO.
There are important questions to ask yourself and your partner in order to establish boundaries.
There Are Important Questions To Ask Yourself
It’s important to ask yourself the following questions before bringing it up:
Are you and your partner both interested in exploring nonmonogamy? Do you both have different sexual needs and/or sexual orientations? Are you able to comfortably and openly communicate with your partner? Is your relationship built on a foundation of trust? How have you both handled jealousy in the past?
What Is The Motive Behind Your Interest In Open Relationships?
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before experimenting with nonmonogamy is what your motive is.
For instance, are you considering trying it because you want to explore sex and intimacy with others from a place of trust and security, or are you using an open relationship to try to deal with problems like infidelity? Open relationships are not a band-aid solution for cheating.
Set Your Boundaries And Be Prepared To Communicate Them
When it comes to making the rules for your open relationship, you are responsible for choosing where to set your boundaries and how important they are to you.
This leaves no grey areas when it comes to your partner knowing what you want.
Figure Out The Specifics So You’re Both On The Same Page
It’s crucial to figure out whether you want a polyamorous arrangement where you can have multiple serious relationships. Or maybe you are more drawn to one-time encounters and sexual hookups that are more characteristic of an open relationship.
The easier it is for you to understand your needs, the easier it will be for your partner.
There Are Logistics To Discuss
The idea of an open relationship is a lot easier to execute in theory, but it takes some skillful communication to get right.
You need to talk about things with your partner that are not going to feel super comfortable at first but will be worth it in the long run.
Make A Plan For Safe Sex
Your partner may be worried about STIs and the protection that you’re going to use. That’s a valid concern and a plan should be put into place to ensure both of you have healthy sex lives.
It’s also worth discussing how jealousy could affect you both, and whether your partner is going to feel like they have to compete with someone.
Do Not Jump The Gun
Beginning an open relationship before your partner has consented to the agreement is essentially just cheating.
Going ahead and hooking up with someone else before your partner has reached their decision on the matter is an easy way to ensure trouble in the relationship. Trust and open communication are even more important in an open relationship and both are violated when someone crosses the line without permission from their partner.
It’s Possible That Your Partner Is Not Receptive To The Idea
You need to reassure your partner that you want to remain in the relationship with them as your primary partner, but you are open to exploring sexual relationships with other people.
Your partner may not be receptive to the idea, and that’s okay too. If they voice their discomfort, you have to respect their opinion and recognize that it may not work moving forward. Talking about it is the only way to feel out if it could work for your relationship.
Men Usually Take Longer To Process The Idea
Give your partner time. Every person is different, but men tend to need longer to process the idea and come to terms with it on their own.
They will likely have questions for you that are important to them. Be supportive and encouraging and answer the best you can because they may even bring up things you hadn’t considered.
Be Prepared To Drop It If Your Partner Is Not On Board
Before you enter into a conversation about this with your partner, remember that it’s not an easy subject to navigate and some people (possibly your partner) are not going to get on board with it.
In that situation, you need to be willing to let it go or drop it in order to keep the peace in your relationship. It’s possible that your partner will come around with time and more discussion, but it’s also possible they never open up to the idea.
Be Prepared To Walk Away From Your Relationship
If you feel as though your relationship is not fulfilling you anymore, whether that’s sexually or emotionally, it’s possible that an open relationship could help. But it’s equally possible that your partner hates the idea and refuses to give it a try.
Depending on how important it is to you to try exploring intimacy with others, it may be time to walk away from your relationship if it’s no longer supporting you.
Open Relationships Do Not Work For Everyone
It’s true that these types of arrangements don’t work out for everyone.
Certain people can’t even consider the idea because they were raised to view relationships strictly as a monogamous pairing, especially if they were raised with a Catholic/Christian worldview.
Nonmonogamous Relationships Are Not A New Concept
In reality, humans have been partaking in nonmonogamous relations for the majority of our history.
The concept of finding and marrying “The One” is relatively recent, and even now, not everyone is sold on finding their “missing puzzle piece” or the over-romanticization of relationships.
Opening Your Mind Up To Open Relationships May Have A Positive Impact On Your Love Life
People who have found success in open relationships have reported greater satisfaction in their sex lives and a deeper connection with their primary partner.
If you can open your mind to consider the possibility of being intimate with other people while still maintaining a supportive, loving relationship, you may find there are more benefits than downfalls.