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5 Open Relationship Rules That Never Work

A man and woman trying to establish open relationship rules while talking outside in a pumpkin patch.

Some people just aren’t happy being monogamous. And that’s okay! Open relationships can be a happy alternative for people who like the feeling of having one main partner, but still don’t like being in just one relationship. But starting an open relationship can be difficult if you’ve never done it before.

Going from a strict monogamous relationship to opening up your relationship to new people can feel a little strange, so it can help to have some rules in place when you start out.

But be careful, because some rules can backfire and cause more problems than they solve. If you’re starting out on an open relationship here are a few rules to avoid.

1. “Just don’t tell me about it.”
This rule is a terrible way to start an open relationship because it shows that one, or maybe both of you, aren’t entirely happy with the thought of your partner being with someone else. Having a don’t ask, don’t tell policy leads to distrust and unhappiness in the long term. You’re building up walls between your primary partner and a whole other part of your life.

2. “You can only have one night stands.”
Having a one-night stand rule is very common, unfortunately. Like the previous rule, it shows that one or both of you are not fully comfortable with the idea of an open relationship. You may be feeling intimidated by the thought of your partner having another long term partner or afraid they’ll replace you as a primary partner. This rule means you and your partner can’t find someone they can develop a real, emotional relationship with. And since a lot of people can only enjoy sex with someone that they have developed a relationship with, this rule prevents them from doing just that.

3. “You can only sleep with people of the same sex.”
There are two schools of thought as to why this doesn’t work. For one thing, there’s a bit of homophobia going on here. This rule often pops up because one person doesn’t think that their partner’s relationship with someone of their same sex isn’t a real relationship. Therefore, they are comfortable with the “relationship” happening. The other school of thought is around insecurity. You’re wondering why your partner wants to be with a guy when you’re a guy. What can that guy give your partner that you can’t? Whereas you know that you can’t give your partner something that a girl can because you’re not a girl. This shows a bit of insecurity that should be worked past before starting an open relationship.

4. “Don’t get jealous.”
This rule doesn’t work because jealousy is a human emotion. We all get jealous sometimes, whether we want to or not. This rule is actually dangerous for the relationship. With this rule in place, you feel like you can’t talk about your jealousy, because you promised you wouldn’t get jealous. So that jealousy will continue to fester and grow until it inevitably boils over. It’s better to just talk it through when you do get jealous.

5. “I’m allowed to veto.”
Another dangerous rule, the veto is a bad way to start an open relationship. If you’re genuinely concerned that your partner is seeing someone who is not a good person or just not good to them, you should talk it out. Tell them your point of view and listen to theirs. But you do not own your partner. Your partner has the autonomy to choose who they want to be with. You can voice your concerns, but you can’t pick who your partner spends their time with.

Open relationships work for some people, but they also take work. Having guidelines may be better than having set rules in place, as it’s important to remember that some rules can stifle a relationship from growing. More than anything else, an open relationship needs open communication and the willingness to grow and change.

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