There isn’t one right way to have a relationship. For some people, a relationship can mean being exclusive with one person and growing old together.
For someone else, it can mean being in an open relationship and connecting with multiple partners. But what is an open relationship, and is it for you?
Relationships vary from couple to couple and they can change over time. Entering into an open relationship shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it can be a necessary step to find happiness with your partner.
But before that, it’s important to understand what exactly an open relationship means.
What is an Open Relationship?
An open-relationship is kind of an umbrella term. Basically, it means any form of a relationship in which you and your partner decide to open your relationship up to other people. But, isn’t that polyamory? Well, no, not exactly.
Polyamory means that you’re open to being with multiple people, emotionally and sexually. Open relationships don’t necessarily have to include the romantic or emotional sides. In fact, more often than not, they don’t. And that’s perfectly fine!
What’s important is that you’re both on the same page about what your agreement includes, and what it doesn’t.
Should I Enter an Open Relationship?
There are a few things to consider before entering into an open relationship. Just like monogamy, an open relationship isn’t for everyone. And maintaining a healthy one isn’t always easy.
Here’s a checklist to consider before starting an open relationship with your partner.
- Are you both clear about what kind of open relationship you want?
The truth is, the answer to “what is an open relationship?” is different for every couple.
Do you want to be sexual with other people outside of your current partnership? Are you looking to form additional emotional attachments? Can you see the same person more than a few times?
It’s crucial that you and your partner understand what kind of relationships you’re about to engage in. Do this before you start meeting new people.
If you don’t communicate on what you’re doing or what you want to do, you’re on a quick road to feelings of betrayal and hurt.
- Are you comfortable setting boundaries?
You need to set boundaries with the new people you’re meeting from the start. That way you avoid any hurt feelings or confusion.
But you also need to set healthy boundaries with your current partner. Even after you’ve determined what type of open relationship you’re in, you need to go further than that.
Is it ok if they bring their partner back to your shared residence? Do you just not want to be told certain things, like specific details of sexual exploits? What will you tell family members or friends about your new chapter?
These boundaries are important to make an open relationship work. Too often people assume that parts of their relationship go without saying. But if you’re making assumptions about what your partner is going to do, you’re going to end up disappointed.
- Are you a particularly jealous person?
Some people believe that jealousy and having an open relationship don’t mix well. But the reality is that jealousy happens, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s natural.
However, in order for an open relationship to survive, there are two things that you should work on: having control over feelings of jealousy and communicating such feelings to your partner.
When you start to feel a little jealous, have a talked-out plan with your partner on what to do. Don’t let those feelings control you or cause you to act out.
Check-in with each other rationally and regularly. That way nothing ever bubbles up from under the surface down the road.
- Are you trying to use an open relationship to address infidelity?
The answer to someone cheating is not to just open up your relationship. If someone has already cheated in an exclusive relationship, they might not be trustworthy enough to be in an ethically open relationship. Ethical is a crucial term here.
What they did was not ethical in any manner, shape, or form. It cannot be stressed enough. Cheating and an open relationship aren’t the same things.
- You’re not trying to save your relationship.
It’s not uncommon to come across a couple who have chosen an open relationship because they refuse to address another underlying issue.
Perhaps their sex life has started lacking and they’re looking to fulfill their sexual need with others instead of trying to work through compatibility issues together.
Or maybe there’s an emotional connection that’s started to fade and they’re trying to rekindle those lost feelings of love with other people.
If there’s discord in your relationship, it’s probably not the right time to open it up. Having a successful open relationship means having stability in your own relationship first.
You may have noticed a trend here. The number one thing that sinks an open relationship is a lack of communication.
So our top advice? Ask yourself, what is an open relationship for us. Be willing to over-communicate and to talk about anything and everything, before little thoughts turn into bad feelings.
If you and your partner are the kinds of people who are capable of talking things through and you’re both interested in this kind of relationship, then maybe this will be a happy path for you both! Be open. Trust each other and your instincts. The rest will follow.