How to Make an Open Relationship Work
Monogamy is societies prescribed method and is often closely tied to philosophical, political or spiritual beliefs. Sure, monogamy is the relationship standard that has been taught and deeply ingrained for generations— But the constraints of monogamy aren’t for everyone and to be honest… it’s rare to see monogamous relationships with high success rates. What if monogamy wasn’t the only way to have a strong, successful relationship? Is it right to do open relationship work?
Most people have at least wondered “what else is out there?” or if one person could alone sexually satisfy them or meet all of their intimate needs. In fact, according to Truthaboutdeception.com, roughly 30% to 60% of all married individuals have gone beyond wondering into engaging in infidelity at some point during their marriage.
Finding couples shifting from one-on-one to open relationships is becoming a more common thing. As of late, there has been a growing acceptance for open, non-monogamous/non-traditional relationships, especially amongst millennials who tend to view the lifestyle as just another option.
Even though there is more acceptance of the practice of non-monogamy, there are still powerful stigmas surrounding consensual non-monogamy/polyamory. Mainstream society tends to have a preference for monogamy. More traditional people might have negative feelings about the lifestyle and some even consider it cheating.
So, what is an open relationship anyway? An open relationship is where there is a primary relationship between two individuals in which a couple consents to have other lovers. The terms and conditions vary from relationship to relationship. Some couples only accept additional sex partners. While some couples are ok with having more than one relationship at a time. Regardless of the type, any open relationship will need a foundation based upon communication, honesty, loyalty, and trust to work.
According to a Michigan University study analyzing relationships of more than 2,000 people over the age of 25, those in open relationships were less jealous and more trusting. The overall results concluded there was no net benefit of a monogamous relationship over a non-monogamous relationship. So, yes there are nontraditional ways to have a thriving relationship and both relationship styles can yield the same level of satisfaction.
If you’re researching the mechanics of an alternative relationship, consider our top 7 tips for doing it successfully:
1. A great place to start on your new journey is by reading The Ethical Slut: Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities. This book will serve as your introduction to open relationships. Or check out Ev’Yan Whitney’s podcast “The Sexually Liberated Woman.” The goal is to learn about common dynamics that might show up in an open relationship and to empower and educate yourself about how to do non-monogamy “right.”
2. Be honest with yourself and your partner(s)- Ask yourself: How would I feel if my partner was seeing someone else? If you have negative feelings about sharing your partner, then you should continue evaluating your comfort level with open relationships. If you are comfortable with the answer, then an open relationship might be an option for you to explore.
3. When considering this type of relationship, make sure to discuss the terms of your new arrangement and ensure that your partner isn’t pressured. Don’t agree to a situation that makes you uncomfortable for the sake of trying to keep someone in a relationship or to revitalize a dying one. Don’t play along just to look ‘evolved.’ Don’t change yourself or your value system for anyone. The agreement to explore polyamory should be consensual and freely entered into. It will never work if both people aren’t on board.
4. Never alienate your partner or make them feel insecure. Make your partner comfortable with the fact that it’s not them or something that they have done that has made you consider this new lifestyle choice. Make it clear that you enjoy your partner in all other aspects such as values and shared interests it’s just a relationship preference that both partners should see the benefits of. New and exciting experiences abound, have fun with other people but don’t forget the special bond you have together.
5. Prepare by setting ground rules- Winging it or making it up as you go is a recipe for disaster. Be clear and open about expectations. Set out what is acceptable and what’s a deal breaker. You can do this by creating a Want, Will, Won’t list. Want- what you expect to get out of the new relationship dynamic. Will- compromises and accommodations you are willing to make. Won’t- absolute non-starters. Like, are close friends and family off limits? Is any kind of sex ok? What kind of relationship are you entering into? (Poly, a swinging type deal, an open relationship an occasional threesome?) Setting clear boundaries and knowing the ground rules and non-negotiables upfront will help head off a disaster down the road. Run through some what-if scenarios together.
6. Be ready to pivot and adjust- Open relationships aren’t a free for all. They like any relationship requires work and lots of communication. Be respectful and accommodating and know that the parameters may change as you grow in this new situation. Sometimes you don’t know what is out until you cross that bridge. If the plan is to stay together as a couple, be ready to address things like jealousy when it arises to reassure your partner of the commitment that you have to them.
7. Get tested and tested often- Besides being mentally prepared to embark on this new lifestyle, you also need to be physically ready. You and your partner should both be tested for STIs routinely. Practice safe relations.
No one relationship type is better than the other. Considering an “alt” relationship is a completely individual matter. If your happily-ever-after includes more than one person, and you’re down for something new go for it. But be prepared to follow some basic principles in embracing the lifestyle and be forewarned that if you break the rules, the situation could easily spiral out of control leaving one of you hurt or worse ending the original one-on-one relationship.