In the last few years of my longest romantic relationship, I started dancing around the idea of non-monogamous dating. I still really loved my partner, but felt embracing an open relationship would bring us closer. My reasoning was skewed and my feelings mixed in that circumstance, but under the right conditions this alternative relationship model can stimulate freedom and lead to a more satisfying and less demanding partnership, instead of a long-term commitment that suppresses natural sexual desires and expects too much. With one in five Americans having participated in a non-monogamous relationship, some couples are itching to see what the buzz is about. But before you RSVP to that swingers’ party, make sure you and your mate are on the same page.
1. This won’t save your relationship.
I thought my boyfriend and I just needed a major romantic overhaul to keep our relationship intact, and I was right. But rather, our revitalization was not a shift in how we date but more on how we communicate. We needed to work on being better together – and just us together, without a third party involved. Although the option drove us further apart and deteriorated what little trust we had left. But my failed experiment hasn’t deterred my faith in ethical non-monogamy.
So if you’re considering opening up the relationship, make sure you are walking on steady ground. If the foundation of the relationship and your own self-esteem are rocky, the whole structure will crumble under the complex weight of an open relationship. You need communication and respect to make an open relationship work, and if you don’t have that in the relationship’s current format, then ethical non-monogamy will only intensify your issues.
2. You might get jealous, and that’s okay.
Jealousy is a normal reaction that is often stigmatized as destructive in monogamous relationships. Inevitably, you will feel a tinge of jealousy in an open relationship, but instead of letting it eat you up inside, learn to work through the emotion. Remember, the green-eyed monster is a normal, natural response that occurs when you feel threatened, not something you should let consume your relationship.
However, that being said, don’t push your emotional stability to the brink. While my boyfriend seemed relatively fine with me hooking up with other dudes, I realized I didn’t carry the same nonchalant attitude when my boyfriend spent time with other women. It all goes back to the aforementioned stability factor. If you and your partner trust each other and are rock solid, concern that one of you might fall for someone else will dissipate.
3. Clarify your intentions.
Do you want an open relationship so you can safely explore new sexual opportunities, or are you struggling sexually with your partner and secretly searching for a way out?
Understand where this idea of engaging in ethical non-monogamy stems from, and be honest with yourself. If you’re nervous about ending the relationship or attracted and interested in almost everyone around you (except the person you are actually dating), then maybe an open relationship isn’t the smartest choice.
4. Establish the ground rules.
Get into the nitty gritty and make a list of what is appropriate and what isn’t. Set clear boundaries and discuss any possible scenarios or questions with your partner before diving in. Relevant questions include: How transparent do you want to be with each other? For instance, do you want to know who they are banging and when, or prefer to be left in the dark? Is dating allowed or is this just physical? Are certain people or behaviors off-limits? Having a standard protocol is imperative in making an open relationship work.
5. Be open and honest.
Talk to your friends about your new situation (so they don’t go berserk on your partner when they see them smooching someone who isn’t you) and let your side action know what’s up. Be upfront about your relationship status and don’t mislead your prospective hook-ups before anything is initiated. Keep everyone in the loop to prevent confusion and gross misunderstandings.
While starting an open relationship might feel thrilling and edgy (and in 2019, even a little trendy) breaking with convention can only thrive if you do your research, set clear guidelines, and have the right intentions. Without these mechanisms in place, you are just doing a disservice to yourself and the whole sanctity of polyamory.
Newcomer, Laura. “Do Open Relationships Make People Happier?” Shape Magazine. N.p., 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.
Coughlin, Sara. “The Relationship “Rule” 1 in 5 Americans Are Breaking.” Polyamory, Open Relationships, Swinging 2016 Statistics. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.
Michelson, Noah. “5 Things You Should Consider Before Starting An Open Relationship.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 28 May 2015. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.