Welcome to an Open World
Through experiences and gaining knowledge, all Slutty Girls have learned that no relationship works the same as another. Some people are happy living the traditional monogamous lifestyle, which is entirely okay. But for some, exploring their options with opening their relationship is exciting and ideal. The first step everyone has to take in this process is to open their minds. Some of us have been raised to believe that a relationship should be one on one, and it’s a hard concept to grasp adding another. As sexually mature adults, we can recognize that attraction happens, regardless of your situation. You can be happy in the entirety of your relationship but still be physically, sexually, or emotionally attracted to another – and that is completely fine. Accept these feelings, because they are yours and they are natural.
Communicating Your Desires
Sit down with your partner somewhere quiet and safe at a time when you have no other obligations. Calmly, clearly, and honestly tell them how you’re feeling. Explain open relationships, give your reasoning why you’d like to try it, and ask them how they feel about what you’ve told them. If they’re on the same page as you: great! You can easily move on to the next step. If they don’t agree with you or suggest changes, listen to them. Figure out what they’re not okay with and what they are okay with. If they aren’t ready to completely open the relationship how you envisioned, compromise by starting slow; for instance suggesting you both be present if anything is to happen. If you’re having trouble finding common ground, rate your desires 1-10. If you find yourself with more than a few 10’s, you should definitely reconsider your priorities.
Establishing and Maintaining Boundaries
Once your partner is on board, determine how you want to go about establishing your boundaries. Keep in mind that your relationship is not any other relationship: your rules are unique to your wishes and your comfort. One way to establish boundaries is to hash out what you both agree on initially and use it for reference or rules. Some couples choose to go with the flow of their relationship, and use working guidelines that can change. An example would be the difference in a positive mood versus an agitated mood: such as nothing outside of the relationship while you’re fighting. No matter how you approach boundaries with your partner, go in with the mentality that you’re not on one side or another, but on the side of the relationship – willing to make things work to keep your partner happy. Don’t go in with the mindset that it’s your wishes vs your partner’s, and above all, know the difference between the words “need” and “want.” You don’t need to open your relationship; you need water and air and sustenance. You want to explore new options with your partner.
Jealousy and Other Bumpy Roads
Like every relationship, an open one faces many road bumps. For couples in open relationships, the most commonly addressed issue would be feelings of jealousy. It’s the most talked about issue when it comes to discussing non-monogamy, but it’s a pretty easy thing to overcome if you take an adult approach to it. If your one fear of opening your relationship is jealousy, take a step back from that emotion and ask yourself what you’re really afraid of. Often, this jealousy stems from a fear of losing your partner or sharing their love/sex with another. In relationships, we willingly allow our partner to share their love and time with their acquaintances and friends. If your partner was jealous in this situation, most would label them “controlling” and even leaning towards abusive. But, when your partner is sharing intimacy or love, a lot of people feel jealous.
We raise our children to share their possessions and that their toy is still theirs, regardless of who is currently using it. This same logic should be applied to consensual adult relationships with multiple members. Your partner is yours, but they are not your property and they are not any less interested in you just because they are interested in another person. If you find yourself faced with jealousy throughout your relationship, the first thing to do would be to own that this emotion is yours and no one has forced you to feel it. No one can make you feel an emotion; it is ultimately your choice to feel jealous or insecure. If you’re feeling jealous, accept this emotion, but ask yourself why you’re feeling this way. Is it insecurity or a lack of trust in your partner? Be open with your feelings, and talk about them – hinting doesn’t count. Tell your partner exactly what you are feeling and if you don’t feel comfortable communicating, ask yourself why not. Once you communicate, the issue may resolve all together.
Another issue commonly faced by those in open relationships is the perception that others have. Some who choose to enter into these relationships are discouraged by their friends and family. Some lose their jobs for what their superiors view as deviant behavior. Some fall into a cycle of either only listening to one member, or doing everything by a vote. And some end up losing their partners. Like everything, opening your relationship brings an aspect of risk to it. But when someone comes to you and asks, “So, what are you guys?”, the most truthful response is human. You are not defined by your relationship status and you aren’t your relationship label. Not all relationships fit neatly into society’s boxes, and that is perfectly fine. There are many different labels you can place on your relationship, but before you do that, ask yourself and your partner(s) if you really need or want one. Your relationship is meant for you and your partner’s happiness and others’ confusion about your status is not your concern. No one is entitled to know your status.
Like most great things, a poly relationship needs continual assessment. You and your partner should be communicating frequently about your likes and dislikes, what you’d like to continue or what you’d like to stop. Before you write off the relationship all together, try working through your problems. One great resource for poly couples who are thinking of moving in together would be the PolyFamilies Questionnaire for Cohabitation. And remember that your relationship simply won’t work if only one of you is happy.
If you’d like to learn more, my personal suggestions for reading material would be Opening Up by Tristan Taormino and The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. As for online materials, ModernPoly and PolyFamilies are two great resources.