Even here in 2018, it goes without saying that open relationships aren’t right for everyone. However, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the kudos they get from those that have found a way to make things work for them. Open relationships can be scary if you’re new to the game, but with a little understanding and finesse, there’s really no reason why you can’t strike the right balance.
But how do you know whether going the open route is really the correct option for you and your partner? Even more importantly, how can you be properly prepared for the challenges and obstacles pretty much every couple faces while making the transition from closed to open? Sitting down with your partner and asking yourselves the following questions during the decision making process can help.
1. “Why are we really considering this?”
For most people, the subject of opening up a relationship that is currently closed and monogamous doesn’t just come up at random and chances are that’s the case for you too. Start by figuring out why you feel the need to consider this in the first place. Then determine why you’re considering this now.
Are you in a sexual rut and looking to spice things up? Maybe your current partner has been your only partner for a long time and you want a chance to experience what else is out there these days. Yes, opening up a relationship can help breathe new life into things if your sex life has gotten stale, but so can other solutions such as role playing or kink.
2. “Do we tell other people and what should we say if it comes up?”
At the end of the day, it’s really nobody’s business how you and your partner decide to manage your sex life. Whether or not you decide to tell your family or friends in the first place is completely up to you. However, it’s still a good idea to know what you’d say in the event it ever comes up, as these things often do.
Decide whether or not you’re both comfortable labeling yourselves as “in an open relationship” and to what extent. It’s important to agree on how you’ll explain things to those you’re close to when and if you ever decide to discuss it with them. You’ll want to decide if this is something you’d like to make known on social media and throughout your lives in general as well.
3. “How much do we want to share with one another?”
Couples in open relationships are all over the board when it comes to the issue of sharing and openness. Some are comfortable telling each other pretty much everything down to the last detail. Others prefer to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Most fall somewhere between those two extremes.
Sit down together and figure out where your personal comfort levels are as far as sharing is concerned. Are you going to tell each other every time you hook up with someone else or will you only be sharing under certain circumstances? Are there any specific details either of you always (or never) wants to be made aware of?
4. “Where are our boundaries?”
Relationships of any type are incredibly complex and open relationships aren’t any different in that regard. There’s a lot you’ll need to figure out, but things can be made exponentially less complicated if both of you know where the hard limits are right from day one. Again, it’s up to you what the two of you decide, because every couple is different.
What does “being in an open relationship” actually entail for each of you? Is it just sleeping with other people and enjoying the occasional casual hookup or does it include dating and possible emotional intimacy as well? Is who each partner decides to sleep with outside the relationship solely up to them or will the other person get a say?
5. “What’s in our rulebook?”
Lots of people think of open relationships as free-for-alls that don’t involve any rules whatsoever. In reality, the opposite is true. Successful open relationships work as well as they do because there are rules that both partners follow to the letter. However, they’re your rules, as opposed to the restrictive ones society has already made up for you to follow.
Some couples in open relationships decide to put a ban on bringing hookups home or having sex with other people in the bed that they share. Others decide there won’t be any sex on the first date. Still more decide that the primary partnership must always come first, so no breaking plans with your spouse to meet up with someone else. Whatever concerns come up for either of you at this stage needs to be properly discussed and taken into consideration as far as your personal rulebook goes.
6. “We’re going to be having safe sex, right?”
For most people even considering an open relationship, this one’s a no-brainer. It’s so important that it absolutely needs to be asked anyway though. The two of you are discussing open relationships in the first place as a way to make your lives better. Catching an STD and potentially infecting your partner or winding up with an unplanned pregnancy on your hands are the last things you need.
That said, ask each other whether or not you plan on having safe sex and only safe sex with those you hook up with outside your relationship. More importantly, insist on a “yes” and lay down the law. Part of being a sexually responsible adult in a progressive open relationship means making wise decisions at all times.
7. “How local are our hookups allowed to be?”
If asking about safe sex is a no-brainer, locale is the topic that doesn’t come up often enough but totally should. It’s more of a potential issue than you think, especially if you and your partner are hoping to keep your new open relationship status just between the two you for the most part.
Even densely populated cities are much smaller worlds than you probably realize. People jump to conclusions. They also love to gossip and word gets around. For that reason, you’ll want to decide whether or not you even want to date or hook up with people that live in the same zip code. Plenty of couples decide they’re only going to exercise their right to have casual sex with other people when they’re out of town because they want to protect their privacy and that’s totally OK.
8. “What happens if one of us develops feelings for someone else?”
Even if you think neither of you is susceptible to feeling anything beyond simple attraction or lust for someone else, it’s still important to discuss the possibility. This is especially the case if you’ve decided you’re both within your rights to establish ongoing relationships with other people. It’s definitely something that could happen and it helps to have a plan in place just in case.
Is the person with feelings allowed to continue the relationship? Are feelings a deal-breaker that should result in an immediate end to that connection? Romantic or loving connections to people outside the relationship are a bigger deal to some people than to others (e.g. couples that consider themselves polyamorous), but it’s best not to wait until they’re happening to decide what you’ll do.
9. “Is this permanent or temporary?”
There’s no rule that states you have to keep your relationship open forever. It’s perfectly possible, not to mention completely normal, to decide an open relationship is perfect for the two of you right now, but maybe not in the future. Some couples do remain non-monogamous pretty much permanently, but many just see it as something to experiment with right now.
That said, decide how long you’re both comfortable keeping your relationship sexually open. Is it something permanent you consider a lifelong decision or something that just sounds like fun right now? Are you planning to have kids one day and, if so, should the relationship be closed again at that time? Whatever you decide in the beginning, set a future date to sit down and touch base again to see how everything’s going.
10. “Is this something we both really want to do?”
For some people, being in an open relationship is like paradise on earth – a way to live that feels so much more natural than traditional monogamy. For others, it’s something that sounds a lot better on paper than it feels in practice. Neither type of person is wrong, as everyone’s different.
Make sure you both ask yourselves if this is something you truly want now that you’ve covered all the bases with your discussion. This isn’t the type of thing you do just to please your partner or because you’re afraid of winding up alone. Healthy open relationships start with two people that feel equally excited about the awesome new world of possibilities non-monogamy brings to the table.