These days, there’s definitely more than one way to approach a marriage. Monogamy isn’t for everyone, and couples who aren’t into it are realizing that they don’t necessarily have to do things that way.
Open marriages really are the best of both worlds for people who love being in one.
They get to live out their life committed to someone they love, but they don’t have to give up their freedom and sense of sexual curiosity to have it.
Even so, it’s crucial to understand that open marriages require just as much work and communication in order to stay healthy as the traditional kind does.
That said, whether you’re already in an open relationship or are merely considering the possibility, here are some essential tips to keep in mind.
1. Do it for the right reasons
Open marriages can only stay healthy and work when both partners are equally enthusiastic about being in one.
They don’t work when one person really wants it, but the other is reluctant at best.
Going non-monogamous isn’t going to work as the end result of an ultimatum, either.
Often, the person who wants the open marriage thinks their partner will eventually warm up to things and realize non-monogamy was the right approach after all. This almost never happens.
Instead, the reluctant partner winds up feeling resentful, depressed, and just plain not happy.
2. Chat up other couples in open marriages
Just as no two couples are exactly alike, neither are any two marriages. What works wonderfully for one couple may not suit another, and vice versa.
But you can gain some great insights by talking to other couples in healthy open marriages, whether that’s online or offline.
Ask them all your burning questions about how they make things work or resolve issues when they arise.
Get pointers on how to handle anything you’re not sure about, and embrace the opportunity to make friends who are on the same journey you are.
3. Set boundaries early and always communicate
Opening your marriage up doesn’t mean turning it into a free-for-all with zero rules to speak of. It doesn’t mean simply doing whatever you want without any regard for your partner’s feelings, either.
Open marriages that work are based on clear, honest ongoing communication.
They also involve healthy boundaries and personal rules both people are expected to follow, but for those things to work, they need to be agreed upon early before feelings wind up hurt.
What is and isn’t acceptable to the both of you, and how far is too far to go with someone else? It’s extremely important to sit down with your partner and discuss the boundaries, rules and any other concerns you both might have.
Here’s a list of topics you might want to discuss with your partner beforehand:
- Are there any sexual activities that are off-limits?
- What if we develop feelings for the other person?
- What are our expectations for this relationship?
- What are the rules for safer sex?
- Are there any circumstances under which we would end this arrangement?
- Are we allowed to “play” with our friends or only new acquaintances?
- What if one of us wants to stop?
- What will we tell our friends or family about this?
- Are these strictly one time sexual encounters or can we have an ongoing relationship with someone else as well?
4. Make safety a top priority
Everyone should take safety seriously regardless of their relationship situation, but it’s even more important when you’re in an open marriage.
Married people trust one another to take care of themselves (and each other) when it comes to sexual health.
Again, communication is key here. Talk to your partner about this topic, and make sure you agree on what it means to be safe. Here’s a few questions to consider:
- Will the two of you be avoiding fluid exchange with other people?
- How will you be making sure no one gets unintentionally pregnant or winds up with an STI?
- What are your thoughts on using protection (i.e. condoms, dental dams, gloves)?
- What are your thoughts on sex without protection?
- Are there any sexual activities that are off-limits for you?
- Are there any other safety concerns you have?
5. Be prepared for anything
As is the case with most major life changes, managing an open marriage can seem like it will be one way on paper but actually be another once you’re living in one.
This is even the case if you’ve been in other open marriages or committed relationships before, as every situation and person is different.
That said, be prepared for some things not to go the way you planned.
Sometimes something specific isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, or you encounter a situation you just didn’t bargain for. Just be prepared to go with the flow, and always keep your partner in the loop.
6. Discuss time frames for the openness
Remember, you never want to simply assume anything when making any sweeping changes to your marriage.
You may see being non-monogamous as a permanent state of affairs, but your partner may be more comfortable trying it for a limited amount of time, so it’s important not to leave time frames out of your discussions on the topic.
If you and your partner do decide you’re only temporarily opening your marriage up, decide when that period ends and under what circumstances.
You should also determine what the two of you will do when and if one of you decides non-monogamy just isn’t working anymore.
As is the case with any marriage, it’s essential to put one another first and respect each other’s feelings.
At the end of the day, as wonderful as sexual freedom should be, it shouldn’t be more important than your partner’s well-being or your relationship with them. Make your decisions accordingly.