If you and your partner are curious about opening your relationship there are a number of things to consider. The forethought you put into this decision will help you have a successful transition into an open relationship.
#1 Be Ready For Judgment
Right now as I am typing this I am aware that some folks will have a difficult time with the concept of an open relationship. If you are one of those people, then you may want to stop reading here and go find any other of my fabulous articles to enjoy. All types of relationships can work — monogamous, polyamorous, monogamish, open — as long as all parties involved are consenting and respectful of the relationship contract. If you are not opposed to the idea of an open relationship then welcome to Tip #1 — Be Ready For Judgment. You will likely hear murmurs that an open relationship is not a “real” relationship. Friends might assume that you and your partner are trying one last Hail Mary before calling it quits. Talk with your partner and consider what you might say to any Judge Judy in your lives.
#2 Be Ready For Rejection
If you have been in an exclusive relationship for a while, then you need to ready yourself for the rejection that awaits you when you reenter the world of dating and casual sex. Dita Von Teese does a wonderful job at putting this whole concept in perspective; “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.” There is no way to be everyone’s sexual fantasy come to life, and the reality is that some people will reject you simply because you are in an open relationship. Ready your ego to get a little bruised. Cement within yourself that your self-worth is your own responsibility. If you are able to appreciate yourself, warts and all, then no sexual rendezvous or rejection will take on the impossible task of making you feel good about yourself.
#3 Decide On Your Boundaries And Be Ready For Them To Be Challenged
An open relationship means different things to different people, so prepare to set the boundaries with your primary partner. Can you play with friends, or only new acquaintances? Can you play in your home or does it need to be outside of your shared space? The questions are endless, so a general template to guide you is: “Would my actions be respectful to my primary partner?” Negotiating boundaries does not stop with your primary partner; you will have to set limits with any potential partners as well. Maybe your primary partner is uncomfortable with you performing certain sexual acts with others; you’ll have to consider how to talk to your secondary partners about that boundary. People are imperfect, so set boundaries will be broken. If you hold your partners to a standard of perfection then you will be disappointed. When the boundaries are challenged, take the opportunity to explore the issue with empathy and curiosity. It takes a balance of being open-minded and assertive.
#4 Be Ready To Communicate
If you like talking, then you’ll love an open relationship. Communication is key to making an open relationship work. You have to negotiate schedules, talk about emotions and thoughts, and all the while maintain everyday relationship chats with your primary partner. Talking openly and listening with compassion will help you navigate this new arrangement. It is easy to experience tinges of shame or guilt when exploring your sexuality with secondary partners, even with your primary partner’s consent. If judgement from other people creeps in, I would encourage you to talk with your primary partner about what you are experiencing.
#5 An Open Relationship Now Does Not Mean An Open Relationship Forever
Just because you and your partner decide to be open at this current moment in time, does not mean that you must be open forever. Talk with your partner about how you will close the relationship if either of you need or want to be exclusive again. The flexibility in defining your relationship will offer relief during any challenges in navigating the new dynamic in your relationship.
#6 Prioritize Your Primary Relationship Over Secondary Relationships
It can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the new opportunities available once you open an exclusive relationship. Often times, there is an adjustment period when partners explore their new options while figuring out how to simultaneously maintain their primary relationship. Date night dinner may not be the best time to check your Grindr, no matter how many lovelies are vying for your attention. You might have to forego a planned Thursday night throw down to help your partner prepare the house for an unplanned visit from your in-laws. At the end of the day, your primary partner knows where you sleep, so work to keep him or her happy.
#7 Be Ready For The Excitement
Meeting new people and exploring your erotic side can be exciting, awakening new parts of yourself that might have gone unnoticed. Suddenly, you could realize that you really loved it when your regular side dish spanks you. Perhaps you discover that you love kissing for hours. In opening up your relationship, you can make new connections within yourself, giving you a rejuvenating boost. Since you are already communicating with your partner more, consider sharing your new self discoveries with your primary partner so that you can have some of that excitement at home.
#8 Be Ready Talk About Sexual Health With Your Health Care Providers
Not only will you be talking about sex with your primary and secondary partners, but you will also have the opportunity to talk about your sexual health with health care providers. Routine STI screenings are an important part of an active sex life. If you do not have a primary care physician then you may want to check out the City of Austin. They offer a comprehensive exam for only $20.
We are only on this planet for a finite amount of time, and I hope that you and your partner can have as many pleasant experiences as possible. Navigating an open relationship can be tricky and therapy provides a safe space to negotiate the new boundaries of your relationship. Therapy can help you join with your partner to fight any stigma, judgement, or jealousy that you may encounter on your journey of sexual exploration.