It seems like more and more people are considering open relationships and marriages these days, which is pretty awesome. There’s a whole line of thinking and research that suggests that we humans just weren’t built for monogamy. To each their own, of course, but if you feel like your relationship would benefit from a little variety, it’s something you should talk to you partner about. There are some essential conversations about open relationships that you should probably have before you head out into the world looking for other partners.
Open relationships come in all different forms.
Some couples might decide on a “zip code rule” and only sleep with other people when they travel; Others open their relationship by bringing a third person into the bedroom, so they only get intimate with other people together. Others actually just go out on dates with other people on the regular, but come home to their main partner.
Contrary to what some people might think, it takes a super strong bond to make an open relationship work. You have to have strong communication with your partner to open up your relationship. Here are some good places to start.
1Make sure everyone is on the same page.
An open relationship will never work out if both partners aren’t clear about why they’re doing it. One partner might be more reticent than the other and agree to an open situation in order to keep their partner around, which is not a strategy that readily lends itself to success. Sit down and really talk about why you or your partner wants to open up the relationship and make sure that it’s something that works for both of you.
2Lay out the rules of the game.
You can’t just start hitting the town and bringing people home. You need some rules, and both partners are allowed to call their own dealbreakers. Maybe you decide to tell each other everything, or keep totally quiet about it. Maybe you’re doing threesomes only. Think about everything that could go wrong emotionally when your partner is with someone else, and make rules to prevent them. You’ll thank yourselves later.
3Pick a time to check back in.
Nothing is forever, baby. You might want to set a time frame to open up your relationship so you can regroup in, say, six months, and check in with each other. This is a chance to go back over your rules and add or delete a few. You might find that one of you is no longer into this whole open relationship and need to work that out.
4Talk about your jealousy.
You or your partner are probably going to experience jealousy at some point. Before you go in, talk about what makes you jealous and how you two will address it as you move forward. If you and your partner get honest about what makes you feel jealous (or even just left out), you can take care of each other better when you’re with your other partners.
5Make sure you’re clear about your needs.
Bringing up an open relationship may come as a shock to your partner. Maybe it’s about sexual compatibility or simply that the idea of them getting busy with someone else turns you on. There are a lot of reasons to have an open relationship, and it doesn’t mean that your current relationship is bad. Be clear about what you’re looking for in an open relationship and let them know that you’re not replacing them.
6Consider getting some help.
You can’t go into an open relationship lightly. Opening up your relationship might mean weeks or months of conversations about it beforehand. If you can afford it, getting a couple’s counselor to help you guys talk about it (or check in with after you open the relationship up) is a really good idea. Just make sure you’re going to a couple’s therapist who isn’t judging your choice to be non-monogamous, because that would be a real disaster.
7Make a “no bang list.”
Consider a “no bang” list, full of people that you and your partner aren’t allowed to sleep with. Mutual friends or coworkers are a good place to start. Just like some couples give out “hall passes” for certain celebrities or fantasy sex partners, this list will help you both stay away from partners that might make things tricky emotionally own the line.
Open relationships aren’t impossible to maintain — they just require a lot of work. And talking. And talking about your feelings. If you’re not up for that level of communication, you might want to reconsider going into one. But when it works, it really, really works.