People in open relationships often talk about rules – what they should be, whether or not to have any, what to do if they're broken… That can be especially true for people just starting out or thinking about embarking on an open relationship. One of the most often contended topics on this front is love. And so I get questions nearly every day that go something like this.
My husband and I are at the beginning of an open relationship. I understand the difference between love and sex and was wondering if you have ground rules with your husband as I have told mine: DON'T FALL IN LOVE. Is this a reality or am I kidding myself? I love my husband, and he loves me. I just find he is happier having the freedom to have a sexual relationship elsewhere.
Hopeful in the Heartland
The answer to Hopeful's question is yes – and no. A couple can set out whatever rules it likes including the "Don't Fall in Love" rule, which plenty of open couples have and are able to follow. In order to make that work, they often also have the "Don't Sleep With the Same Person Twice," "Only See People Out of Town," and/or "No Correspondence Beyond Date Setting" rules.
Open relationships are about setting up the kinds of boundaries that 1) make you feel comfortable and 2) are workable. Because, what's the point if all you're doing is setting yourself up for failure? If a couple sets the rules, follows them, and is honest about whether or not those rules are working for them, they can have a reasonable expectation of success.
But there's another key to open relationships – flexibility. And without that, you are much less likely to make any kind of relationship work, let alone an open one. In my open marriage, it's all about communication and renegotiation. We had an "Only Out of Town" rule and a "No Love" rule (after our first girlfriend) for the first few years. They worked splendidly – until I met Jemma, my now girlfriend of a year and nine months.