How to communicate, set rules, speak up and create boundaries.
Are you curious about an open relationship, but not sure where to start? Maybe you've talked about it with your partner but don't know how to move forward. Below are seven steps to help you begin opening up. Remember: all relationships are unique — one size does not fit all. Use these tips as a guide, but do what feels right for you.
1. Put it all out on the table.
If you’ve been curious about making your relationship open, the first and most important thing to do is talk it over with your partner. Sit down at an appropriate time when both of you are calm and have plenty of time to chat. Be sensitive bringing it up, but be clear and honest with your emotions. Explain why this is something you’d like to try. If they agree, you can take the next step. If not, talk about other ways to evolve your monogamous relationship.
2. Set some ground rules.
The rules couples put in place for their open relationships vary greatly, but are all of equal importance. Once your sure that you both want to go forward, sit down and make a list of boundaries that both of you are comfortable with. Write them down and talk out all of the details before going forward. While it’s important to be compromising in a relationship, this isn’t the place to bend-over backwards. Make your opinions known and don’t hold back.
Here are some common rules people in open relationships use. But don’t follow these—do what's right for you. Each relationship is unique and it’s important to find what works for YOU.
- Always practice safe sex outside the relationship.
- No sex with mutual friends.
- Sexual encounters must not interfere with the couple’s customary or planned time together.
- Sex is permissible only when one partner is out of town.
- Outside sex is only allowed with advance agreement with one’s lover.
- Outside sex is allowed only when both partners participate.
- Outside sex is never permitted at home.
- Sex is permitted at home, but not in the bedroom.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
If you make rules that don’t work and you feel unhappy, be sure to leave room for adjustment. No one said the rules had to be set in stone and it may take time to feel out what works best for your relationship. Be patient with each other and the fog will start to clear.
4. Create boundaries.
If you feel the need to spill every detail of your escapades but your partner would rather you keep that to yourself (or vice-versa), you need to discuss boundaries that make you both comfortable. Ask for the details you want but before you even ask make sure you really want to know. Maybe you want to know who and when, but is it really necessary to know every detail? If you can handle it and it feels important to you then by all means, ask!
5. Take it one step at a time.
Start out slow. Consider first bringing someone else into your bedroom before you both go out on your own. Either way, be sure to have a frank discussion about each experience before proceeding full-steam ahead. If it felt right and you’re ready to move forward, you can now do so with more confidence. But if something went awry, identify the root of the problem and work it out before moving on.
6. Don’t cheat.
Unless your rules explicitly state that your partner wants to know nothing about who you sleep with, remember that cheating is still cheating, even in an open relationship. Holding back the details, even if it’s because you broke a rule and are worried you will hurt your partner, could cause greater problems going forward. Your open relationship only works because you have trust, and once that’s gone you have nothing.
7. Don’t force the issue.
If it isn’t working for one of you, it isn’t working for both. Whether this means adjusting your rules or stopping outside relations altogether, make the change that is going to make you comfortable. Open relationships do not work if only one person is happy. You may come to a point where you no longer need the open relationship or you may come to a point where you no longer want to stay in a committed relationship. Whatever your feelings, be open with them.
Open relationships are about working together to make your partnership exactly what you want it to be. If you're honest, communicate frequently and openly and use the tips above you'll go far.
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