Love, Self

8 'Golden Rules' People In Healthy Open & Polyamorous Relationships Follow

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The Best Advice On Healthy Open & Polyamorous Relationships

By Dr. Alan K.

Should you try an open or polyamorous relationship?

Truthfully, probably not. Simply fantasizing or role-playing (and possibly allowing each other permission to make out with a stranger in a dark corner on occasion) is a lot safer, easier, and less risky for people currently in healthy monogamous relationships.

Ethical non-monogamy, multi-partner relationships, and open relationships all fall under the "polyamory" umbrella, defined as "the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. It has been described as 'consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy'."

It's important to remember that monogamy is a spectrum, and polyamory isn't for everyone.

The kind of solid, loving couple that can survive non-monogamy is rarer than a white rhino!

RELATED: 8 Things People Keep Getting Wrong About Polyamory, According To Couples In Polyamorous Relationships

Successful open relationships require effective communication skills, and lots of love and empathy.

If you and your partner think an open relationship may be right for you, play it as safely as possibly by following these 8 'golden rules' for maintaining healthy polyamorous relationships.

1. Understand what an open relationship is — and is not

An open relationship is one form of ethical non-monogamy in which you both agree the other can have additional sexual partners. It is an agreement before starting, not an excuse when found out.

There is no right way to do it — you and only you define your rules for an open relationship. And you’d better agree on those rules at the start or your effort is guaranteed to fail.

2. Begin with a clear understanding of why you want this

Maybe you want to fall in love with someone else (or already have) but still love your partner, or the idea of sex with new people is incredibly exciting.

Maybe you’d like to try things you need others to do with you (a threesome or a partner of a different sexual orientation than your current partner) or you have needs that you can’t meet in your current, otherwise-wonderful relationship (like an interest in BDSM that your partner will never share).

All of the above reasons are legit; the one reason that’s not is because you want fix a broken relationship — don’t even think about it!

RELATED: What It's Really Like Being In An Open Marriage

3. Read "the manual"

Before you do anything else, listen to the techies and read the manual. There’s no reason to make the same mistake others have.

There are more and more good books about open relationships available, but the non-monogamy bible remains Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up.

4. Don't just jump right in

Take baby steps. There is simply no way to know how you’ll feel when you see or hear about your partner getting up close and personal with someone new.

So start slowly — with fantasy, then making out in a corner, some nakedness, and only then full-on intimacy, whether your partner is part of the experience or not.

Each step of the way, talk — and I mean really talk — with your partner about what you did and how you felt. Communication is absolutely key if your relationship is going to survive.

And if something bothers you, stop!

RELATED: 9 Critical Facts To Know Before You Consider Non-Monogamy

5. Be prepared to be surprised

All sorts of unexpected emotions — jealousy of course, but others as well — may surface.

There are also practical issues: men sometimes cajole their partners into open relationships only to find their partners are the belles of the ball while they sit alone at home Saturday night.

Your new partners are people, not flesh toys, with the needs, wants, and expectations that may not be yours. And hanging around with naked people of both sexes has led people to reconsider their sexual orientations.

Don’t let yourself be blindsided.

6. Don't go looking for love in all the wrong places

Fish where the fish are. Meeting people into the same kind of relationship is actually easier than you might think.

If what you’re looking for is an erotic charge, particularly as a couple, consider the swinger websites. They’re full of people who are just like you, and a little common-sense screening will eliminate the undesirables. Just remember that it is a form of online dating, so take the usual precautions.

For a deeper relationship, particularly if you’re looking for a lover for only one of you, try the usual online dating sites: OKCupid is widely praised if you tailor your profile to meet the kinds of non-monogamous people you want. Fair warning: people fall in love this way … but that’s what you wanted, right?

If you’re looking for kink, that’s what the Internet is for. Try FetLife both to meet people and to find get-togethers.

There’s also the traditional method of getting your flirt on. The worst that can happen is a polite, “No, thank you.”

RELATED: Don't Get Into Polyamory Until You've Honestly Answered These 5 Questions

7. Always practice safer sex

Having been in a monogamous relationship for a while, you may have gotten lazy about protecting yourself against STIs and unintended pregnancies.

Make sure you’re both being smart about hooking up with others: have the hard conversations about sexual histories beforehand, have birth control and barrier protection ready to go, and use condoms and oral sex dams correctly every time.

8. Don't have a “no takesies-backsies” policy

You should both reserve the right to change your minds.

Sometimes relationships open and then close. It’s not a test; do only what you feel good about.

RELATED: Monogamy vs. Non-Mongamy: How To Tell If Polyamory Is Right For You

Dr. Alan K. is a psychologist specializing in the way people interact with progress in general and technology in particular.

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This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.