So, you’re thinking about an open relationship. Well good for you. Open relationships can be very rewarding, not to mention fun and exciting but they don’t happen without a lot of work. There are many techniques that you can implement in order to give them a better chance of succeeding though and that’s what we’re going to discuss here today.
First and foremost, opening a relationship should never, and I repeat never be used to “solve a problem”. Too often I see couples that open a relationship because one of the two people isn’t happy in the relationship but also doesn’t want to break it off. Everyone, including the couple knows that the relationship is ending, but they choose to try an open relationship in order to save it. In my experience, granted I’m still young, I have never once personally see this technique work.
Cheating is a form of open relationship but never one that I would suggest. Cheating, as a reminder, is doing things with someone outside of a relationship without the knowledge and/or consent of the other person in the relationship. This activity leads to a break down in communication and many hurt feelings when the truth finally comes out, and it usually does. When one person cheats in a relationship, it suggests to the other person that they aren’t good enough to even have the person come to them with their problems. This almost invariably ends the relationship.
We’ve talked about what not to do, but I still haven’t answered the main question. How do we open a relationship? The first step is going to involve some soul searching. Before approaching your partner with your request, you need to know exactly what it is you want to do outside of the relationship and why. Is there something that you want to try that your partner can’t or won’t provide? Do you need variety? If you know what you need, your partner is much more likely to be receptive to at least hearing you out.
Now, do you know what it is you want? Good. It’s time to move on to the next step. You need to approach your partner in a nonthreatening manner and start talking to them about it. You should do this at a time when all other distractions are at a minimum. Put the kids to bed, turn off the computer and television and devote your complete attention to your partner. A good way to start the discussion would be with a question along the lines of “have you ever thought about open relationships?” Don’t be surprised if they have a negative response to this. There is a strong stigma attached to open relationships and any types of polyamorous relationships. Talk to them about all of the stuff that you have been feeling recently. Complete honesty at this point is going to be vital, but keep phrases that can be interpreted as personal attacks to a minimum. Anything that sounds like an accusation “you don’t do…” or “you do too much…”. Instead, focus on what your needs are. “I would like to explore with other people because…” or any variation of the things you came up with when you were by yourself.
Don’t expect your partner to be immediately thrilled with the idea. Give them some time to adjust. After your first conversation about it, take a break and approach the subject in a few days. Ask them if they thought about it and how they are feeling now. If they are open to trying it, now is the time to negotiate how you want the relationship to work. Every relationship is going to be different in its structure, but many of the most successful open relationships have a number of things generally in common. Very often, the couple will decide together who the outside partners are going to be. This leads to both partners being more comfortable because there are no surprises. Commonly, in the best open relationships, everyone involved in the relationship is at least on speaking terms with each other. So talk to your partner, decide how you want to set up the relationship, nuances like how often someone can see their outside partner. This can be important because no one wants their partner to feel neglected. This can lead to major jealousy, which we’re going to talk about next.
So you’ve decided to have an open relationship and you’ve decided on terms that are agreeable to everyone. It should be all roses, sunshine, and great sex from here right? Not exactly. As I said earlier, open relationships are not easy. They take work in order to be sustainable. Jealousy will happen. It’s not really a matter of if, but a matter of when. What will make or break the relationship is how you will deal with it. When the first signs of jealousy come up, you’re actually going to want to follow similar steps as discussing the open relationship to start with. Figure out when you’re feeling jealous. Really nail it down so that you can talk to your partner and explain what it is that you’re really feeling. Are you feeling neglected because they’re spending so much time with their other partner? Are you wanting to do something that they’re doing with their other partners that they’ve never done with you? Once you know exactly what the problem is, you can approach your partner and discuss it with them. Many times these are easy fixes with a little bit of renegotiation and discussion.
If you’ve fixed the issues with discussion, great. If you weren’t able to, you have a few choices. You can decide to keep trying the open relationship and seeing if things improve. You could call off the open relationship and go back to being exclusive, or you can choose to end the relationship all together. The most important thing is to communicate with your partner, work out what will be the best for everyone in the situation and decide on it together. Open relationships can allow partners to explore their sexualities outside of a relationship. They can be wonderful but they aren’t for everyone and they aren’t without complication. Good luck, be safe and always, always, always communicate.