The idea of an open marriage, or any open relationship for that matter, is the farthest thing from what we all have grown up believing love to be about. Staying with one person your entire life and being faithful to them was our preconceived notion of what “being in love” meant. Eyeing someone else and acting on those impulses has always been criticized and labeled as “unfaithful behavior.”
What about the couples who decide that they want more out of their relationship without actually splitting up? What of the people who are comfortable with polyamory and polygamy – and believe that it is human nature to be in love with multiple people at the same time?
Because the concept of an open relationship is still novel and alien to us, many of us are fascinated by it. What does it really mean to be in an open relationship?
Let’s discuss this curious concept a little bit more.
What is an Open Marriage?
While the precise definition of an open relationship is determined by the parameters established by the parties involved, it ultimately comes down to a relationship in which both partners have the flexibility to pursue sexual and/or romantic relationships with other people.
In practice, open relationships can range from casual sexual relations to long-term romantic engagements – with people other than your current partner. Some people view polyamory as a group partnership/marriage arrangement, while others view it as an open relationship.
It Can Be Purely Sexual
An open relationship can often be an alliance in which a couple chooses to share intimate experiences with people other than their partners, usually for sexual enjoyment.
External partners are not encouraged to form emotional attachments in these kinds of open relationships.
The Rules are Subjective
Some participants in open relationships choose one-time sexual encounters or multiple dates while eschewing any romantic involvement with these extra sexual partners. In an open relationship, the needs of the main partner (possibly the spouse) are always prioritized.
It’s Different from Polyamory
An open relationship is just one tiny spoke under the large umbrella of consensual polygamy.
It varies from polyamory in that there’s just one committed couple in the center, and they aren’t usually looking for strong emotional connections. Rather, they want to explore themselves sexually, to polygyny and polyandry to group marriage.
Open Relationships are Becoming Increasingly Common
Unconventional partnerships are becoming increasingly frequent in today’s society. Many people realize that monogamy isn’t for them and resort to open relationships or even polyamorous relationships to satisfy them in a way monogamy just can’t.
As open relationships become more common, many couples contemplate switching to this more free way of life.
Why Do People Decide to Have an Open Marriage?
You might be wondering why someone would put themselves through all of the emotional turmoil that comes with being in an open relationship. After all, it may appear to be a significant risk to take if both you and your partner are happily married.
Surprising as it may seem, opening your relationship can actually help you stay more dedicated to your partner. Couples in open relationships enjoy more sex with their main partner and other individuals, which can help them improve their bond.
It also helps them explore feelings that can otherwise lead to cheating and infidelity.
How to Make an Open Marriage Work
1. Be Honest About Your Feelings
The most fundamental aspect of any open relationship is honesty. You must be truthful about your romantic and emotional demands so that you can settle into a relationship that is comfortable for both you and your partner.
You must also be open and honest about setting the boundaries in which you will feel safe. Open communication will aid in establishing the foundation of trust required for any open relationship.
2. Be Vulnerable
Talking about the nuances of opening your heart and your marriage to others is a life-changing decision. It can be frightening to be so open, yet this openness is also absolutely vital for an open relationship to work. Learn to accept and express your vulnerability, as well as your wishes and needs.
On the plus side, even if your relationship is not fit to be open, the increase in honest conversations will help boost the relationship’s sustainability, strengthen your bond, and increase overall pleasure.
3. Be Kind When Approaching Your Partner
Before exploring the idea of an open marriage with your spouse, consider why you want one in the first place. If you’re sure about your decision, schedule or pick a time when you’ll have plenty of time to talk things through.
Explain your reasoning for wanting an open relationship, assuring your partner that it’s not due to a flaw on their part. It’s also necessary to identify what “openness” means to you and the rules of engagement.
4. Give Your Partner Space and Time to Contemplate
It’s critical that you talk about this while you’re both in a calm state of mind – so please don’t ambush your partner with your decision. Instead, start by telling your spouse that you’ve been thinking about opening your relationship and would like to have their opinion on the idea.
Giving your partner time and space to consider and respond to this idea is the most crucial element of this dialogue. It’s also important that your partner feels comfortable saying no. Pressurizing them into this decision will not work in the short or long run.
5. Make Sure You’re Doing it for the Right Reasons.
People who seek something more or different from their monogamous relationship should consider open relationships. Monogamous relationships do not satisfy certain people who require more than one person’s emotional or physical intimacy.
Others want open partnerships to enhance the connection with their current partner.
Some people also explore open relationships because they are dissatisfied with their current relationship. If this is the case with you, opening your relationship will allow you to meet your sexual and emotional demands in new ways.
6. Make Sure You’re Both on Board
You shouldn’t establish an open relationship to solve the problems in your current relationship. These issues will not go away by adding more individuals to the mix; your relationship will likely become even worse.
7. Make Sure Your Relationship is Strong Enough
Only the couples who are sure of their love for one another should take this step. Most couples believe that they’re bored in their relationship and add more people to the mix to explore what’s “out there” or brighten up their relationship.
However, if the main relationship is weak and there isn’t much love left, there is a good chance that the core couple will split to find love in different directions.
8. Establish Limitations with Physical Affection
If you and your partner agree on an open relationship, make sure to establish sexual limits from the start. It’s critical that both of you are completely sure how much physical affection is permitted. Not laying down the rules from the start can result in disaster over the long term.
Start by making a list:
- Is oral sex on the table?
- Is penetrative sex okay?
- Are there kinks that are out of bounds?
- Are there kinks that are permitted?
Talking about these boundaries can also help you focus on what you hope to get out of your sexual adventure. It’s also important to check in periodically to ensure that you and your partner are happy with the established boundaries as the relationship progresses.
9. Establish Limits with Emotional Affection
It might be difficult for many people to distinguish between physical and emotional intimacy. Make sure you talk about psychological boundaries as well as sexual ones with your partner before going for an open relationship.
Women, specifically, are particular about their partners being exclusive with romantic gestures.
Every open relationship is unique, and you and your partner may have differing perspectives on what constitutes acceptable behavior. From the outset, be open and honest about your sexual desires and set limits that honor those needs.
10. Stay Within Established Boundaries
This should go without saying: Make sure you stay within the boundaries decided at the beginning of the relationship.
As previously stated, open partnerships necessitate a great deal of trust. Acting according to the boundaries you established is an important component of preserving that trust.
11. Ensure Safe Sex Practices
Deciding on safe sex standards is an essential component of every open relationship. Make sure you and your partner talk about how you will protect yourselves and others if you pursue an open relationship.
- Will the women be using contraceptives, or will the men?
- What is the frequency of sexual encounters?
- Will the partners get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases?
- Is pregnancy on or off the table?
Talking about protection will ensure that both you and your partner are comfortable exploring your sexuality.
12. Make a List of Do’s and Don’ts
In addition to sexual and emotional boundaries, it’s critical to establish concrete guidelines for the arrangement.
- Decide how many partners you can have outside of your main companionship.
- Is there any particular individual who cannot be a part of the relationship?
- Are there important dates or events that you are not willing to share with others?
- Are you two just exploring your options, or is this a long-term decision?
When you talk about the details early on in a relationship, you ensure that you and your spouse are on the same page – which is critical for maintaining an open relationship!
13. Decide How Much to Discuss With One Another
A delicate and vital component of the arrangement is creating a strategy for how much you and your partner talk about the open element of your relationship.
Are the two of you more comfortable with not knowing anything about the encounters your partner has? Or are you two the sort of people who will go crazy with paranoia if you don’t know the nitty-gritty of each date or sexual encounter?
How explicit or elusive you want to be while discussing the details about the relationships can vary. The important thing is to make sure that both of you are comfortable with sharing or hearing the shared information.
14. Form a Strategy for Discussing Your Relationship with Others
Just because the two of you are on board with this new and exciting romantic adventure doesn’t mean your peers and loved ones will be.
Before you delve right into getting new people into the relationship, you should also discuss how much information you want to share with the outside world.
For instance, are you comfortable with your friends asking you questions about your relationship? Are you okay if they make fun of it?
How much you are willing to tell your friends about your relationship should also come from a place of safety and comfort. Your comfort is paramount, not theirs.
15. Navigate Feelings of Jealousy
Jealousy is normal in the early stages of any open relationship. After all, these types of partnerships can frequently reveal fears and needy traits that didn’t reveal themselves earlier.
However, it’s very important to keep these feelings in check and examine how okay you are with your partner being intimate with someone else at different points in your relationship.
If you’re dissatisfied with the relationship or find that you cannot help being jealous, the best thing to do then would be to end it. Long-term feelings of jealousy will outweigh any potential gain from an open partnership.
16. Realize You’re Making Big Changes
You’re inviting a lot of change into your partnership when you decide to open up your marriage to other people. It’s crucial to regularly check in with your partner to ensure that they’re still happy with the situation. Dissatisfaction can make a hell out of heaven.
You should always establish clear guidelines at the beginning of a relationship, but keep room for it to evolve or for your partner to change their stance as the relationship progresses.
The Bottom Line
Open relationships are becoming increasingly common but are still very much taboo. We, as a culture, still lack the social blueprint to navigate these kinds of unconventional relationships.
Whether you’re just dating or have been together for decades, you can decide to have an open relationship to explore what else the universe holds for you.
While many such partnerships are strictly sexual, others allow a bit more room for emotional rawness and openness – but these are all variables you and your spouse should navigate when you decide to open your relationship.
Remember that it is important to be candid about your feelings about each little thing that’ll happen when you open the relationship. If you’re the person who is initiating this change, make sure your partner isn’t saying yes only because they are afraid of saying no.