5 Tips for Successful Open Relationships

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Open relationships are becoming more common, but that definitely doesn’t mean they’re easy. Negotiating polyamory with a primary partner requires extra communication in order to avoid feelings of jealousy, and even the most solid couples can find the transition from monogamy to an open relationship tricky at first. But like all good things in life, putting in the effort up front can lead to rewarding and deep dynamics with your primary and secondary partners that meet both your emotional and sexual needs.

For couples who may be considering this transition, we’ve rounded up a few points to consider for building your own healthy guidelines when practicing ethical non-monogamy. If you’re considering polyamory, keeping these principles in mind will put you well on your way to an open relationship that is gratifying and fulfilling—in more ways than one.

Open Up for the Right Reasons

Opening up your relationship can help bring back a spark that has diminished over time. Seeing other people can be exhilarating—in many cases, it reminds people why they fell in love with their primary partner in the first place and helps to reinforce the value of a committed relationship.

Going through the exciting and awkward first stages of a new relationship can also bring back positive memories about falling in love with your partner. More often than not, even if you’re sleeping with different people, these feelings allow you to intimately reflect on your primary relationship. Your interest in sleeping with other people doesn’t have to be a threat to your partnership—ideally, you and your partner will be able to communicate and celebrate each other’s sexual curiosity and explorations. You should open up your relationship because you are open to, and excited by, sharing in this experience together.

Of course, opening up for the wrong reasons can also be detrimental, especially if your relationship is already on the outs. If you’re losing interest in your partner, opening up to other people might help to delay the inevitable breakup—but it can also cause a lot more pain along the way. That said, going through the trials and errors of an open relationship will inevitably force you and your partner to learn a lot more about each other’s kinks and boundaries—and a little healthy jealousy might be just the thing to amp things up.

Give Your Partner Time to Think It Over

You may want to eagerly dive into a non-monogamous relationship out of excitement for the change (and sex!) it’ll bring to your life—but don’t forget to give your partner time to consider if this is what they really want. Just the suggestion that you’re interested in seeing other people might be enough to send your partner into panic mode, causing them to commit to an open relationship over the fear that they could lose you forever by saying no. If you want to open up your relationship, make sure you give your partner ample time to think it over and avoid ultimatums at all costs. If you’re opening up for the right reasons, you and your partner should be able to provide each other with healthy amounts of reassurance to assuage any anxieties that arise throughout.

Set Firm Boundaries

One of the most common mistakes people make when opening up their relationship is not establishing boundaries from the get-go. Opening up means granting freedom to your partner, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t limits. It’s important to set boundaries when it comes to dating other people. For some of us, casual sex might be okay while intimacy is not, but there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these things. Before taking the plunge, make sure you and your partner set clear boundaries and expectations of what is and isn’t okay for the other person. For example, some partners have full disclosure expectations or agree that sex with secondary partners should happen outside of the home. Some partners may agree to only share certain details but establish a “no mutual friends” rule when it comes to sex partners. These “rules” might change over time and that’s okay, as long as you talk it out with all invested parties.

Be Honest With Secondary Partners

This is where open relationships can get tricky. Not only do you have to worry about your primary partner’s feelings but you also have to be sensitive to the other people that you’re dating. This means being clear with potential partners about your current relationship status. Disclosing your intentions with new partners not only helps to set expectations within secondary relationships, but also helps to diffuse potential conflict between your significant others if they happen to meet. After all, you’re signing up for fun here—not drama!

Practice Safe Sex

It should go without saying that barrier methods are vital when you are playing with multiple partners. It’s best to keep things wrapped up—both for your own health and for everyone involved! A very real risk in non-monogamous relationships is the possibility of contracting a disease or becoming pregnant. As in any sexually-active relationship, you need to take the necessary precautions to avoid unwanted consequences. In polyamorous dynamics, it is even more crucial to stay diligent, as sexually transmitted diseases and infections can easily spread between partners.

Open relationships involve work and communication, and you and your partner may need to try out different arrangements before you find the dynamic that works best for you both. While there are challenges to open relationships—as with all relationships—deciding to open your partnership could save it in the long run. Just remember to be kind, communicative and considerate of your primary and secondary partners and you’re bound to find new levels of connection and intimacy that will enrich your life.

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