Relationships that don’t fit the mold are becoming more common, with a growing awareness that, for many people, one partner may not be able to meet all their needs – and that is totally fine.
Many people will be curious about how an open relationship might work, and the best way to go about starting one while avoiding issues of jealousy and trust. In general, an open relationship involves sexual or romantic contact with other people in addition to your primary relationship – these can be casual or longer term.
So – with that in mind – lets touch on what this might look like, and how you can make an open relationship work for you and your partner.
What are the important considerations of an open relationship?
Honesty: The most important part of any open relationship is honesty – being able to communicate to your partner your emotional and sexual needs, and to set clear and safe boundaries. Honesty is essential for an open relationship to work, since it is the basis of trust.
Consent & Respect: Approaching the conversation with your partner is something that will likely take some consideration – and it is advised that you share with them the reasons for wanting an open relationship, making sure they are aware that this is not because of their shortcomings. Its helpful to talk about what being open means for you (eg. dating, casual sex, emotional connections). Its important that you give your partner time to process the conversation, and make sure that they don’t feel forced into making a decision quickly.
Sexual Boundaries: If you decide to go ahead with an open relationships, it is important to discuss and set sexual boundaries from the very beginning – such as – are you comfortable with penetrative sex? Oral sex? Kissing? Are there things that your partner is not comfortable for you to do with someone else – and vice versa. It’s also important to check in regularly with this, as it is likely that these boundaries will shift and change over time.
Emotional Boundaries: These can be just as important as sexual boundaries – and might involve things like whether you will see someone more than once, going on dates or seeing people from within your social circle. The line between physical and emotional intimacy is very fine, and it can be a challenge to separate this – and requires open and honest communication.
Jealousy: It is probably no surprise that feelings of jealousy are a normal part of an open relationship! These can be anticipated and dealt with, and it is important to have a plan about how to deal with these feelings, as well as any insecurity or anxiety around new partners. Again, openness, honesty and vulnerability are the key to managing and resolving these potential issues.
These are just a few considerations – it might also be useful to have several sessions with a Relationship Coach or therapist with a background in non-monogamous relationships, to be able to get some support and ensure you are on the same page. The important thing to remember is that a successful open relationship is possible – but it will require total honesty, a foundation of trust, and the willingness to be vulnerable and to be open to change. Good luck!