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Mistakes To Avoid In An Open Relationship

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Open relationships are becoming more popular. Whether it’s swinging, throuples, or solo-polyamory, more people are exploring consensual non-monogamy.

A YouGov poll in April 2021 found that a quarter of Americans would consider a non-monogamous relationship. Additionally, a 2021 study in the journal Psychology & Sexuality suggested that people in open relationships were 20 percent happier than those in traditional pairings.

The pandemic has led to a surge in couples thinking about open relationships, according to Tammy Nelson, director of the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute in California. “More people than ever before are creating a monogamy agreement that works for them,” she told Newsweek.

“Monogamy may be an idealized version of love, but it is not practical in a world where couples marry later, live longer, and find themselves outside of historical and social constructs that don’t align with their values.”

However, navigating an open relationship can be challenging. We asked three non-monogamous individuals to share the common mistakes people make when opening up their relationships for the first time.

Two people having a one night stand

What is an Open Relationship?

An open relationship is a type of relationship where partners agree to have sexual interactions with other people. This practice is often referred to as consensual non-monogamy. Unlike cheating, which involves secrecy and deception, consensual non-monogamy is rooted in communication, honesty, and transparency. There are several forms of consensual non-monogamy, including:

Monogamish Relationships 

These relationships are primarily monogamous but allow for occasional sexual encounters under certain conditions. For instance, a couple may be sexually exclusive most of the time but permit one-night stands when one partner is away on a business trip.
A couple involve in a polyamory relationship

Polyamory

Polyamory involves maintaining multiple romantic and sexual relationships simultaneously, with the knowledge and consent of all involved. In polyamorous relationships, partners may or may not be romantically involved with each other, as each relationship is unique.

Swinging 

Swinging can take various forms, such as partner swapping between couples for sexual activities or group sex involving two couples. Some swinging relationships develop into long-term friendships, with couples occasionally trading partners.

Open Relationships 

While any consensual non-monogamous relationship could be termed an open relationship, the term usually refers to relationships where both partners can engage in sexual activities with others but do not pursue romantic connections outside their primary relationship.

A happy open relationship couple sitting and embracing
Is an Open Relationship Healthy?

An open relationship’s health depends entirely on the partners and the agreements they’ve established. Just like any other relationship, it can be either healthy or unhealthy based on how well the partners communicate and adhere to their agreed-upon terms.

Open relationships can lead to great wellness for both individuals and as a couple if the rules are clear, understood, and respected. However, navigating an open relationship can be complex and requires a lot of effort and honesty.

To help you understand the potential pitfalls, we spoke with three non-monogamous individuals about common mistakes people make when they first try opening up their relationships. Here are the key points they shared:

Unhappy couple because of non open communication issues

Failing to Communicate

  • Assuming Boundaries: Never assume you know your partner’s boundaries without having a discussion.
  • Avoiding Difficult Conversations: It’s essential to openly discuss feelings, boundaries, and experiences to avoid misunderstandings.

Neglecting Your Partner’s Emotions

In an open relationship, it’s possible for one or both individuals to have other partners. Sometimes, these additional relationships are connected in a complex web, such as a situation where all three partners are involved with each other in some way. Therefore, it’s crucial to clarify these dynamics before entering an open relationship.

One of the best approaches is to talk to people who have experience with open relationships. They can share valuable insights about different arrangements and help you understand what might work and what might not. Establishing clear guidelines and understanding the open relationship rules are essential steps to ensure everyone’s feelings are considered.

Meeting with experienced individuals and learning from their experiences can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smoother journey in an open relationship.

Expecting Too Much: Take it Slow

The concept of an open relationship can be thrilling, but your partner might feel unsure about it. It’s important to note that rushing into this new dynamic can create more issues down the line. Therefore, patience is key.

Spend time meeting people who have been in open relationships for a while. Join support groups and listen to their experiences and discussions. This will not only help you understand the nuances but also give your partner the time they need to adjust to the idea. Ensuring that both partners are comfortable and on the same page is one of the unspoken rules of open relationships.

Remember, your partner might not share your enthusiasm or might even be resistant to the idea initially. So, before transitioning to an open relationship, allow ample time for both of you to adapt to this new concept.

A couple practicing safe sex relationship

Establishing Clear Sexual Boundaries

Before diving into an open relationship, it’s crucial to decide if you want to have sexual relationships with others or if you’re seeking just emotional connections. This conversation is essential between you and your partner to prevent misunderstandings.

If you plan to be sexually involved with others, you must establish specific sex boundaries. Discuss what is acceptable, such as kissing, oral sex, penetration, or even BDSM. Excitement can sometimes lead to crossing lines, so having these discussions beforehand is vital to maintaining harmony in your open relationship.

Some boundaries you might set include:

  • Avoid meeting others for sex when you and your primary partner are not on good terms.
  • Set a limit on the number of people you can sleep with each week or month.
  • Always check in with each other before meeting someone else.
  • Clarify acceptable types of sex, such as penetrative sex, BDSM, or other kinks.
  • Ensure any new sexual partners know you are in an open relationship.
  • Avoid having sex with mutual friends or colleagues.
  • Make it a rule to return home every night.

Having these boundaries in place will help you navigate the complexities of an open relationship more smoothly and avoid potential issues.

The guy is refusing to speak to her significant other due to jealousy

Emotional Boundaries: Keeping Jealousy in Check

Just like setting sexual boundaries, it’s essential to establish emotional boundaries in an open relationship. This is one of the key rules to follow.

When you’re in an open relationship, both partners should be open to the idea of each other meeting people from dating platforms. It’s crucial not to feel regret-free about your own actions while getting jealous when your partner does the same.

Set clear emotional boundaries. Determine if you can engage in sexual activities without getting emotionally attached. If you find it challenging, discuss how you will handle such situations.

Jealousy is a natural human emotion, and open relationships are no exception. However, it’s important to work through these feelings together with your partner and find ways to manage them.

For instance, you might find the details of your partner’s encounters exciting, or they might make you upset. Both reactions are normal, but if you feel upset, discuss it with your partner to understand why and figure out how to improve the situation.

For example, you could say, “I feel a bit insecure when you spend weekends with someone else. Can we keep weekends for ourselves and you meet others on weekday nights?”

Be Honest with Everyone Involved

In an open relationship, honesty is crucial for maintaining trust and harmony. If your partner has agreed to allow sexual relations with others, it is essential that the third party is also fully aware of this arrangement.

They need to understand that they are the secondary partner in this dynamic, and while you may share an intimate connection, it is not meant to be a serious romantic relationship.

Leading others on with promises of love, romance, and a long-term future can create unnecessary complications. Infidelity can still occur in open relationships if you start lying about your interactions with others.

The fundamental rules of an open relationship prioritize trust and transparency. Always have open discussions with your partner about your interactions and assess their comfort level with the situation.

Respect All Partners

When you’re in an open relationship, it’s essential to treat all partners with respect and consideration. Viewing third parties as disposable objects can lead to complications and misunderstandings. By treating everyone involved kindly and fairly, you foster a more cooperative and understanding environment. This approach can help prevent issues and ensure smoother interactions for everyone.

Honor Your Promises

Rules in an open marriage are there for a reason and should be respected. While you have the freedom to form intimate connections with others, this doesn’t mean you can neglect your primary partner. Maintaining your commitments and promises is crucial to keeping the relationship strong and healthy.

Prioritize: Remember the Core Relationship

Treat your partner as your top priority, just like you would in a traditional marriage. Having the freedom to date others doesn’t mean ignoring special occasions like your spouse’s anniversary. Ensure that the time you spend with others doesn’t overshadow the time you dedicate to your spouse.

Being in an open marriage requires you to meet all your marital responsibilities. The permission to have other partners doesn’t mean you should always be with them.

It might seem challenging to manage an open marriage, but it’s straightforward. Aim to be an exceptional partner to your spouse.

You need to compensate for the absence of sexual exclusivity. This is why many in open relationships claim they are more attentive partners outside the bedroom. They subconsciously strive to please their partners to make up for their promiscuity.

The keys to a successful open marriage mirror those of a traditional marriage:
Fulfill your responsibilities, maintain honesty, trust one another, and do everything possible to keep your partner happy. There’s no unique advice for open relationships. There are no special

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can help ensure that your open relationship is successful and fulfilling for everyone involved.

Navigating open relationships requires clear communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to understanding each other’s boundaries. Key elements include maintaining open and honest dialogue to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, establishing and respecting emotional and sexual boundaries to prevent jealousy, and ensuring all parties are fully aware of their roles to maintain transparency. 

Despite the freedom to form other connections, prioritizing your primary relationship and fulfilling your commitments is crucial. Taking the transition slowly and seeking support from experienced individuals can help ease the process. 

By adhering to these principles, you can foster a fulfilling and successful open relationship, ensuring a positive experience for everyone involved.

FAQs about Open Relationships

  1. What is an open relationship?

An open relationship is a type of relationship where partners agree to engage in sexual interactions with other people. This practice, known as consensual non-monogamy, is built on communication, honesty, and transparency, distinguishing it from cheating.

  1. How do I talk to my partner about opening our relationship?

Start by having an open and honest conversation about your desires and expectations. Discuss boundaries, potential challenges, and how to manage jealousy. Ensure both partners are comfortable and willing to explore this dynamic together.

  1. How do we establish boundaries in an open relationship?

Setting boundaries involves discussing what is and isn’t acceptable in your open relationship. This includes sexual activities, emotional connections, and time spent with others. Clear, mutual agreements help maintain trust and prevent misunderstandings.

  1. How can we manage jealousy in an open relationship?

Managing jealousy requires open communication and emotional honesty. Discuss your feelings with your partner and establish emotional boundaries. Regularly check in with each other and seek to understand the root of your jealousy to address it constructively.

  1. Can an open relationship be healthy and fulfilling?

Yes, an open relationship can be healthy and fulfilling if both partners communicate effectively, respect each other’s boundaries, and prioritize their primary relationship. It requires effort, honesty, and a commitment to mutual happiness to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

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