A few months ago, my husband and I watched the documentary on HBO, “there is no I in threesome.”
I won’t go into too many spoilers for those who haven’t seen it, but the film basically adds more basis to the fear that surrounds open relationships in our society.
The fear is one that I am familiar with, and if you had asked me what my thoughts were a decade ago about open relationships, I would have scoffed and said that they don’t work.
Then, a few years ago, one of my best childhood friends and her partner decided that they would open up their relationship. To say I was shocked is putting it lightly.
As time went on, and I left my bubble of a small town, I witnessed numerous couples whose preferences didn’t align with the strict “monogamous” lifestyle that we have been told as a society is what we have to follow.
Their lives have showcased that an open relationship can work, but they didn’t simply jump in without any rules.
Instead they overly communicated with each other and took certain steps to ensure they were protecting their relationship such as with the following actions.
#1. They established who was “fair game.”
My best friend Anna and her partner Charlie have set rules around who they can pursue to ensure that they are respecting each other’s feelings.
Because they live in a small town, they have decided to not get involved with anyone within the city limits because they don’t want to constantly run into other people that they have dated or are seeing while with each other.
They also established a rule that states friends are completely off-limits. The reason behind this rule was that at one point, Charlie's friend found out they were open and asked Anna once. Once that happened both Charlie and Anna realized that they did not even want to entertain the idea of dating their friends.
#2. They set ground rules for anything sexual
Just because a couple is exploring or in an open relationship does not mean that anything goes from a physical standpoint.
You and your partner should go through and explicitly decide what you are okay with, even if the conversation may feel a little uncomfortable.
A co-worker of mine was in an open relationship with his wife and opened up to some of us after work about the fact that she was on a date. He was extremely nervous because he had no idea how far things were going to go. I asked him up-front if they had any rules set up, and he said no, which was the perfect recipe for disaster.
If you don’t set ground rules, someone is going to get hurt, guaranteed and that goes for any relationship, monogamous or open.
#3. They ensured they were setting emotional boundaries
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have had numerous friends tell me that their biggest mistake at the beginning of an open relationship was setting boundaries and rules around the physical side, but nothing around what was acceptable from an emotional standpoint.
Anna and Charlie told me that they have rules around when they can talk to other people. They want to ensure that when they are spending time together they are entirely present instead of texting or talking about other romantic interests.
If you are exploring the possibility of an open relationship, make sure that you communicate about what you are comfortable with emotionally to avoid unnecessary hurt and jealousy.
#4. They continually check in with each other to make sure that being open is still what they want
Some people go into an open relationship immediately and are upfront with what they want. Other couples can start monogamous and realize over time that it may no longer be what they want.
For example, Anna and Charlie were together for seven years before they decided to start exploring other avenues than monogamy. It has worked for them so far, but both have said they aren’t sure if it’s something they want to do forever.
Perhaps in another decade, they will decide that they want to be monogamous or continue to be open. It is ultimately up to them and what serves their relationship.
People are beginning to decide if the traditional path is truly what they want.
Monogamy is not for everyone, and assuming that it is the only path isn’t true because more and more people are exploring less “traditional” routes in their lives.
When my partner and I first started dating, we talked about if either of us would ever want to explore an open relationship. We both decided “no” in terms of openly seeing other people, but there are other things that we may try in the future. Also, we haven’t been married for two decades, things can change, and what we want now may look very different in the future.
There is no reason why we shouldn’t be true to ourselves, and at times that will mean going against traditional values that no longer make sense.
Continually asks yourself what you want in your relationship and don’t be afraid to communicate those desires with your partner. You may be surprised to find out that they want to be adventurous as well.