Exhibit A. This concept has recently been explored in the TV series You, Me, Her. Picture a man going on a date with a beautiful woman -sounds completely normal except the man is married and the woman he’s on a date with isn’t his wife... and his wife is okay with that. This my friends, is a classic open relationship
Exhibit B. This concept has recently been explored with Hollywood couples. Jada Pinkett Smith spoke out about having a ‘grown relationship’ with her husband, Will Smith, in light of rumours of their open marriage.
An ‘open relationship’ is an umbrella term encompassing several types of relationships. Examples of which are swinging, monogamish, multi-partner relationships, and even hybrid relationships.
Understanding the meaning of these different relationships can be hard for someone new to the concept but what seems to be consistent about them is its simplified logistics: 1 non-exclusive couple + freedom to see other people sexually (it could be one or both parties seeing other people) = an open relationship.
Polyamory vs Open Relationships
Polyamory refers to having multiple romantic relationships at one time whereas an open relationship confines the romance to the primary couple that have options to have casual sex with other partners.
On the surface it looks simple but there’s so much more to it.
Standard relationships and dating are challenging enough with two people, adding a few more parties comes with complications. Unfortunately, there aren’t 10 commandments for open relationships carved onto stone; but here are a few rules we’ve gathered from real couples sharing their experiences on Reddit:
1) User ptone1’s initial rule caught our attention amongst the long list of comments mainly because it’s a rule that works for all couples: “We come first.” Reddit user, ptone1, mentioned that a common mistake other couples make is that they forget to prioritise their partner in the midst of balancing the extra partners. In other words: If your primary partner wants to head to a dinner, but your secondary partner wants to see a movie. Your primary should always be your first choice.
2) “Being open is an addition, not a replacement,” adds user ptone1. He states the importance of remembering that this type of relationship is simply a mutual understanding that the couple is naturally attracted to other people. The addition of an extra person or more should not be done if there are any shortcomings or issues in the relationship. He suggests that if you are fighting with your main partner, hold off going on other dates. Again, rule #1 is that your relationship comes first.
3) “...Basically that we could sleep with other people... as long as it was just physical stuff. But the only romantic relationship we were allowed to have was with each other.” Reddit user, Oladiposed, chimed in with this rule that seems quite popular with multiple users in the thread. Keep emotions to your primary relationship for it to work. Building an emotional and romantic connection with a secondary partner is no longer an open relationship – rather it becomes a polyamorous relationship.
4) “Always wear condoms with other partners,” aeninsche states. Multiple couples could not agree more with the importance of ensuring that you and your partner are practicing safe sex.
5) “Honesty is the most important part to making it work,” shares user VillainInc. This was a resounding rule with all the couples that have shared their stories about open relationships. You’re already in an open relationship – what is there to hide if your partner has already agreed to it? Plenty of couples share that it was healthier for them to share details about their dates with their significant other. It opened up communication lines and their trust only strengthened. User foreverhex mentioned he was the secondary partner in an open marriage and swears by the honesty rule. By knowing all the details, there was less room for jealousy. However, this rule seems debatable as some couples prefer to go by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule like Reddit user cluminaty.
6) “SAFETY” is user ptone1’s last rule. Some couples find new partners on dating sites or apps like Tinder which can be a tad risky.He suggests always informing your partner where you will be going.
With all these rules, you’re probably wondering, “Do open relationships work?”
The answer is yes and no. The reality is, people who have tried it are divided. Contributors to Reddit, shared positive and negative insights. Some said that they would definitely try another open relationship while others swore to never be in one ever again.
If you and your partner are considering an open relationship, here’s some advice:
1) Understand what you are comfortable with
Is the idea of an open relationship your idea or your partner’s? Are you considering it solely because your partner suggested it? There’s a laundry list of things to ponder, but the most important will be: Are you comfortable with the idea of sharing your partner?
Do not be pressured or pressure someone else to be in an open relationship.
2) Have the right reasons
Why are you both getting into an open relationship?
Reasons for getting into an open relationship vary. Some couples find that they have never been able to be with just one person at a time – sounds like a cop out but there are people that truly feel like they are born non-monogamous. Others find they can’t satisfy their partner sexually so they want to provide them with an avenue to have their desires fulfilled by another. Some say they like the challenge and that seeing their partner being desired by others is super sexy. Whatever reason it is you are considering an open relationship, make sure that it is for the right reasons.
3) Establish boundaries
By involving other people, you cannot guarantee that they will follow your rules. You can, however, establish a set of rules or guidelines between you and your partner.
Are each of you allowed to only see another person on a specific day? How many partners outside the main relationship are you allowed to have? Will you have a safe zone meaning secondary partners are not allowed in certain areas that are reserved for the main couple? Are there certain acts that are sacred for the main couple and cannot be done with the others? Determine between yourselves what are acceptable rules for your relationship.
An easy way to create these guidelines is to create a 3-column chart that each person has to work on separately. The first column will be your non-negotiables or your absolute must haves. The second column will be your negotiables or your maybes. While the third column will be your absolutely not’s. Once each of you has completed this chart, discuss it together to build your guidelines.
4) Communication is key
This will be the cornerstone of your relationship if you decide to involve other people. Communication lines must be completely open for this to work. There are more emotions and people involved so being open about your feelings will make things easier.
5) Practice safe sex
This goes without saying but by all means, respect each of your partners and practice safe sex.
6) Lastly, Expect the unexpected
Some couples have turned to Open Relationship Coaches such as these found on Tumblr Ultimately, there is no one way each open relationship can go. Each couple has different rules, guidelines, emotions and personalities involved so what works for some may not work for you.
1) “Has anyone tried an open relationship” Retrieved from: https://www.reddit.com/r/modernromantics/comments/2csnyj/has_anyone_tried_an_open_relationship_what_were/
2) “You Me Her” retrieved from: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5179408/?ref_=kw_li_tt
3) “Jada Pinkett Smith Clarifies Open Marriage Statement: Will Smith and I have a ‘Grown; Relationship” Retrieved from: https://www.eonline.com/fr/news/407906/jada-pinkett-smith-clarifies-open-marriage-statement-will-smith-and-i-have-a-grown-relationship
4) “What’s the difference between polyamory and open relationships” Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-polyamory-and-open-relationships-How-does-each-of-them-work
5) “Open Relationship” Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_relationship
6) “Open Relationship Tips” Retrieved from: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/advice/a6121/open-relationship-tips/
7) “8 questions people ask me when they find out I’m in an open relationship ” Retrieved from: https://www.self.com/story/open-relationship-stories-rules-questions-people-ask-me
8) “Your complete guide to an open relationship” Retrieved from: https://www.thecut.com/article/open-relationship-how-to-guide.html