Relationships are intrinsically complex. The amount of different factors you need to learn how to manage at once is nearly impossible to count. We need to deal with not just our partner’s needs, but also our own. It is quite well known that managing this can be a challenge.
Hence, when we are speaking about open relationships, a new complexity is added to the mixture. This new complexity is secondary partners. But before getting into this added complexity, we need to talk about what an open relationship is by definition. An open relationship is a non-monogamous relationship whereby you can have sex with people outside of the relationship. It is almost like normal monogamy, except that you can sleep with people other than your primary partner.
In the context of an open relationship, there is a certain dynamic that persists. Firstly, we have what is called a “primary partner.” This is the person who you are romantically committed to. Think about how an ordinary monogamous relationship works. You are emotionally invested in this person and in terms of priorities, they come first.
A secondary partner is someone who exists outside of the relationship you have with your primary partner. A primary partner is someone that you are allowed to have sex with outside of the relationship you have with your primary partner. Such sex, however, is generally regarded as “no strings attached” sex. Namely, secondary partners are not individuals who you have romantic commitments to. This is not to be confused with polyamory, wherein one does have romantic commitments to multiple partners.
One partner for many can be difficult enough. Having many partners can also become quite complex. Here are a few ways to manage your secondary partners to ensure that you have a positive experience in your open relationship.
Put a Numerical Limit on How Many Partners you Have
As said above, for many one partner might be difficult enough. Picture 10? 20? People can certainly handle multiple partners, but you need to be reasonable with yourself. Do you really think you can manage to have sex with a huge number of people on a regular basis? Probably not. Unless you have an ungodly amount of time on your hands and an ungodly high libido, you should have a serious conversation with yourself on just how many different partners you can manage to have at once. In doing so, take into consideration not just your time and energy, but also the time and energy of others. Neither should be wasted and if you run yourself thin, it will eventually become waste.
Set boundaries and ground rules with your primary partner
One of the most important parts of any relationship is setting rules and boundaries. This becomes very important when you are in an open relationship. One of these rules ought to be communicate everything with one another. Usually, in an open relationship, doing things behind one another’s back --for example, having sex with someone your primary partner dosen’t know-- is breaking of rules. Another popular and important rule is to practice safe sex. The likelihood of contracting an STD when you are having sex with multiple people increases. The purpose of this fundamentally is to ensure that all parties involved are consenting individuals who are aware of everyone’s intentions However, these rules and guidelines need to fit what you and your primary partners are comfortable with. This will highly vary from person to person, but the most important thing here is having open and honest conversations.
Manage your emotions
It is very possible that you might develop feelings for a secondary partner. Given the constraints of an open relationship, you need to ensure that these feelings do not manifest into actions. If they do, that is considered infidelity. Whether it is speaking to a friend, a therapist, or your primary partner about it, there are various strategies you can take in order to manage your emotions with reference to a secondary partner. If worse comes to worst, and managing your emotions is too difficult, you might have to cut ties with this secondary partner. That is only the right thing to do. It might be at first a challenge to manage your secondary partners. But once you learn to do so, open relationships can be a very fun, fulfilling, and meaningful experience for all involved.