For most couples, talking about opening up your relationship is uncharted territory. It’s uncomfortable. It’s messy. It’s downright weird. And while each open relationship is unique, most have a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that aims to protect each party involved. Just like most rules, they will adapt and evolve as time passes and new situations arise, but here are a few basic rules and boundaries that help prevent jealous fallout.
1. So who can I hook up with?
A common mistake in open relationships is that they don’t clarify WHO the other person can hook up with. People commonly think open relationships mean just hooking up with anyone at any time, but that is rarely the case. Believe it or not, people will feel more or less jealous depending on the person. An easy starting ground is- is hooking up with friends or people you know and trust okay or just strangers? Also within this realm of conversation establish who is simply off-limits. Don’t expect to get this exact right off the bat! Through experience and proper communication, you and your partner will narrow down who is out of bounds and who is fair game.
2. It’s Prime Time→ find the perfect balance!
What some people may forget to spell out is how much time they expect their partner to dedicate to their relationship and how much time is acceptable to devote to dating. Will they actively seek out another partner or just stumble upon one? On average, couples spend about 2.5-3 hours a day together if working full time. And that doesn’t apply to couples who live together! Flourishing relationships take time. Time spent in relationships is often give and take. It resembles a balance scale- finding the right amount of time for each person/relationship that results in perfect equilibrium. In the beginning, finding a new partner can be like opening a new box of chocolate- fun and exciting with the thrill of not knowing what you’re going to get. It is easy to become obsessive, so establishing the right timing is crucial.
3. Avoid the commotion of emotion- easy ways to set emotional boundaries!
Emotional boundaries within open relationships are the secret key to a happy relationship. Emotional connection with others is often more hurtful than even sexual connection. Talk about what happens IF feelings develop. How will you discuss these situations if they arise? Should the fling be cut off well before feelings develop? Emotional boundaries can look very different depending on the relationship, but some ideas are- allowing only random hookups, limiting how many times you can see the same person, and cutting it off immediately if either party thinks it is getting too serious.
4. Those SEXual feelings
Now for the fun part...sex! Get to the nitty-gritty, even if it's uncomfortable! Which sex is okay, if any? Is oral sex okay but not penetrative sex? Is sex with just certain people allowed? Regardless of your decision as a couple...safe sex is the best sex! It is essential to ensure that you and your partner are both safe!
Yes, open relationships DO involve commitment!
While the common misconception is that people enter open relationships just to cheat on each other, open relationships actually require more commitment. Commitment to new rules and boundaries and to constant, effective communication. Of course, no one can tell you exactly what you and your partner should include in your list of rules because it varies! Your list of rules could be the size of a child’s Christmas list or very minimal. But what each relationship NEEDS for success is a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that is able to adapt as new situations occur. Most importantly, to help those rules be maintained, consistently check-in with your partner!