The Most Common Open Relationship Rules



Perhaps you are at the beginning of your journey with an open relationship, or maybe you are wondering how you and your partners stack up in terms of commonality with other relationships. Here is a brief review of the most frequently encountered open relationship rules, in all of their diversity.

  1. Veto Power. Veto power is the ability to exclude a tertiary or additional partner, with or without some level of discussion. The idea is that the individual (from booty call to fuck buddy to a new romantic partner) is ruled out as an option and it is accepted and respected. A veto with some discussion is the idea that you may veto a prospective partner of mine, but that you must provide a brief explanation as to why and then we cannot discuss it further; this is the scenario that seems to cause the most arguments, but also identifies long-standing issues the quickest. In the event that a partner consistently vetoes other people that you would like involved in your life, you will be able to understand if s/he is struggling with jealousy, possessiveness, or some type of character defect that needs to be worked out. Valid arguments for absolute veto power include confirmation that one will always have a consistent influence over a partner and that it is helpful if you are at the beginning of a nonmonogamous relationship.

  2. Balance vs. Equality. While this is a principle more than a rule, it tends to inform partners’ agreements generally, and you will be able to identify whether you tend toward a need for equality or balance as you read through your rules. Do you/your partner(s) prefer that everything be equal, as in “all parties stay out with a tertiary partner two times weekly until midnight,” or do you/your partner prefer balance, as in both people are getting their needs met but are not caught up on the rules being exactly the same in order to feel as if they are being treated respectfully?

  3. Content of Sexual Encounters. Who could deny that rules around sexual encounters are the most common for nonmonogamous partners? The most common rule in this area is to decide these things in advance, with cool heads and fluorescent lights. The main question revolves around do you want to set limits on what your partner(s) can do with other people/do you want to know what s/he is doing? Further, are there sexual things you want to keep for a primary partner? Or have you decided that it’s the closeness provided by an emotional attachment that keeps your relationship special? Relatedly, will you want to know the results of sexually transmitted infection testing of all partners that your partner(s) have, and/or will you want to go together to be tested?

While there are many types of agreements, some of which have extensive rules and some of which have only a few flexible boundaries, the above are the most common and elemental for a happy, healthy open relationship. Be happy that you are in the type of relationship that allows for discussion of feelings as well as standards of behavior.

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