For some people, living a monogamous lifestyle doesn't work. However, society assumes that monogamy is the right and only good path for a relationship or marriage. The fact is that many people across the globe have open relationships or open marriages of some type or another. There are many different types of non-monogamous relationships, and an open marriage is just one of the most common.
There have recently been some in-depth research studies on the viability of open relationships, and the results were surprising. They found that open relationships were no less fulfilling or mentally healthy than monogamous relationships when certain elements were present. For that reason, it is important that if you are in an open relationship or want to have an open relationship, you need to be completely honest and upfront with your spouse. Communication is key when you are going to have a relationship that is not monogamous.
When you decide that you and your spouse want to open your marriage, you will need to make sure that you sit down and communicate well with each other about boundaries, rules, and how to handle potential situations that might arise. This is an important step in ensuring that your open relationship does not end with someone feeling like emotional cannon fodder.
#1 Set Sexual Boundaries
You and your partner will need to decide the rules for sex, such as what types of sex are okay and against the rules. Ensure that you get specific and discuss every possible situation to know that you are both on the same page. Sex rules should also include safe practices, such as the woman always letting her spouse know where she is and who she is without safety. There may be other rules such as the type of protection required and when it is required.
#2 Set Emotional Boundaries
Will your open marriage be only about having different-sex partners, or will there be more to it than that? You and your spouse may only be okay with the occasional Tinder hookup, but what happens when one of you wants to be social with someone other than the spouse? These emotional boundaries can be more important than sexual boundaries because it leads to hurt feelings and betrayal emotions if crossed.
#3 Rules About "Who"
You and your partner need to have rules about who it is okay to hook up with. It would help if you did not assume that an open relationship means that anyone is fair game. That type of relationship rarely works out because there will inevitably be someone who causes you emotional pain. Make the rules in advance about who is and is not on the table.
#4 Rules About Time
Decide how much time you and your partner will spend with other people. This is important because you want to ensure that you are not ignoring each other and your committed relationship to pursue other bedroom activities. You and your spouse might make rules about how much time per week you can spend with other people, or you might decide on a specific time and day that is allowed.
#5 How You Talk About Your Partnership
How you talk about your open marriage to each other and others is a big part of making an open relationship work. You and your partner need to be on the same page here. First, you both need to agree on what level of detail is necessary and what level of detail is more than you want to hear. You also need to agree on approaching the subject with potential partners and talking about your marriage to others outside of this dynamic.
#6 Have Scheduled Check-Ins
Especially in the beginning of open relationships, what seems like a good rule can become a hindrance or contention issue. You and your spouse must have frequent check-ins with each other to discuss the marriage, what is working, what is lacking, and whether any rules need to change. You will need more frequent check-ins in the beginning as you both figure out how this open marriage will work for you both.
#7 Be Honest And Communicative
All parties in open relationships must be completely honest with themselves and each other. Open and full honesty is the only rule that open relationships must have that is non-negotiable for success. You and your spouse also have to be excellent communicators and have no communication problems for an open marriage to work.
#8 Talk About Protection
Ensure that you and your spouse, and all of your partners, are on the same page when it comes to protection. Talk about birth control methods, condoms, and protecting against STDs. You may also want to make sure that you and your spouse have an agreement to undergo STD testing according to a set schedule. This is important for making sure that you and your spouse are safe and healthy.
#9 Treat Everyone With Respect
You and your spouse have a special connection, and that connection is why you are married and plan on spending your lives together. It is easy to respect each other if you have a healthy relationship. But it might not be as easy to respect secondary partners that each of you might bring around the home. You will want to make sure that you treat everyone in the situation with the same respect, even if you do not care for them as you do your spouse.
#10 Talk About Sleeping Arrangements
You and your spouse need to discuss sleeping arrangements and when or where you can be with other people. This is especially important if you have children who do not want to know about an open marriage. Everyone should be on the same page about who is sleeping, when you should be home and where you can go with your partners. Your partners should also be comfortable with sleeping arrangements.
#11 Be Flexible And Open To Changes
Especially at the beginning of a non-monogamous marriage, it will take some time and adjustments to determine how it should work best for you. After all, you are the one that will be making this open marriage, and you define it completely. This can take some time and a bit of trial and error. Be flexible and open to changes throughout the process so that you and your spouse can stay on the same page and make this a healthy experience.
Setting rules for a non-exclusive marriage might be difficult at first, especially if you don't have a lot of guidance from friends or family that live that kind of lifestyle. If you and your spouse have difficulty communicating about sexual matters, it could be even more difficult to set rules for an open marriage together without assistance.
There are some great ways that you can get help to set boundaries and rules for opening a marriage. Your first step is to make sure that you and your spouse can communicate with each other effectively. Marriage counseling can improve your communication skills and get you and your spouse on the same page. Therapists can take you and your spouse through marriage communication exercises, which will help you open up to each other.
Your next step is to communicate with each other about your thoughts and feelings about the open marriage situation. A therapist can continue to help you set rules for the marriage by being a sort of mediator and helping you both explore your thoughts and feelings about each proposed rule or situation. The therapist may also consider situations that you might not have thought of to be prepared for every eventuality.
If you can't find or afford marriage counseling in your area, you can still help set rules and strengthen communication before opening your marriage. ReGain is an online counseling platform that specializes in relationship and marriage counseling. The licensed therapists in ReGain's network are experts in relationship and marriage counseling. They can help you and your spouse gets on the same page before opening your marriage to other partners.
ReGain counselors are available at convenient times over a secure internet connection. If you require any additional assistance, ReGain offers advice articles that can give you more information about being in an open marriage that is still a healthy relationship with healthy boundaries. Contact ReGain today to get started with a couples counselor in your state or get more information about rates and promotions.
“Cris Roman saved my marriage. His approach to therapy taught my husband and I the skills we needed to change the way we communicated and the way we understood each other. He is very non-judgemental and helps each person make sense of the others' feelings and actions without taking sides or placing blame. His ability to make you feel heard while helping you to see and understand why your significant other is acting a certain way is phenomenal.”
“My wife and I decided to give online couples counseling a go after finding traditional methods weren’t all that suited to our busy working and parenting lifestyle. Our counselor Donna Kemp has been amazing! We both feel she’s listened to us and given us the confidence to step out of our comfort zone to deal with problems that are easy to avoid. She is encouraging without being pushy. We’ve both responded very well to her and her methods and look forward to continuing on with Donna. Highly recommend!”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Is an open marriage healthy?
Open marriages can be healthy if there is a basis of open and honest communication around each individual’s needs and emotions. However, shifting to an open marriage should not be used to solve problems within the relationship. In many cases, transitioning to an open marriage exacerbates any underlying issues that are present.
Open marriages can be fulfilling for everyone involved, as they allow the opportunity for individuals to remain connected to their partner while also exploring new romantic and sexual relationships. Ultimately, open relationships require a strong foundation of connection and trust.
Are open marriages happier?
Studies are being conducted on whether open marriages are happier than traditional marriages. Research has shown that couples engaged in consensual non-monogamy are just as happy in their marriages and also have higher levels of sexual satisfaction. One study revealed that those in open marriages reported higher levels of trust, intimacy, and satisfaction while stating that there were low levels of jealousy in their relationships.
However, open relationships require clear and honest communication to thrive. Open relationships work if partners are upfront about what they desire from the dynamic and set ground rules that both people consent to and are comfortable with.
Can an open marriage save a marriage?
Opening up a marriage in hopes that it will resolve challenges within the relationship often proves unsuccessful. Shifting from a monogamous relationship to an open dynamic can be challenging and, in many cases, exacerbates underlying issues. It is recommended to address areas of conflict or disconnection in the relationship before considering this transition.
What are the pros and cons of an open relationship?
Maybe you have been wondering ‘do open relationships work? What should I know before potentially exploring this type of relationship?’
A commonly noted pro of an open relationship is the balance between the security of a primary relationship with the variety of exploring new romantic relationships and sexual connections. People in open relationships also report experiencing significant personal growth and fulfillment and improving their communication skills due to pursuing consensual non-monogamy. For those in open relationships, sex is typically more frequent and fulfilling.
One potential con of an open relationship is the range of unpleasant emotions that may accompany the dynamic. For some, it is difficult to acknowledge feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or fear. However, learning to understand our emotions and communicate them with a partner is crucial. Other cons may include difficulties in balancing time between connections and life responsibilities and lack of resources around strategies for sustaining open relationships.
How do I explain an open marriage to my spouse?
Before bringing the topic of an open marriage to your spouse, first, make sure you are clear on your intentions. Sometimes individuals want to use opening the relationship to resolve internal problems within the dynamic or escape route’ out of the relationship. Before having the discussion, get clear with yourself about what you want and why. Some open marriages are defined by pursuing sexual connections outside the primary relationship, while others involve long-term romantic relationships with more than one person. Know what you are looking for out of the new dynamic before talking to your partner.
During the conversation, use I messages to convey to your partner your own feelings and desires. Reassure your partner in what you appreciate about them and your connection. Let them know that opening up the relationship stems from a desire to strengthen your bond and grow individually in new ways. Explain to your partner that it would be up to the two of you to define the new dynamic parameters. Be prepared that your spouse may say no immediately or maybe be taken off guard. Or they may be intrigued yet hesitant. If your partner does seem interested in pursuing the dynamic, the first step would be to set ground rules of what is and isn’t acceptable, so there are clear expectations from the start.