11 Open Marriage Rules To Consider When Living A Non-Monogamous Lifestyle
For some people, living a monogamous lifestyle may not be a path they’re interested in. An open marriage is one of the most common types of non-monogamous arrangements, but there are many different forms these relationships can take. If you are in an open relationship or want to have an open relationship, it may be helpful to establish some rules that you both agree to in order to help ensure the arrangement works for both of you. Read on for a few ideas to consider.
Open Marriage Rules To Consider
When you decide that you and your spouse want to open your marriage, you may want to sit down and communicate with each other about boundaries, rules, and how to handle potential situations that might arise. These are important steps in helping to ensure that your open relationship works well for both of you.
Set Sexual Boundaries
It can be a good idea to set out guidelines for sex, such as what types of sex are okay and what are against the rules. Try to be specific and discuss a lot of different situations to know that you are both on the same page. These rules may also include rules around frequency, safe practices, and clear communication, such as letting each other know where you are and with whom.
Set Emotional Boundaries
Will your open marriage be only about having different sexual partners, or will there be more to it than that? You and your spouse may decide that sexual intimacy with other people is permissible, but that emotional intimacy is not allowed. You may decide that going on certain dates with other partners is not allowed, for example.
Rules About "Who"
You and your partner may want to have rules about who it is okay to connect with. There might be some people—such as certain friends, colleagues, or acquaintances—who you’d feel uncomfortable about your partner being with. Consider making the rules in advance about who is and is not acceptable for you both.
Rules About Time
It may help to decide how much time you and your partner can spend with other people. This is important because you may want to ensure that you are not ignoring each other and your committed relationship to pursue other people. 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.
How You Talk About Your Partnership
How you talk about your open marriage, both with each other and others, is often a big part of making an open relationship work. You and your partner will want to be on the same page here. You might want to agree on what level of detail is necessary and what level of detail is more than you want to hear. You also may agree ahead of time on approaching the subject or discussing your marriage with potential partners.
Have Scheduled Check-Ins
Consider having frequent check-ins with each other to discuss the marriage, what is working, what is lacking, and whether any rules need to change. Especially in the beginning of open relationships, it’s possible that what initially seemed like a good rule becomes a contentious issue. You may need more frequent check-ins in the beginning as you both figure out how this open marriage will work for you both.
Be Honest And Communicative
It can be enormously important for everyone in an open relationship to be completely honest with themselves and each other. Openness and complete honesty are often some of the most important aspects of successful open relationships. Try to keep the dialogue open and thoroughly address issues as they arise.
Discuss STD Testing
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 to ensure that you and your spouse stay safe and healthy.
Treat Everyone With Respect
You and your spouse likely have a special connection, and that connection is why you are married and plan on spending your lives together. While respect for each other may be a given, you may also want to discuss how you plan to respect the other secondary partners that may be around, so that everyone feels comfortable.
Talk About Sleeping Arrangements
You and your spouse might want to discuss sleeping arrangements and when or where you can be with other people. This can be especially important if you have children who you do not want to know about the open nature of your marriage. Try to ensure your secondary partners are also on the same page regarding these arrangements.
Be Flexible And Open To Changes
Especially at the beginning of a non-monogamous marriage, it may take some time and adjustments to determine how it will work best for you. After all, you two are the ones who will be defining this open marriage. Try to 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.
Getting Help Through Therapy
Setting rules for an open marriage might be difficult at first. It can require having a clear idea of what you both want and then using strong communication skills to ensure you are both expressing and honoring each other’s needs and boundaries. If you would like support in this process, meeting with a relationship expert can help. A growing body of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including relationship satisfaction.
Some couples may feel hesitant to seek help for an open marriage due to the varied societal views that exist surrounding non-monogamy. In these cases, some couples may feel more comfortable speaking with someone from their own home—with online therapy through Regain, you can do just that. You can meet with your therapist wherever you feel most comfortable, as long as you have an internet connection.
“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-judgmental 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!”
Some couples may decide that an open marriage is a better arrangement for them. For an open marriage to work well for everyone involved, it can help to establish and agree to clear rules and guidelines for how the arrangement will work. If this is something you’re exploring, you can consider some of the rules detailed above, and for additional support, an online therapist can help.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is an open marriage healthy?
Open marriages can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the relationship and individuals involved. If there is a foundation of open and honest communication around each individual’s needs and emotions, and both people are comfortable with the arrangement, it can be a positive experience. But if there are issues around communication, trust, honesty, boundaries, or respect, among other things, it may be an unhealthy arrangement. The experience can vary widely from one couple to the next.
Can an open marriage save a marriage?
Opening up a marriage in hopes that it will resolve challenges within the relationship may not be successful. Shifting from a monogamous relationship to an open dynamic can be challenging and, in many cases, exacerbate underlying issues. You may want to address areas of conflict or disconnect in the relationship before considering this transition.
How do I explain an open marriage to my spouse?
Before bringing the topic of an open marriage to your spouse, it can help to make sure you are clear on your intentions. Sometimes individuals want to use opening the relationship to resolve internal problems within the dynamic or create an escape route. Before having the discussion, try to 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. You can explain to your partner that it would be up to you both to define the new dynamic parameters. Be open to your partner’s reactions and feelings. They may say no immediately, or they may be intrigued yet hesitant. If your partner does seem interested in pursuing the dynamic, the first step can be to set ground rules of what is and isn’t acceptable so there are clear expectations from the start.
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