11 Open Marriage Rules You Should Consider When Living A Non-Monogamous Lifestyle

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated April 29, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Dutil , LMHC, LPC
“All marriages are complex and that is especially true when you are adding in more people. Remember that your marriage is unique to you and with that you can stand up for what rules make you feel most comfortable. Hopefully with time you can find the rules that work for you and your spouse.” - Ryan Smith, LPC, NCC

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.

Navigating an Open Marriage Can Be Tricky
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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.

Open Marriage Rules

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.

Navigating an Open Marriage Can Be Tricky


Getting Help

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!”


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