Open relationships demand more explicitness, not less. Even while not leaning on an objective standard or set of rules, partners in an open relationship need to be continually creating and recreating boundaries. Even when both partners are ostensibly on board with forming an open relationship, it is often important to look closely at the motivations for each person in doing so. The importance of this examination is not driven by an assumption that open relationships are somehow unfair or unfair for women, are arrived at through coercion or fear, or are inherently pathological.
Open relationships can be enriching for both partners. But entering into an open relationship without a thorough examination of why this matters can interfere with the process of establishing the shape the relationship will take together. It can be a setup for hurt and resentment down the line. Common issues worth a second look include asking if you are trying to keep a relationship together that isn’t working, trying to work around sexual difficulties in the relationship that haven’t been addressed or wanting to leave a relationship but not feeling able.
How Do You Define Your Relationships?
It can also be helpful to consider other decisions around the open relationship including how to define the relationship with other partners–is it a sexual or a romantic relationship? What is the difference? How do you preserve safety–not just in terms of safe sex, but also physical and emotional safety of both partners? Do you talk about the experience or not? Do you meet them first? What language do you use to discuss experiences with your primary partner? What if you’re dating someone of the same sex or the opposite sex as your partner? If you have children, how do you involve or not involve them? One way of doing this is to keep the relationships outside of the primary home. If one or both parents are frequently late or overnight, everyone needs to be on the same page. Couples navigate questions around how much they share about a sexual partner outside of the relationship and we can guide couples to decide what that would look like.