Open relationships aren’t for everybody. But for the few who swear by it, here are some important questions they pondered on before giving it a shot. By Lianne Choo
A couple of years ago, my best friend came to me with a dilemma. She said that her boyfriend of two years sat her down and asked for a breakup. After hours of sobbing and arguing, they somehow came to the agreement that an open relationship was a better route to take.
“An open what?” I asked. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this concept, an open relationship means that both parties are okay with their significant other having sexual relations with other people.
Naturally, I was rather taken aback. I had never been in that situation before and it was the first time anyone close to me had either. Of course, I was familiar with the whole idea of an open relationship and had nothing against it. It was just put into a harsh perspective when someone so close to me voted to be in one.
To be honest, I tried to talk her out of it on multiple occasions. She stuck to her guns and two years on is as happy as a clam. According to her, being in an open relationship gives her and her partner the chance to explore sexual possibilities outside of what they had. The freedom to come and go as they pleased, the ability to flirt without the guilt, the thrill of sexual exploration with others and best of all, someone to go home to every night.
Although it took me a little while to wrap my mind around it, I saw just how happy she was and decided that maybe the whole idea of being in an open relationship is not such a bad thing after all. I was just a conventional prude who needed to open my mind a little more. So I embarked on a mission and spoke to several other couples in the same boat.
Important questions to ask before getting into an open relationship
Based on their experiences, everyone eagerly shared tips and tricks with me. From what they shared, here are the top 11 things to ponder before getting into an open relationship.
#1 Why are we doing this? Before even talking about being in an open relationship, find out why this is even coming up. Is it because you are bored? Is it because you want to spice things up? Is it because you have been with your spouse for longer than you can remember and want to try something new? No matter your reasons for it, think long and hard before even deciding to talk about it.
#2 Should we start with a trial period? One of the first things you need to ask before getting into an open relationship is whether you can start off with a trial period. Just like taking a car out for a test drive before putting money down for it, you need to try it out before completely agreeing to it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an unhappy situation. Give it a go for a couple of months before sitting down with your partner and discussing whether you want to continue with the open relationship for the long haul.
#3 How much should we share? Before you settle into being in an open relationship, discuss with your partner how much you should share with one another. Should you tell each other every time you head out with other people? Do you need to share the sordid details of whether any sexual relations took place that evening? Figure out what your threshold is for graphic details before committing to an open relationship.
#4 Do we need labels? Ask your partner if they’re comfortable with labeling your relationship as an open one. Forget about publicizing things on Facebook and other forms of social media as that is the least of your concerns. Instead, figure out the labels for when family members and friends ask about your relationship status. Come to an agreement on whether you even want to share with others the fact that you are in an open relationship.
#5 Will you practice safe sex? This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask your partner. Find out if he or she will be practicing safe sex and insist upon it. The last thing you want to worry about is an STD or unwanted pregnancy. So lay down the law when it comes to safe sex. Remember to abide by the rules as well and do not let lust get the better of you.
#6 Are partners from the same zip code OK? Some people think that it is a silly question to ask but in reality, it’s very important. Find out if third parties from the same zip code are acceptable or if it’s only something that both of you indulge in when you are out of town.
You have to understand that as populated as the city you are living in is, people talk and the world is in fact a lot smaller than you realize. If you don’t want people gossiping about your open relationship or if you don’t want friends and family in the vicinity to find out about it, then be smart and only meet partners outside of your comfort zone.
#7 What are the boundaries? Being in a non monogamous relationship is not easy. There are many things to figure out, issues to discuss, emotions to rein in and so on. Discuss what the boundaries are before both of you hook up with other people. Although it doesn’t make the situation easier, it will certainly keep it less complicated when you know where the line is. Ask questions like whether it is only sleeping with other people that is permitted or whether you are allowed to date them. Do you get a say in who your partner sees? Set boundaries together and respect them.
#8 What are the rules? Similar to setting boundaries, both of you need to be very clear on the rules. All open relationships are different, so there is no one rulebook to follow. Just do what seems right for you and remember that the most important thing here is that you both feel comfortable. Review what the rules are.
Is sex on the first date allowed? Is sex allowed at all? Can we sleep with mutual friends? Do we bring partners home? Can I break pre-made plans to meet a date? Discuss everything and anything that comes to mind and agree on all of it before embarking on an open relationship.
#9 What if I develop feelings? The problem with dating and sleeping with other people aside from your spouse is the danger of falling for someone else. You need to talk about what to do next should you develop feelings. Do you end things with this person? Do you keep at it? As premature as it may seem, you need to figure out what the next step is before you even start your open relationship.
#10 How long should this last for? Is this something that we are going to do forever? Do we stop when we decide to have kids? Figure out a tentative timeline and go with the flow. Many couples are perfectly happy with keeping their open relationship alive forever, but there are others who only want to experiment with it for a short time.
If you can’t decide how long to carry on at the beginning, then set a date several months after starting the open relationship before discussing it again. By then, you would both be set in your roles and know whether it is something you want to keep doing long term.
#11 What do I want? This is the most important question of all. Ask yourself if being in an open relationship is something that you even want to do. Do not get into it to please your partner. Do not get into it because you are afraid of being alone if you say no. Do not get into it because you are apathetic.
You need to be 100% on board with this before agreeing to it. Anything less will be a massive step down for your dignity and self worth. Respect yourself first and you will know in your gut if it is something that you want to do.
Depending on how you look at it, an open relationship could be the best thing that ever happened to you. No matter what, just be sure that you are comfortable with it and never let your partner push you into doing something that you do not want to do.