In a nutshell, open relationships mean those relationships where the partner(s) build a sexual, emotional, or romantic connection with another person(people). Even though there are no rigid set of rules in an open relationship, you and your partner can frame them based on the uniqueness of your bond.
Many people find the concept of ethical open relationships confusing. But, in reality, if both partners are comfortable with a non-monogamous relationship, it can help build satisfaction in a relationship.
As per the research survey conducted at the University of Guelph¹, open relationship couples are as happy as other couples. They state that in North America, three to seven percent of couples engage in consensual non-monogamous relations.
If an open relationship is not something you and your partner would like to have, it is perfectly alright. Regardless of your relationship structure, you and your partner have to be psychologically and sexually satisfied. It will enhance the chances of being happy in any relationship.
Remember that ethical open relationships differ from cheating. Here, there should be transparency, mutual commitment, and understanding. Both partners have to agree to all the parameters and rules present in the relationship.
Here are five rules for an open relationship that can help you and your partner navigate a non-monogamous relationship.
Setting up boundaries that regulate activities in an open relationship can be highly beneficial. It can help you and your partner handle relationships outside of your primary one. Since no two relationships are the same, the rules and boundaries set by each couple would vary.
However, here, you can find some sexual and emotional boundaries that you can include in an open relationship. They range from, and are not limited to, the following:
Remember that these rules are not definite or absolute. They can vary from one couple to another. Hence, you and your partner have to discuss and decide what feels right for your relationship.
You have to put more effort and time into building your primary relationship. Here, you have to work on navigating and building your bond effectively. Hence, fixing time to spend with your partner can be beneficial in working on your primary relationship. You can hang around with your secondary partner. But, if you feel that it goes beyond the boundaries of friendship, it is best to cut it off. It is because you might not want anything to affect the primary relationship you have with your special one.
Both you and your partner have to decide whether both of you would be actively or passively exploring other relationships. You have to finalize how much time you would spend with your primary and secondary partners. However, it is best to prioritize your primary relationship over your secondary. You and your partner can set up protocols in such a line.
You have to ensure that you don't skip a date with your primary partner. It is a simple way of showing the importance this relationship has over the others.
You and your partner can decide with whom it is fair to be intimate. You can discuss the people you might feel uncomfortable with if your partner gets into a secondary relationship. Some couples find it comfortable to be in open relationships with other partners they know and trust. However, it may not be the same for everyone in a non-monogamous relationship.
Besides, considering whom it is okay to hook up with, you and your partner can agree upon other factors as well. Here, both of you might be okay with going on dates. But, you both may not be comfortable with building intimate connections with others. Other than that, you have to let your secondary partner know that you are in an open relationship. Here, you have to ensure that they are convenient with it.
As you step into an open relationship, it might take you some time to get the hang of the rules you and your partner have set. But, ensure that you and your partner are checking in on each other from time to time. It is best to have in-depth honest conversations with your primary partner. It will help in analyzing what works for your relationship.
Here, you can discuss things that you find super exciting with your partner. It will assist in changing and processing things in your relationship efficiently.
Ensuring that you and your partner consider engaging in safe sex is a priority. It is essential, especially when you have multiple partners, as the chances of contracting STIs and STDs are higher. It is best to use protection, such as condoms and dental or oral dams. Don't forget to use lubes as well while practicing safe sex.
You must have an open conversation with your partner about practicing safe sex. It can be a non-negotiable factor and rules in an open relationship. Ensure that you and your partner are monitoring sexual health and prioritizing it.
As per the recommendations by CDC², it is best to get tested every three to five months to make sure that both you and your partner are on the safe side. You can also get tests done before and after you engage in a non-monogamous relationship.
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