10 Ways to Make an Open Relationship Work 03/05/11

The term open relationships can mean several different things. It can mean a simple dating relationship that is not exclusive. It can also refer to the sexual aspect of a relationship, in that the individual partners are not exclusive in their sexual relationship, and can feel free to have sexual experiences with other individuals. It could also mean open in the emotional arena; an acceptance of a person’s capability of maintaining strong emotional relationships with more than one person at a time.

So, as you can see, the first step in making an open relationship work is to define exactly what it is you mean by an open relationship. Once that’s done you are ready to determine if you can make it work.

  1. Mutual agreement. This is absolutely crucial. If the two people in the primary relationship are not both in agreement on having this type of relationship, it will not work. This means that the agreement must be more than in word only. It also means that both parties must be totally comfortable with the idea and not simply agreeing to please the other person.
  2. Understanding expectations. As stated above, defining what you mean by an open relationship is extremely critical. Are their boundaries that you expect each other to maintain? What is the point and intention of the other relationships? Will this decision create changes in how the two of you relate to each other or how often you see each other?
  3. Respect. Regardless of the type of relationship you are in, treating each other with respect is crucial for the relationship to succeed. Your partner should be able to trust you not to be sharing information about you with other people they are with. If there are things your partner does not want to share with you, you should respect their right to keep things to themselves.
  4. Social understanding. Do your friends and family support your open relationship and understand what that means? It is easy to think that this is none of their business, but all your relationships tend to intersect at different points. If others in your social circle are unsupportive, it can easily become a strain on your relationship.
  5. Space. And open relationship requires space. Space to allow the other person to pursue other relationship connections without the you watching over their shoulder. Open, assumes less dependence on each other.
  6. Ongoing communication. For the primary relationship to continue, the communication between the two parties must continue. If the two people are not able to openly share with each other their concerns about their own relationship, it will easily breakdown. This is true for any relationship.
  7. Protection. When pursuing relationships with multiple individuals, it is important to protect each person in your life. We’ve already mentioned protecting their trust of you, but there are other aspects as well. Where sexual relationships are concerned, there are serious health concerns that can develop through STD’s. There is no fail-safe protection in this area, but you should be able to assure one another that you will do what you can to prevent these types of transmissions.
  8. Out in the open. This is similar to the social understanding item. If either party feels that they need to hide the fact that your relationship is an open one, the hidden aspect is bound to create strain and stress. If you aren’t comfortable enough with the concept to be open with people about it, you may need to reconsider your own true believes about the situation.
  9. Dealing with jealousy. In spite of all efforts to avoid jealous feelings, they still can develop. It is important to understand that not all jealousy is wrong and that jealousy is based on feelings of hurt and loss. The key to dealing with these issues is to determine whether those feelings are justified or not. If boundaries were set and then crossed, the jealousy may be justified.
  10. Re-evaluate. People change, situations change. Don’t hesitate to sit down with each other and talk about how the relationship is going. Are you both comfortable with keeping things as they are or are there aspects of the arrangement that are not working for one or both of you?

Relationships are complicated because people are complicated. Regardless of what type of relationship you enter into with other people, it will require work and communication to maintain it.

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