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Open Relationship Rules (19 Justifiable Rules)

by Sonya Schwartz

An open relationship encompasses all forms of consensual non-monogamous relationships meaning it can be amongst three or more people like polyamory, monogamish, relationship anarchy, and swingers. Dr. Catalina Lawsin, a clinical psychologist, states that these types of relationships tend to focus more on sexual activities rather than developing emotional interdependence. 

No doubt, a common misconception is that relationships like this are affairs. However, affairs are founded on secrecy whilst people in open relationships are quite transparent about their sexual relationship. 

Furthermore, a study by the University of Michigan found that people in open relationships experienced the same amount of love and intimacy as people in monogamous ones, the difference was the former recorded less jealousy.

That said, the decision between both partners who agree that it’s okay to see someone else, or have sex with no repercussions makes this type of relationship appealing to many. A relationship between two people can be difficult and demanding, so of course, there have to be rules guiding the situations.

As with every other relationship, it is important to set down ground rules to avoid a minefield of jealousy and misunderstandings. Healthy boundaries have to be established to ensure a successful relationship. This doesn't necessarily mean that this type of relationship doesn’t work. They can and do work but will require laid down rules to guide the relationship.

Rules That Guide Swinging Couples

1. Set boundaries/guidelines

The first rule when entering into this kind of relationship is setting the sexual boundaries. It is important to lay down specific rules; what should be allowed and what shouldn't. Don't avoid getting specific, how many partners can one person have, is penetrative sex okay? oral sex? BDSM? Are you allowed to develop emotional attachments? All of this should be discussed beforehand.

2. Avoid being secretive

Another vital aspect to think about is how open you plan to be with your partners. Will you share details or have a 'don’t ask, don’t share' policy? It is always better to discuss these things and come to an agreement to avoid one partner getting hurt. Sex educator and psychologist, Liz Powell, Psy.D encourages spouses to have these difficult conversations.

3. Delay Sex

Speaking of intimacy, it’s not an open playing field, especially when it comes to sex. It’s better to set up crystal clear boundaries as mentioned earlier. Be open about what works and doesn't work for you, and if it isn't working, re-evaluate the relationship. 

Listing who is off-limits is also important, it could be exes, close friends, family friends, co-workers, or even family members. Add anyone that you don’t like, or someone who gives you a feeling of insecurity and threat to the list.

4. Find a suitable person

It is important to find someone without hurting your spouse’s feelings, a guy that shares the same view on such arrangements and would like to be in one with you. Some people tend to start dating without establishing the nature of the relationship they are going into, and then end up hurt. Studies show that some women agree to these ‘freedoms’ just to prove to their spouse it isn't so great. 

5. Communicate your needs clearly

Men tend to be the ones to suggest an open relationship, therefore if you are fine with it then you both can carry on. Communication in this regard is key to avoid one partner thinking it's one thing when it’s another. Once you find someone suitable, it’s then easy to communicate and set boundaries.

6. Decide how to manage the relationships

If you are in a monogamish relationship, you often have lots of time to focus more time with your primary partner. However, for relationships where multiple partners are involved things are a little more complicated. If you have only just met your partner, you need to ask yourself if you are editing your tinder profile to attract more potential matches, or are you going to make use of the relationship clause only when you randomly meet someone? 

7. Divide your time wisely

The best way to go about this is to take out time to nurture the relationship, have constant sex and date nights, go out for a drink, and generally spend time as this is your primary focus. This doesn't mean you should completely ignore your other choices, having multiple partners can be tasking however it is also important that your time is divided wisely amongst them.

None of the guys you are seeing should feel a lack of attention and respect, as it could lead to jealousy. It’s important to draw up a schedule and establish a balance on how it can work.

8. Discuss protection

For all relationships, safety is key, it’s important to practice safe sex and have conversations about it with your spouse and any other guy you choose to date. If this is not discussed, it can have negative health implications. Having multiple sexual partners opens up the doors for STDs. This is one of the reasons ground rules should be set, to ensure both parties are on board.

Patricia Johnson a sex expert states that it is a matter of ethics and should be considered non-negotiable. It is important that you use protection with whoever you're sleeping with that is not your partner and make sure you get tested at least twice a year, safe sex is indeed a must.

9. Sort out the sleeping arrangements

Sleeping arrangements are yet another topic to be discussed, among others. For example, is it okay if he spends the night at his secondary partner’s house? Would that be much of a big deal to you? Couples in a relationship might find that easier to maneuver but couples with kids would have to come to a suitable decision to avoid things getting messy. 

10. Set emotional boundaries

The idea of not developing an emotional attachment whilst having a sexual relationship might be strange to some people, however, the conversation must be had. If an emotional attachment is developed, what then happens? What can be done to avoid getting emotionally attached? No doubt, the more you spend time around a person, the more likely you are to develop emotional connections. Hence why many couples decide never to sleep over or go on weekend trips with their lovers.

11. Discuss public appearances

Are you okay with your partner making public appearances with his other partners? Or do you just want it restricted to just a ‘strictly ex’ relationship? It is important that these emotional boundaries are set from the get-go.

12. Follow the guidelines

Jealousy is a normal human emotion, however, in this type of relationship, try to fend off getting jealous. Once you have agreed to the guidelines to be in an open relationship, it would be healthy to not focus on negative thoughts but those that make you happy. 

That said, once the guidelines have been established and a partner gets jealous, it's easy to work through it. However, it’s understandable when a partner still ends up getting jealous; as humans, we tend to be possessive.

13. Avoid jealousy

Speaking of jealousy, despite the fact that some people assert that they won't get jealous, they often do. But the fact that you are in an open relationship implies that you should be okay with your partner seeing other people and having sex with other guys. Jealousy defeats the purpose as the reason people go into these relationships is to eliminate jealousy. However, we notice that 

14. Don’t shame him for his feelings

With all that we have discussed on jealousy, it’s vital to not dismiss your partner’s feelings if you suspect him of being jealous. Rather, talk to him and be open with your feelings. However, if this gnaws at your very being then It is advisable to pursue different relationship patterns and see which one works for you.

15. Don't be overly expectant

Polyamory doesn’t often last in the long haul, once they are tired, they are off to new partners. Psychologists believe that for there to be a balance and harmony in a home, it has to be between two people, three people or more would be chaotic. 

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

16. Be aware of his future plans

It’s common to assume that people who go into an open relationship are usually unwilling to have kids and do not want to conform to the traditional standards of relationships. Along the line, you might want to reconsider the structure of the relationship but do not expect your partner to put aside his polyamory ways. 

Rather, focus on your new experiences and having fun with your partner, attachment goes against the laid down guidelines.

17. Don't cheat

The terms of the relationship have to be put down, what type of open relationship is it? Probably you and your partner can have sex with one person together or you are allowed to have one or two partners outside. Whatever the arrangement is, it is important to stick to the guidelines established by you and your partner and do not cheat. 

This creates problems in the relationship if spending more than two nights outside the home would make your partner upset, don't do it. Open relationships involve more communication and trust therefore do not go behind your partners back to do things he might not like.

18. Understand that relationships need work

Every form of relationship requires communication and work, it's never just a walk in the park. The fact that two different humans come together to develop bonds tells us the work that has to go into it. In an open relationship, it involves more communication and honesty. Open relationships must involve adequate communication. 

19. Be expressive

You must be able to express how you feel at every point; from unwavering jealousy to insecurity, to you just being uncomfortable and being able to talk things through with your partner. Set up check-ins as well, it could be like a date, grab a drink and dinner and discuss where you both are and if everything's okay.

FAQs

Do open relationships work?

Open relationships work where both partners are openly non-monogamous and agree to be in an open relationship. It requires communication and works on both individuals, the couple also needs to decide if it would be a 'don’t ask don’t tell' policy or full-blown honesty in sharing details of their relationships with their secondary partners.

What does in an open relationship mean?

An open relationship is an umbrella encompassing all forms of non-monogamous relationships such as polyamory, swinging, monogamish, and relationship anarchy. It is a relationship where the couple is allowed to be romantically or sexually involved with one or more people.

Are open relationships bad?

Open relationships are based on trust, honesty, and communication. Whilst people in open relationships can thrive on these principles, partners still get jealous and struggle with insecurities. They also feel threatened by some of their partner’s secondary relationships, open relationships are not bad, they just don't work for everyone.

Can an open relationship save a relationship?

An open relationship will thrive in a trusting and honest relationship. You cannot depend on an open relationship to save a pre-existing non-intimate relationship. It just would not work. An open relationship will only work if the couple is happy and together decide to try something new.

What is a one-sided open relationship called?

A one-sided open relationship is when one partner wants a monogamous relationship whilst the other wants an open relationship. That is often a recipe for disaster as both partners desire have to adjust for the relationship to work, there is usually a low level of comfort and trust here.

In Conclusion

And there you have it, ten rules that should be applied when getting into an open relationship. There are definitely disadvantages and advantages, however, there is no harm in trying out the different structures of a relationship and see which works for you. Getting into an open relationship requires clear cut boundaries to be set in order for it to work. Once you both have established this you can carry on into the non-monogamous world. Good luck.

I hope you found this article insightful, I would love to hear what you think in the comment section and remember to share the article if you liked it.

You may also be interested in: 3 Easy Ways to Find Out If He's Cheating On You

Sonya Schwartz
A hopeless romantic that struggled for many years to find her Mr "Right" and made all the mistakes you could think of while dating. Known for always choosing the wrong guys or messing up relationships, Sonya was finally able to change her approach and mindset when it came to dating which helped her eventually find the man of her dreams and become happily married. You can read more about me here...

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