At a glance, monogamy is dominant in the human mating system. However, there exists an open relationship and many partake in it without even knowing. Also, it is even more commonly practiced than people expect.
The term “open relationship” is sometimes used as an alternative expression for “polyamory” or “polyamorous relationship”.
Open relationship or non-exclusive relationship refers to non-monogamous relationships where sexual commitment is not made to just one, primary partner. Another school of thought defines it to be ONE OF the forms of non-monogamous relationships. Under this description, polyamory and open relationships are different and not one under the other.
The terms primary and secondary are used to compare or prioritize relationships. They’re also used on a personal basis to describe the level of entanglement of a given relationship irrespective of what other relationships any given person has going on. One person’s primary partner might be another’s, secondary partner.
Do open relationships work?
As with any human endeavor, nothing is impossible.
However, there has been a noticeable decline in interpersonal relationships over the years. A study by VoucherCodesPro.co.uk in 2014 revealed that the average relationship only lasts an average of two years and nine months.
Everyone seems impatient and bonding is short-lived. A prevailing attitude in the jet age is that ‘there’s always a temptation to swipe right on, minimize or and move unto the next’ without the ability to form a meaningful connection with anything or anybody.
What are the types of open relationships?
There are many different kinds of open relationships, each with its own rules.
- Sexually open and emotionally exclusive – here, partners agree not to date other people, but can have sex with them.
Being emotionally exclusive means you can have flings with other people without catching feelings. For you and the third partner, it remains purely sexual. For it to work, you can decide on a few ground rules:
1: “ask permission first rule“- pre-information eliminates any emotional uncertainties lurking in your partner. Be certain that you are looking for some adult fun with zero commitment. These days, you can outsource that task to online apps such as lumen, tinder, etc. It’s mostly free to join, or you can sign up for Plus or Gold for a token to boost your profile so more users see it.
2: “don’t ask nor tell rule’’. well, jealousy cannot totally be eliminated in a romantic relationship. If you or your partner is the jealous type, it’s imperative to spare your partner all the details of your romance.
Note: These rules apply no matter the type of open relationship you’re involved in.
A lot of people argue that you cannot love more than one person at a time. This relationship negates such assertions. A polyamorous relationship happens when couples date other people either as a couple or individually. It’s a robust relationship where partners actually care about multiple sexual and emotional commitments simultaneously.
Finding partners for this type of open relationship is quite simple nowadays. The internet is the new playground. Simply sign up to ‘Match’ it delivers what it says on the pack. Assuming you’re simply searching for people with interests or beliefs which “match” yours, all you need do is search the profiles depending on your search criteria or keywords.
As the name implies, couples simply “swap” with another couple. Swinging is also called wife swapping, husband swapping, or partner swapping. It’s exciting how the swinging sixties still resonate to date, a decade that marked all extravaganzas for liberal attitudes to sex and society.
The revolution of social media and the emergence of adult hookup sites/apps like BeNaughty, add.com, etc., have revived swinging as a sexual spice.
Swingers might not have totally open relationships or be polyamorous, so this might be their only form of “extramural activities.”
Should you be blunt about ground rules in an open relationship?
Yes. Assumptions are risky. In addition to this, you have to be responsible for your emotions and physical well-being. Realize the difference between “boundaries”, “agreements” and “rules”.
Rules feel like an attempt at controlling a partner’s behaviors and feelings. Note, however, that you cannot control everything. While you run your life as it pleases you, you wouldn’t be so successful in controlling your partner’s boundary. Certain questions are off-limits in an open relationship cos there’s always a lurking need to know details.
A boundary here refers to how you handle your own person and what your prerogatives are in the context of your “heart, time, mind, and body.” So, you can decide to either embrace fluid bonding or practice safe sex. Decisions under sex boundaries include whether to use dental dams or not, condoms, gloves, sex toys, and all sorts of things with your other partners.
Always remember, agreements can be re-negotiated by anyone they effect rather than being thought of as an untruthful or unfaithful person.
Why rules are necessary in an open relationship
Rules are just guiding principles that two or more people agree that affect those around them. Rules are meant for people and not people for rules. Undoubtedly, the desire to make rules arises from the age-long monogamous conditioning that our partner will leave us if they find someone ‘better’ or love more than one person.
A common reason most people agree to open relationships is that they want more sex, not for love or lack of affection. For open relationships, reaching an agreement is taking a valuable approach towards sincerity – because relationships suffer cos of untold truths.
Don’t ever get entangled with those you can’t go along with. Starting with personal boundaries is a way to avoid a disappointing and unscrupulous turn out of events. Having an understanding from the onset also helps to treat the secondary partner(s) as humans that they are rather than objects for personal aggrandizement.
What emotional boundaries should you consider when you’re in an open relationship?
When people are involved, feelings cannot be totally subdued. Instead of deciding on a “No Emotions Allowed” rule, a nicer way would be going private with whatever decision you have to take.
Decisions border on simple things like:
- how to show/accept love?
- should you see your primary partner often to remain relevant?
- how do you manage/allocate time with partners?
- how much time should you allocate to yourself ?
- What information should I get from others?
- should I share my personal information with other partners?
- how much personal space should I allow?
- Who do I share space with and under what conditions?
- how do I describe my relationship with others?
What physical and sexual boundaries should you consider?
Sometimes, people agree to open relationships not on their own terms but as a compromise from a “take it or leave situation”. Others agree to it because they always want to experiment with other sexual options such as ‘same-sex relationships.’ Either way, no one should be bullied into getting involved in it.
Physical and sexual boundaries should be directly centered around sexual risk management. Such questions as ‘what sex acts are on- or off-limits? If/when/how you display affection?’ etc., should be answered beforehand.
Other questions to be addressed might include but not limited to;
- Who’s allowed to touch me and where? What types of touch should I allow?
- How often will I get tested for STIs and other veneral diseases or do I require prophylaxes for certain infections such as HIV?
- Who, when, and for what acts will I use protection?
- How often should I talk to my partners about their sexual health; including how recently they’ve been tested, and what they’ve been doing with respect to safer sex practices?
- Who and how will my toys be used/shared/cleaned?
- Can I have sex just about anywhere? Where am I comfortable having sex?
- What does public display of affection mean to me? should I be comfortable being physical with all my partners in public places?
Should you check in with your primary partner about respecting boundaries?
While in an open relationship, you might need to regularly check-in with your partner. A good place to start is with a standing appointment and reduce the frequencies gradually as you settle in.
Should you tell your secondary partner about your open relationship?
Yes, and straightaway. As much as it might be a deal-breaker, transparency remains the door, and being real to yourself and others is the key.
Before hopping into an open relationship here’s a check list you can follow;
- let your partner know you’re in an open relationship and you only have one serious partner.
- Ensure your partners understand what open relationship means for you, that you’re non-monogamous, and enjoy dating multiple people at once (just in case they’re considering an exclusive relationship).
- Make them understand you’re not going to be emotionally attached and wouldn’t require the nitty-gritty of an exclusive relationship.
In online dating, displaying it in your profile reinforces your commitment.
Should you care if your secondary partner is monogamous or polyamorous?
There are isolated cases of one-sided open relationships, popularly known as mono-poly hybrid relationships. In human relations, aberrations are expected. Couples, due to various surmountable or insurmountable situations, agree to an open relationship sometimes, with only one of the (primary) partners being non-monogamous.
Before getting involved with a monogamy-inclined individual, clearly state that you’re polyamorous and let them decide right off the bat. Same is also expected of the secondary partner so you can both decide on what works best before you kick off.
Should you get feedback from your secondary partner(s)?
You can collect as much information as allowed or required but decide what to do with such information. For example, you can ensure that your secondary partner enjoys hooking up with you without catching feelings or intending any clingy suggestion. Whatever you do, be responsible. Do not get things mixed up or cause one to suffer for the other. Encourage all parties to feel comfortable communicating their needs and wants. Also, mutually work towards addressing unmet needs or wants as applicable.
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