Monogamy is the preferred M.O. for most people in relationships, right? Well, not exactly. Research conducted by social psychologist Dr. Justin Lehmiller revealed that one of the most common things that people in the United States fantasize about is being in an open relationship.
While fantasizing about it and actually acting upon it are two different things, if you’re thinking of giving consensual non-monogamy a try, there are a few keys to making it successful. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Commit to communication.
The “open” aspect doesn’t just apply to the relationship itself, but also your communication with each other. Since consensual non-monogamy can require a great deal of trust in one another, it’s important that you discuss everything openly and honestly to prevent any misunderstandings. Be honest about your emotions, needs and boundaries—and how they might change as the relationship progresses.
Set guidelines, but not rules.
Before you get started, make sure you’re on the same page about what having an open relationship means. You might like to discuss things such as dating mutual friends and how much detail you share with each other. But while having mutually agreed-upon guidelines is important, the idea of a set of strict rules might not work for everyone. After all, part of the whole open relationship thing is exploring what you want and what feels good for you and your partner—and having too many rules can feel like the opposite of that. So start by focusing on what you each are hoping to get out of the relationship rather than what is forbidden, and leave room for flexibility and revision.
Take care of yourself.
We’re not just talking about using contraception and protection (which is definitely important). A big part of a successful open relationship is when both partners feel comfortable in themselves and know their needs and desires. Think about why you are seeking an open relationship in the first place—if it’s to fill an emotional void in your current relationship, or within yourself, it may not be the healthiest course of action.
Read about what we can learn from polyamory.