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Five Tips for Navigating an Open Relationship

Entering an open relationship at any stage of a monogamous relationship requires thoughtful exploration and extremely clear communication. Introducing any form of non-exclusivity between two people in a committed relationship can enhance the connection between all people involved when initiated with mutual consent and shared expectations. . Every agreement in an open marriage or non-monogamous relationship will differ depending on the relationship’s goals and nature, but these five tips can pave the path for a positive and successful experience. 

Before beginning any kind of non-monogamous relationship, be sure to have a written contract in place with your partner(s). It is also important to periodically review the content of that document so that everyone is on the same page. At a minimum, use the questions below to draft the agreement. You may also wish to add additional content as the need for clarity arises in your relationship.

1.Discuss The Desired Outcome

Couples choose to open up their relationship for various reasons. There could be boredom, unmet desires, or curiosity, but that’s not always the case. Whatever the reason is, be on the same page about the reason for entering an open relationship and the desired outcome. If the purpose is to both have multiple intimate partners, be upfront and clear about that. What is the purpose of having multiple partners? Is the end goal to go back to being monogamous? Moving forward with clear intentions will be vital to avoiding turmoil. 

  1. Start With a Trial Phase

An open relationship might sound like a great idea, but it’s hard to know how all involved parties will feel until it’s begun. To start, set a check-in date starting with a weekly check-in, and then re-evaluate monthly for at least 3-6 months. . The time will depend on the couple and the situation, but the important thing is to set aside time to check in on progress and feelings. This check-in can be a good time to reassess the future and decide how to move forward or to renegotiate the terms. 

3.Work On Internal Issues 

Couples often enter open relationships due to issues or unfulfilled desires within the relationship. If both parties want non-exclusivity to strengthen their bond, there needs to progress within themselves. It’s essential to take the time to work on problems within the relationship while exploring outside of the relationship. Couples therapy is a great way to navigate this with mediation. 

4.Set Boundaries 

Everyone’s comfort level with an open relationship will vary. Both people involved should be very clear about what they are and are not comfortable with happening. These could be intimate boundaries or otherwise. For example, there might be people deemed as “off-limits” in terms of the relationship, such as exes. Certain acts with outsiders might be off-limits. Setting boundaries before beginning is essential to preventing misunderstandings. 

  1. Be Honest 

Some couples find that open relationships are not easy emotionally, and complicated feelings and conversations are often inevitable. The important thing is always to be honest and open. If hurt feelings start to arise, acknowledge them and talk with your partner about how to heal. If the entire situation feels off, discuss it. Being deceitful or hiding feelings will only hinder the health of the primary relationship. 

If you want to learn more about entering a healthy open relationship, I encourage you to reach out to a couples therapist that can help guide the way towards a positive experience. I’m now offering complimentary phone consultations!

DrH

Dr David Helfand is a licensed psychologist with specialized training in clinical psychology, relationship skills and sexuality, neuroscience, yoga, and meditation. He founded LifeWise in 2017 in order to create an optimal approach to helping individuals, couples, and families based on his experience of what actually helps people move forward to a more peaceful and fulfilling life.