Open relationships are increasingly popular and we’re seeing far many more people enter them. However, it is often best to set rules before entering into one. Here are some of the most common rules people tend to engage in when entering one of these arrangements.
1. Practice Compersion.
Compersion is a word you might not have heard before, but it’s something everyone in non-monogamy relationships must embrace. It means to experience joy at knowing your partner is gaining happiness from a romantic or sexual relationship with another party. It’s essentially the opposite of jealousy. Once I understood compersion, I was able to think outside of my own mind and start feeling grateful that more happiness had been brought into our lives. On great days, you’ll find a way to experience compersion in a whole new way. You won’t be able to help smiling when you notice your partner’s happy glow. What about the bad days? Well, on those days you might assign the name “compersion” to all the hard cocktails you invent.
2. Make sure both parties want it.
Being on the same page as your partner is crucial. If both of you aren’t equally on board with opening up your relationship, you’re setting yourselves up for failure. If you only take one thing away from this article, make it this point. Let me be honest, I didn’t really want to have an open relationship, I just didn’t want my partner to leave me.
If you’re in a similar position, an open relationship is doomed from the get-go. It’s only natural to have doubts and fears, but you and your partner need to be honest with yourselves and each other. At all times. You also need to regularly check to ensure an open relationship is still what you both want.
3. Get a support system in place and ensure your self-esteem is in check.
If you’re a bit of hot needy mess sometimes like me, you’ll likely struggle more than most. I needed my wife to constantly validate her feeling for me. To ensure me I hadn’t done anything wrong. That I was enough. That any feelings she had for other people did not take away her feelings for me. An open relationship is somewhat of a self-esteem minefield, particularly if you’re not a naturally trusting person. I’d advise seeking a counselor. There were many issues I needed to talk about but didn’t feel they were appropriate to bring up with my close circles. I’ve since discovered that that experience is common and an outside support system can be very valuable.
4. Set strict guidelines.
Without clear rules, an open relationship won’t work. Our rules were pretty simple: No family members or mutual friends, never in our shared home, no details, and no leaving. The “no details” rule was what kept us together. I didn’t want to hear about her experiences with other people, she didn’t want to hear about my visits to female escorts. At the dinner table, we chatted like we were still a standard monogamous couple. You and your partner might want more rules and they’ll likely evolve over time. Having a basic framework, however, will give you some peace of mind.
5. Admit defeat over your feelings.
Understand and accept that no matter what rules you set, limiting your natural emotions is virtually impossible. We tried to achieve that at the start. Our first rule was “You can’t fall in love with anyone else!” but it wasn’t realistic. As my girlfriend and I spent more time together, I couldn’t stop myself falling for her. And I’m not the only person on the planet that can’t separate love from sex. So, accept that you can’t control your feelings and follow where your heart takes you.
6. Prepare for some challenging days.
Getting to have your cake and eat it doesn’t stop the frosting tasting like resentment on occasion. I don’t want to sound overly negative, but it’s just the truth. You just have to learn to master your jealousy fast otherwise it will destroy you. The good news is that those challenging days won’t be the norm. But, they will happen. After all, you are a human being. My top advice would be not to wallow. Divert your attention to all the goods things the open relationship delivers.
7. Buy a planner.
This tip might sound a bit trivial, but time really is your new nemesis. You will never have enough of it. My girlfriend often felt annoyed that I was spending more time with my wife than with her. But, this was only because we lived in the same home. Meanwhile, my wife had to readjust to me not being home as many nights of the week as before. Relationships with existing partners and new ones both require nurturing, and a planner can help you to allocate your time fairly.