Starting an Open Relationship
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Starting an Open Relationship? 5 Things to Ask

Along with more positive attitudes toward sex and sexual exploration in our culture, relationships seem to be “opening up” at a more rapid pace than ever before. The concept of an open relationship may seem both exciting and intimidating at the same time. But they can be tricky to navigate. So how do you know if starting an open relationship is right for you, your partner, and your relationship?

Below you will find a number of important questions to ask yourself before starting an open relationship, which could determine if an open relationship is right for you.

1. Is your relationship stable?

This might be the most important question of all. Open relationships can be difficult, because they require more trust and communication than your typical relationship. If you and your partner feel like you fully trust one another and have total confidence in your commitment, an open relationship might be for you. However, it is important to understand that opening up your relationship is not the way to repair a damaged connection.

2. What are the rules?

Do you have sex together with other people or sex separately with other people? How often can you see the person from outside the relationship? Open relationships need to have rules and boundaries in order to work. Without having established rules by both parties, people could feel unsafe and insecure in the relationship, and that could create mistrust and animosity between partners. There are different rules for every open relationship, however they should all be established and agreed upon before the relationship initially opens up. Adding rules or limitations after the fact can lead to conflict. Read: Open Relationships: What the Real Rules Need to Be

3. Are you prepared to be 100% honest?

Honesty is key in open relationships. Are you going to be able to speak to your partner about sexually explicit activities you have done with another person? What happens if you develop romantic feelings for someone else? Are you allowed to see other partners only once or multiple times? These questions are the reason that you and your partner must communicate honestly when you start an open relationship. Starting an open relationship can be extremely emotional, which is why communication and honesty are so important.

4. Do you know why you are doing it?

Boredom should not be the answer to this question. If you are bored in your relationship, there are other issues that should be addressed before opening it up. Often, opening up a relationship can seem like a solution to a lot of common intimacy issues. Before you take the step to open it up, make sure you have good sexual communication. Read: Let’s Talk About Sex! 4 Things to Improve Sex Communication.

5. Are you prepared to tell people?

Communication in an open relationship does not stop with your partner. Are you comfortable talking about your relationship with people you would like to have sex with? What about friends who might see or hear about your new intimate endeavors? If not, then being in an open relationship may not be for you. Open communication about what you and your partner have mutually agreed upon is an important part of having an open relationship.

If done right, open relationships can be a fun and exciting way to broaden your intimate horizons in the comfort of a trusting bond. Open relationships can increase communication and the level of intimacy you feel with your partner. However, they are certainly not for everyone. Asking yourself these questions can help you understand if you are seeking one out for the right reasons, or if one is right for you at all.

What do you think of open relationships? 

Ryan Jacobs - NYC Therapist

Ryan Jacobs - NYC Therapist

Psychotherapist at myTherapyNYC
Offers individual, couples, and group counseling in NYC. He facilitates the Gay Men's Therapy Group on Wednesday evenings. He specializes in LGBTQ, grief & loss, trauma, addiction, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
Ryan Jacobs - NYC Therapist

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6 replies
  1. Cate
    Cate says:

    Ryan,

    Great post with clear and straightforward points for consideration. I agree with everything you’ve discussed. I often recommend my clients read “The Ethical Slut” either separately or with their partner as homework when considering opening up the relationship.

    Going into this decision calmly and not as a reaction to a crisis will be key in navigating this new piece of the bond.

    Reply
  2. Zach
    Zach says:

    Ryan, this post will be so helpful for our clients who need guidance in navigating this unexplored territory. Maintaining a sense of trust, comfort, safety and security is so important.

    Reply

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