I recently wrote an article that addressed the annoying questions people ask me about my open relationship, because I’m a f*cking hero, but turns out y’all have even more questions. A lot of people in the comments wanted to know how the logistics of how my open relationship works, others wanted to explain to me, a person they have never met, how my love life is a sham. Love all of my fans equally.
ANYWAY, I’m going to address some of the logistics here, but they aren’t going to be concrete. Sorry, bitch. But here’s the thing: open relationships are amazing because they are open, not just to sexual partners but to different options, variations, and changes. Everyone makes the rules for their own open relationship, and those rules are subject to change if you feel like it. Much like sexuality, open relationships are fluid. And having a healthy one is all about finding what works for you. And sometimes that means testing things out, trial and error style, and learning along the way. It’s about being, and I can’t stress this enough, open to new ideas, possibilities, chances and ways of life. Wow, did I just replace Marianne Williamson as Oprah’s spiritual advisor???
The important thing to remember is that open relationships are like any relationship in that they are about loving and respecting each other. Just because you can sleep with other people doesn’t mean morals are thrown out the window; if that were the case, the implication would be that sleeping with other people is immoral and that’s some slut-shaming bullsh*t. So, without further ado, here are some things to consider if you are thinking of starting an open relationship.
1. To Tell Or Not To Tell
It’s good to decide with your partner (or partners) whether or not you’d like to know if/when they hook up with other people. Some people prefer to not know anything. Some simply liked to be informed when it goes down, either before or after. Others like to hear all the hot deets, and may even get off to it. I’ve tried out both not telling and telling, and personally prefer telling. However, it is totally up to you when it comes to your relationship. Just pay attention to what makes you feel comfortable, and try to base your decision off of healthy feelings, not possessive/jealous ones. And you may find, that like me, you start with one rule and have to change it to another. There’s no shame in figuring these things out as you go.
2. Are There Specific Rules You’ll Want?
Brainstorm a list of things that come to mind when considering an open relationship. Will you want to make it so you sleep at separate places on the nights you hook up with other people? Do you want to make a rule so you can’t hook up with mutual friends? Are you allowed to hook up with the same person more than once, or do you want to try to make these one-time hookups only? Discuss everything with your partner and see where you land. You can also have it so a rule only applies to one party, if the other person feels comfortable with that. For example, one person might prefer that you not come over after you’ve hooked up with someone, while the other may not mind that scenario. In that case, you could apply that rule accordingly. Truly, all of these things are up to you; it’s like a custom made salad at Sweetgreen, but instead of parmesan crisps it’s relationship rules.
3. Safe Sex
This is important. Having multiple sexual partners is fun, but you absolutely must be safe for both your and your partners’ sexual health. Practice safe sex with your other partners. It’s obviously up to you what form of birth control you’d like to use with your primary partner. I personally am on birth control, don’t use condoms with my boyfriend, but use condoms with everyone else. Get tested regularly, and if anything comes up, make sure to be open and communicative about it with anyone you have been sexually active (lol sorry for using this term) with.
4. Do You Want To Explore Together?
I’m talking group sex, y’all! This is definitely something you could discover you are into one wild night, but it’s also something worth discussing with your partner. Do you want to share sexual partners sometimes? Do you wanna make it cute and create a Thrinder profile? Wanna hit up that sex rave? Things to consider.
5. Polyamorous Or Open?
People throw around the term “poly” a lot and associate it with an open relationship, but there is a difference. Polyamory is when you date multiple people at once. In an open relationship, you are essentially dating one person, while hooking up with others. I personally do not date other people. Being poly is admirable, as it takes a very open and generous mind to figure out how to be in a romantic relationship with more than one person, while also being at peace with the fact that your romantic partner(s) are emotionally invested in others. It’s a v cool kind of free love, and if it works for you, then congrats on being chill as hell.
Again, the main thing to remember is that this is your chance to make a relationship on your terms. You don’t have to base everything off of my guidelines. Make your own rulebook. As my mom always says to me when hearing that I’m leaving my apartment, “Have fun and be safe!!!”
I am in an open relationship, so I am required by law to corner you at a party and tell you how it “just kind of works for me!” In all seriousness, the only time I talk about my open relationship is when people inquire about it, or when I’ve been given the liberty to do so in a writing assignment, so there’s nothing you can do to stop me. In any case, whenever people discover that I am in a relationship that allows me to f*ck other people, they come in hot with an onslaught of questions. There’s nothing wrong with curiosity—in fact, I encourage people to explore topics they aren’t familiar with—but sometimes people don’t think about the implications their questions and words hold. People’s questions about my open relationship can sometimes feel intrusive, judgmental, condescending, and ignorant. Because people are…what’s the phrase I’m looking for…really f*cking annoying.
So, in order to help you avoid annoying someone with your questions about their open relationship, I’ve gone ahead and answered some of the most common questions I get bombarded with while attending a party I didn’t want to go to in the first place. God, the things I do for ART.
“Doesn’t That Make Things Complicated?!”
Babe, all relationships are complicated. Have you met people? They’re messy AF, and when you put two of them together and try to live in harmony, sh*t tends to go down. Working on yourself and your partnership and finding what works for and makes both of you happy is an amazing thing, but I can promise you it will be complicated at some point. And open relationships are no exception. And yes, incorporating a less traditional “rule” where you can get it on with other people does require work. It forces you and your partner to confront things with a very open mind. And above all, it requires constant communication. My open relationship has transformed me from a person who would never admit when she was devastated, to a woman who is ready and able to talk about her feelings and her feelings about those feelings. So, in that sense, open relationships force you to be able to better handle complications. Opening your mind and focusing on mutual respect, desire, and freedom requires a lot of growth. And after some time, you just might find that your relationship feels less complicated than others you’ve had, because now you’re a pro at openly communicating with your partner.
“Don’t You Get Jealous?”
Sure. Show me someone who never gets jealous of anyone in their life—including significant others, friends, and enemies—and I will show you either a liar or a robot. Jealousy is a natural feeling, and it’s one we’ve been taught to feel when our sexual partners desire someone else. But like, I hate to tell you this, but desire is natural and your partner will likely feel it when they see a hot person. And the thing about hot people is they are everywhere, for better or for worse. Being open has taught me how to deal with my jealousy in a non-accusatory, hostile way. It’s okay to feel jealous, and when I do, I simply let my partner know. I tell him, “Hey, obviously you didn’t do anything wrong here, but just wanted to say that I feel a little jealous!” And you know what? Being able to say that out loud in a healthy way feels really good. I often find that once I do that, I’m able to let go of the jealousy, instead of letting it fester inside of me until it explodes. Also, I’ve found it important to disconnect jealousy from possession. While it’s okay to feel jealous, it’s not okay for me to let that jealousy transform into an active need to control and possess my partner. Because one of the best things about an open relationship is experiencing a love that is void of possession. My partners wants me to be free to be my own person and, and I want the same for him. Our love is lit.
“So Will You Be Monogamous When Things Get More Serious?”
People often assume our openness is temporary. I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you I love our relationship more than anything, and it’s been working great for the past three years. I don’t see any reason to change it, and implying that being “serious” in a relationship requires doing the opposite of what we’re doing is…rude. Like, I just witnessed you and your “serious” boyfriend get in a screaming match over the dishes, but go off, Carol.
“But If You Really Loved Each Other Wouldn’t You Only Want To Be With One Another?”
Nope! Some people like being monogamous, and that’s great! Do love your way, I’m not here to tell you it’s wrong or not real. Everyone should do what works for them, and for me and my partner, that is not monogamy. For us, sleeping with other people doesn’t change the fact that we love each other and want to be together. I like to explain it like this: You have multiple friends, right? (If you answered no… sorry?) And you love them, right? And maybe you have a best friend? But hanging out with friends you’re less close with doesn’t change the fact that you love your closer friends, right? For us, sex is a fun thing that we love to do together, and that we have fun doing with other people. You can have a favorite dish without depriving yourself of other snacks.
“Is The Sex Just Not Good Enough? Like, Why Do You Need To Have Sex With Other People?”
This is directly related to the previous question. Again, just because you really enjoy one person doesn’t mean you necessarily don’t want to enjoy other people. TBQH, the sex I have with my partner is by far the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s been three years and our sex life still blows my mind and keeps getting better. And honestly, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we both find our relationship and each other exciting. That, combined with the fact that we are so open with each other, creates a sexual connection that is v satisfying. Hooking up with people is fun. One stands are often a hoot. Sometimes you’re out at a bar and making out with a hot stranger is ~the vibe.~ That doesn’t change the fact that you and your partner know how the f*ck to lay it down in the bedroom.
Images: Max Rovensky / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
I spent a lot of time looking for the “perfect guy”—ya know, a nice boy to settle down with and start a family. I also spent a lot of time running away from all of the guys I dated who seemed to want those things. It seemed like a weird-self destructive pattern, but turns out I didn’t actually want any of it—I just thought it was the only option. And it’s a strange fucking thing, to not want what everyone else around you seems to put on a pedestal. To turn to your boyfriend at a wedding and whisper, “Really, until death do them part? That seems unrealistic”. But you know what? Marriage and kids and monogamy just aren’t for me. And that’s fucking okay.
So, not wanting to get married is not like, revolutionary. And since I live in San Francisco, being in an open relationship isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as fuck to explain to most of the people in my life. Turns out it’s difficult for someone to look past what they would want for themselves, to get them to respect that while your life choices may be different, they can still be right. So I’m going to do my best to plead the case for open relationships, but before I preach do, let me start by saying this: If you are a die-hard fan of “till death do us part,” my open relationship is not an affront to your monogamy. You do what makes you happy. But your monogamy shouldn’t make my open relationship any less significant, because I’m gonna do what makes me happy too.
So here it goes, my somewhat experienced guide to a healthy, happy and fulfilling af open relationship:
Step 1: Commitment
Yes, in an open relationship you sleep with or date other people, but at the end of the day, your partner is your partner. You should be there for each other in crisis and want to celebrate with each other in happiness. Sure, you are not committing to only sleeping with each other, but you are definitely committing to being there for each other. And if you don’t have that, then gtfo because that’s not a relationship at all.
Step 2: Set Some Ground Rules
Navigating non-monogamy can be confusing af, and being open can mean something different for every couple. For some it’s “one night stands are okay” and for others it’s “anything goes”. But no matter where you are on the open spectrum, you need to talk to your partner about it. Share what you are comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. Commit to your ground rules in the same way you commit to each other, and check in every once in awhile to make sure you are still on the same page.
Step 3: Be Okay With Jealousy
Jealousy doesn’t go away when you are open, it just takes a different form. It becomes something you talk about and not something you fear. I am open, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get jealous—it means I don’t equate my partner being with someone else to them not being committed to me. So if I get jealous, I’ll tell my boyfriend and vice versa. And if it means we need to re-adjust our boundaries, then we’ll do that.
Step 4: Put Happiness First
A relationship should make you happy; it shouldn’t hold you back. That’s what makes being open so great—you have someone who brings joy to your life, but if you are out one night and you want to flirt with or go home with someone, and that’s going to make you happy, then you can do that too.
Step 5: Choice, Not Compromise
If you wanted monogamy and couldn’t find it, you shouldn’t settle for an open relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it from the get-go (I wasn’t). It’s okay if it takes time (and numerous breakups) to figure out. But ultimately, it will only work if you feel like it was your choice, not your only option.
And for a final little-known fact about open relationships: You can be open and still choose monogamy. For some couples, it’s about having the option to be with someone else and less about actually being with someone else. So if you feel like you only want what you can’t have, try removing the “can’t” and see what happens.
Images: Aranxa Esteve / Unsplash; Giphy