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What To Know Before You Open Up Your Relationship

In part 1 of this series, we explored the growing number of open relationships and what drives couples into them. Anecdotal evidence shows that the opening up of their relationship has worked wonders for many troubled couples, taking the pressure off their relationship and even strengthening their bond. But open relationships come with strings attached and we explore some of them here.

Is an open marriage for you?

In a world where monogamy has become the norm, even the goal, conversations about open marriages can get you a lot of flak. The biggest argument against them is that they inevitably lead to the failure of the relationship. But this depends on why the individual or couple felt the need to open up the relationship in the first place.

If you are thinking about going down this route, the first thing to do is to be clear in your mind about your motivations. Is it because you’re on the lookout for cheap thrills? Because it seems like a hep thing to do and all the cool couples seem to be doing it? We can tell you right away these are bad reasons. Or are you seeing this as an escape from a boring or dysfunctional relationship? If your marriage is rocky at the bottom, opening its doors to outsiders will only make things worse.

Spend some time thinking about how you see this open marriage working out, what you hope to get out of it and how this will affect your partner (and children, if any).

Getting your partner on board…

Says educator Anastasia Windsor, “This…should be discussed before the marriage. If your partner was unaware of your openness in this matter and you bring it up after you got married, your partner will simply feel fooled, betrayed, lied to, etc. or worse feel forced to do something that is against their nature. If my husband had offered an open marriage to me before the marriage, I wouldn’t have agreed to marry him in the first place, and we would’ve moved on with separate lives. If he all of a sudden offers it to me during our traditional marriage, I’d divorce him and will never look back.”  

Make sure that your partner is completely open to the idea of you seeking emotional or physical intimacy elsewhere, even if they are going to continue being faithful to you. The worst thing you can do is to force your partner into agreeing to an open relationship when they are not ready or simply, not comfortable with the idea.  If you are interested in opening up your marriage but your partner is not (or vice versa), it is a good idea to seek counseling help.

The green-eyed monster is real

A number of people in open marriages have to face these fears at some point of time: what if my partner finds better sexual relations elsewhere? What if (s)he starts relying on this new person for emotional needs as well? How does that bode for our relationship?

Jealousy and insecurities are very real threats to every normal relationship. Some of us are plagued by these while others remain unaffected. But be aware that bringing a third (or fourth) person into your marital bed could open up feelings you’ve previously never experienced. Interestingly, just because you are the one to initiate the opening up of your relationship, you will not necessarily be immune to such fears.

One way to tackle this is to set some ‘rules’ on how you plan to conduct your open relationship. (See, it’s not all about freedom and escape!) Will these outside relations be sexual, emotional or both? Will you be seeking comfort and intimacy from strangers or is dating friends and acquaintances also acceptable? How will you be conducting these relations—at home or outside? And what you mutually decide to do if it is not working for one of you: will the other partner be okay to revert to a monogamous relationship once again? And if not, then what?

Another important aspect is to keep checking in on each other during the course of an open relationship and being honest about how things are going and how you are feeling. This way, you will know when things are going wrong.

It’s all up to you

For some, an open marriage is an interesting and satisfying or enjoyable experiment. For others, it could be a complicated mess that threatened to rip the fabric of their relationship. There are enough stories out there for both sides. The bottom line, therefore, is that an open relationship is not for everyone. It depends entirely on you and your partner—your innermost needs, fantasies, and insecurities and understanding these is the foundation of your relationship, whether you choose to open it up or stay monogamous.

By Gowri N. Kishore

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