If you and your spouse are considering an open marriage, you’ll want to make sure that you have a discussion first and lay down some ground rules. You can’t just decide to open things up and then leave it at a free-for-all; rules will help keep everyone happy and ensure that no one gets hurt. Communication and honesty are big here, but there are other rules you should keep in mind, as well. Here’s what you need to know.
Rule #1: Honesty is the only policy
If you’re going to open up your marriage, you have to be able to trust each other. This means being honest about everything. The second that you start keeping secrets or lying about things, your “open marriage” quickly becomes a dishonest affair. By setting ground rules and having open communication, you’ll be able to create a trusting space to explore separately or together.
Rule #2: Make decisions together
Again, this is a relationship—it’s not what one person wants or agrees to. You have to decide the terms of your open marriage together. If your spouse isn’t comfortable with a particular arrangement, you shouldn’t even consider it. Don’t force someone to compromise, and make sure that you don’t compromise on what you want, either. If it can be done, it should be amicable and agreeable.
Rule #3: Respect each other’s boundaries
Respect is a big part of opening up a relationship. You have to feel safe to discuss boundaries and decide how “open” you want your relationship to be. If you don’t respect each other’s boundaries, this is never going to be successful. Plus, it could lead to arguments and miscommunication down the line, and no one wants that. [Read: How to Woo a Woman]
Rule #4: Communicate, communicate, communicate
Speaking of miscommunication, you need to avoid it all costs. The best way to do that is to talk about everything, and talk often. When you keep the lines of communication open, it will be that much easier to enjoy having your marriage open, as well. Plus, it ensures that you avoid a lot of other issues along the way. Talking can be difficult at first, but it’s worth it in the long run and essential for any kind of open relationship.
Rule #5: Decide how much to share
Often, couples go into the idea of an open marriage without first discussing whether they’ll share the details of their extramarital encounters or if they will keep things private. This is a terrible idea—usually, you’ll have one person ready to share all and another who wants to just keep things separate. Have the talk first. Decide what you’ll share, based on what you are both comfortable with, and whether you’ll integrate these people into your life or keep them entirely separate. [Read: How to Have No Strings Attached Sex]
Rule #6: Set emotional and sexual boundaries
You have to be on the same page about everything. That includes what kind of emotional and sexual boundaries you want to have in your extramarital relationships. For example, you might decide that it’s okay to have NSA (no strings attached) hookups or casual encounters, but you don’t want dating and romance or feelings involved. You may also decide that sexual encounters need to happen outside of the marital home to keep your special place with your spouse. These are all things to think about.
Rule #7: Talk about safe sex practices
It’s tempting to assume that everyone will be safe, but you can’t make that assumption. Make sure that you and your spouse have a clear, honest discussion about condoms, birth control, and other safe sex concerns so that you don’t run into any problems along the way. The last thing that you want is to end up catching an STD because someone got carried away and thought it’d be okay “just this once”. [Read: 10 Tips For A Second Date ]
Rule #8: Respect the terms of your agreement
This is even bigger than talking about things and making an arrangement that works for everyone involved—you now have to respect that agreement and the conditions that you discussed with your spouse. Whatever you do, make sure that it is in line with what you’ve discussed and isn’t crossing any boundaries. If something feels questionable, feel free to bring it up to your spouse and find out whether you’re worrying too much or if there is a valid concern. Respect goes a long way in open relationships.
Rule #9: Determine the “who” (who’s allowed, who’s not, etc.)
This is often a term that some people overlook. They assume, for whatever reason, that it’s not an important discussion to have. Perhaps one partner thinks that “of course, friends are off-limits” while the other doesn’t understand how hooking up with mutual friends could go badly. This is one of the most important discussions to have when you open your marriage. Even if you don’t define a specific “type” that is allowed, you can at least be clear on the list of people that can’t be involved in your open marriage. Some people consider it common sense, but it’s still an important conversation to have. [Read: Tinder Super Like – Does It Really Work?]
Rule #10: Be flexible and open to conversation and communication
Over time, even the best open marriages may require some revision. There are a lot of different ways that people go about having open relationships. What works for you may change over time, or it may change for your spouse. Make sure that you’re willing to make changes, reassess the rules, and discuss the state of your relationship over time to keep everyone happy and on the same page. Even when you think you’ve got it perfectly defined, things might change and the healthy response is to be open to that.
Of course, there is a lot more that goes into an open marriage, but it’s based on communication, respect, and honesty. If you can manage that, the rest will fall into place and your experience could even improve your marriage. At the very least, it could offer a new experience for dating and relationships that you hadn’t considered before.