Open relationships aren’t the oddity they use to be. Chances are that you know someone in some form of non-traditional, non-monogamous relationship. Maybe you’ve given it a try yourself. Brianna Rader, founder of the Juicebox Love+Sex explains: “Traditional monogamy is the default option in our society, but people forget how daunting an expectation it can be, especially since we expect our partner to fulfill all our needs until death”. Open relationships may seem unmanageable if you haven’t had experience with them. But just like more traditional relationships, there are better practices, or open relationship rules to help you navigate them successfully.
Whether you are interested in exploring an open relationship or just want to educate yourself, its best to start with the vocabulary, open relationship rules, and common situations to help understand the basics.
Ethical non monogamy is a blanket term to describe any relationship involving more than two romantic or sexual partners. In this all parties are respected and aware of the nature of the relationship. This means that all partners involved are aware of the other partner(s) other relationships, and enthusiastically consent to whatever specific form or relations their situation involves. The appeal of this kind of relationship is that you get your sexual and social needs fulfilled from several sources/people. Diversity in how (and from whom) you get your needs met helps keep you from having any one person responsible to meet “all your needs”. This can go a long way towards helping you create healthy, thriving relationships from casual hook-ups to friends-with-benefits and beyond.
Open relationships focus more on fulfillment of sexual needs outside of a relationship and tend to be non-romantic. This can take many forms, from tinder hookups, swinging with your partner, and to larger events like play parties and group sex. These events are useful if you fall in love easily, and you don’t want to “be in a relationship” right now. But for those who are already in a relationship and are looking for more or different sexual fulfillment, the term monogamish covers couples who have activities outside of their relationship, but still have some form of commitment to each other.
Polyamory is a romantic relationship with more than one person at a time; with the root poly- meaning multiple and amor- meaning love. This can work in a lot of different ways but the two main categories these kinds of relationships can fall under are hierarchical and non-hierarchical. Hierarchical is when you have a primary partner, then secondary and so on. The partner higher in the hierarchy has more priority. Non-hierarchical relationships have all partners being treated equally in terms of time and decision making power for the relationship.
All this may sound simple, but in practice it can get complicated. If boundaries aren’t set and relationship status aren’t clear, things can go wrong and feelings can get hurt. To help avoid that, the experts at Juicebox have 8 open relationship rules for being respectful and still having fun.
8 Open Relationship Rules To Get You Started
Now that you understand the basic terminology, here are some open relationship rules to help couples explore other partners while retaining respectful boundaries with their significant other. Before opening up your relationship, be sure to talk with your partner about other expectations or open relationship rules that meet both of your needs.
1. Limit sex to 1x a month
For most people, it’s really hard to “fall in love” and “stay in love” if you only have sex with each other once every 28-30 days. For some folks, sex twice a month can work, especially if everyone follows the rest of the Protocols. The more frequently you have sex with the same person (especially GREAT sex), the closer you are to “having a relationship” whether you’re calling it that or not.
2. Limit how you stay in contact/communicate
Be conscious of how you’re staying in touch with your lovers/hookups. If you’re sexting/texting/calling/hanging out with each other every day or several times a week, and you weren’t doing that before, you may unconsciously be sliding into “relationship mode”. If you find yourself Facebook stalking your lover or getting upset that you don’t see each other or talk “enough,” realize that they’ve unintentionally become your “dopamine dealer.”
3. Don’t do sleepovers, beware of morning sex
Having an unintentional sleepover (you have sex ‘til late in the night and it’s just more practical to crash in the same bed, or you accidentally fall asleep on each other and, boom!, it’s morning!)… or banging each other the next morning can flip the “you’re dreamy” switch.
4. No trips/weekend getaways together
Long weekends and trips together, by their nature, include sleepovers and morning sex! Danger! Danger! Going away on a trip with a lover, having several days of sex, lots of pillow talk, sharing meals together, waking up next to each other = dating and having a relationship, doesn’t it? It’s a perfect recipe for falling in love or having someone fall in love with you.
5. Talk openly about what is and isn’t working
Build into even your “most casual” of hook-ups that everyone can talk openly about what’s going on for them. It makes for better sex, healthier hook-ups, and less drama. For a professional, outside perspective, try working with a sex & relationship coach to help you navigate an open relationship more smoothly.
6. Thank folks within 24-hours
Send a fun and/or silly (yet respectful!) text or voicemail within 24-hours thanking them. Sometimes we get caught up in our insecurities about sex, especially casual sex. Sending a message letting them know that you think they’re awesome often goes a long. Let them know that you feel good about your time together and that they shouldn’t worry. It also makes you look like a class act, which you are!
7. Always practice safer sex
A) Make sure your safer sex conversation is before sex. B) Use condoms for penetrative sex. C) Get tested at least twice a year. D) Have sex with people who do A-C and will notify you if they test positive for something.
8. Respect people’s privacy
Bragging or gossiping isn’t sexy or cool. It’s okay to be excited about all the great sex you’re having. If you are going to share though, make sure your partner is okay with it.
There are plenty of other open relationship rule to consider, and it can be intimidating. Whether you want to try it on your own or open up your relationship with your current partner, you may have doubts or insecurities, especially if it’s your first experience. This is where resources like Juicebox can help. With a variety of services like private counseling and an interactive community, you can work to understand your options and find a relationship that is both satisfying and healthy for you and your partner(s).