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Open relationships: Couples who've found success

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Should you give non-monogamy a try?

Open relationships may not work for everyone, but they do for some — as long as you know exactly what to expect going in. We talk with couples who have successful open relationships to find out what works for them.
Man flirting with woman

An open relationship may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for some couples, it's the only way to go. Of course, there are rules and boundaries that need to be drawn up before any exploration can take place. These couples tell us what works for them.

Honesty is the best policy

Jessica, who has been married for four years to her husband, Kent, shared what has made their unconventional relationship work. “It's imperative that any couple considering making the move to a non-monogamous relationship keep honesty as one of your top priorities,” she explained. She and her husband started an open relationship after around one year of exclusivity, and she recommends waiting until there are no potential jealousy issues — which are natural, but may serve to derail the original relationship. “I was the one who brought it up,” she told us. “And as we discussed the details, our excitement grew. We were sure we could make this work.”

A rulebook

Setting up rules at the outset is just as important as being honest. Protected sex is a must for almost all couples, and some decide that certain individuals are off limits, such as ex-girlfriends or co-workers. “While we inform one another about our dates, we don't necessarily need to know details about who and where, and that's something we decided early on,” shared Jessica. “We keep each other in-the-know about when we're going out, but leave it at that.”

Alternatively, some couples enjoy setting up dates for their partner or spouse, and still others spectate or even participate in each other's experiences. Other rules to consider are the types of contact allowed, how much time each partner will be allotted outside of the relationship, and where the activities will take place — your home? The additional partner's abode? If you carefully plot out how the encounters will go, you may be able to anticipate — and eliminate — potential issues and roadblocks.

Special circumstances

Also, it's best to keep your main partner's feelings and special situations in mind at all times. Heather and Jack, married for three years, took time off as they built their family. “When I was expecting our son, our extramarital activities ground to a halt,” she told us. “I was feeling more vulnerable during my pregnancy and we agreed to concentrate our efforts on our family.”

Keep an open mind

You'll both benefit if you know, from the outset, that this type of relationship may not work for you. For example, if one partner of a couple becomes uncomfortable, you'll need to think about how you'll proceed if one wants to call off the idea of an open relationship. If your relationship is extremely strong and honesty is a top priority, you should be able to weather such changes. Beth, who was in an open relationship for several years with her husband, lost the desire to explore outside the marriage — yet she didn't require that he end his other relationships as well.

While an open relationship is outside the realm of most couples, it can work if done with compassion and understanding from both partners, and both are on the same page at all times. For many, sex does not equal love, and pursuing additional relationships can actually help an existing relationship grow stronger.

Tell us

Could you handle an open relationship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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