Relationships are hard no matter how you slice it. They are, of course, 100 percent worth the work — and the tricky stuff is essentially overshadowed by the good times. Still, it’s only natural that every relationship has its growing pains. Perhaps you’ve grown a bit weary in yours, and you’ve been giving more consideration to trying something new. Or maybe you’re in a great place but crave extra dimension in your romantic life. In either respect, an open relationship may have crossed your mind more than once.
But can an open relationship really work? Or will it lead straight to heartache? We asked six couples successfully navigating the open-relationship waters to share why it does work for them… and how. Here’s what they had to say.
“You have to be on the same page”
“The key to a successful open relationship is a truly rock-solid partnership. You have to be on the same page as your partner about all aspects of an open relationship, and you have to know you can completely trust your partner. You need to lay down clear guidelines and check in with each other frequently to talk about any issues that may arise. You may try it and find out it’s not for you, and if that’s the case, you need to speak up about it. Don’t let feelings of jealousy or resentment sit for too long. Talk about how you feel right away and don’t let those feelings build up — that’s a recipe for disaster.” — Mark and Adrienne
“Never keep secrets”
“First, you have to make sure you’re entering an open relationship for the right reasons. This should be something that makes your relationship with your partner stronger and more enjoyable, not something that puts distance between you and your partner. If you’re entering an open relationship to try to fix your relationship, that will never work. [We’d] say the key is to make sure you have really clear rules before you start. Make a list of your limits and write them down. Talk about whether or not you are going to tell your friends, what you’re comfortable with your partner doing and what you aren’t comfortable with. The rules may change as you go, but you both have to agree on your limits. Never keep secrets. Honesty is crucial.” — Joaquin and Alyssa
“Ignore the haters”
“Probably the most important thing we have learned about having a healthy open relationship is to not care what other people think or say. At some point, you’re going to have to have that conversation with friends and relatives — otherwise, you’ll get countless phone calls and texts every single time one of you is spotted with someone else. Although people mean well, this becomes a huge headache. It makes it more awkward to explain if they feel like you’ve sprung it on them, and that’s typically when people respond in a negative way. We’ve lost count of how many people have told us what we are doing is wrong, crazy, immoral or just plain stupid. Ignore the haters. What we have works for us, and that’s what matters.” — Tim and DaNae
“Be OK with being jealous”
“Well, first of all, it probably wouldn’t have worked for us if we weren’t already in a good place before we committed to it. Ironically, we had a lot of trust issues when we were monogamous — it wasn’t until we decided to try an open relationship that we learned how to work through those and really trust each other. That had to happen before we jumped into this lifestyle. In that way, it has made us stronger as a couple. Our second big secret to success is that we accept that you need to be OK with being jealous as weird as that sounds. But anytime one or both of us is feeling jealous, our rule is we have to talk about it with the other person. We feel like jealousy is a fact of life no matter what kind of relationship you are in, and ignoring it will just lead to resentment.” — Ashley and Kevin
“Set parameters that all parties are comfortable with”
“I think there is this misconception that all people in open relationship are completely free-spirited and go-with-the-flow types. While that is probably true for some people, others — like us — respond well to structure and rules. For us, an open relationship works because we set parameters that all parties are comfortable with. When we first started dating (and knew we both wanted an open relationship), we made it very clear what was acceptable and what was not, who was off-limits, etc. We even wrote it down so there wasn’t any ambiguity. Feeling like we are on the same page at all times makes us feel even closer to each other. And being in an open relationship is exciting and fun and sexy. But most of all, it makes us appreciate that at the end of the day, we always choose us.” — Megan and Mark
“Have check-ins on a regular basis”
“[We] had both been in open relationships where one person had pushed the other into trying it, and those relationships were full of drama. So it was very important to us to establish up front that we both really wanted this. Once that was made clear, we came up with a few rules that we still rely on three years in. No. 1, the other person — the third party — has to be told from the start about the existing relationship. We made this rule because it sends a clear signal to that person that we are not emotionally available for anything other than casual dating. If they are cool with it and agree to keep it casual, then there shouldn’t be any problems. No. 2, no secret side dates! Every single meetup with someone else has to be shared beforehand. We don’t talk to each other in depth about anyone else we are seeing, but we agree that it’s important not to feel like we are hiding anything from each other or sneaking away to see anyone else. No. 3, we have check-ins on a regular basis to make sure we’re both still on board with this lifestyle. In general, communication is key… not unlike any other relationship.” — Carrie and Sam