How To Be In A Healthy Open Relationship
Like any relationship, open relationships take a lot of work - but if you put in the effort the reward can definitely be worthwhile. Here are our top 10 tips for getting into or maintaining an open relationship of your own.
1) Think about what you're open to
Before you get into an open relationship it’s really important to think about just how open you want to be. Are you open to kissing and cuddling with other guys? What about sex? Do you want to have relationships with other guys or keep hookups separate to your core relationship? Would you like other relationships to be between only you and the new guy, or would your boyfriend be involved as a triad? You don’t have to have all the answers at the beginning, but thinking about these things will help you set and refine boundaries as your relationships progress.
2) Communication is key
The number one killer of relationships is a breakdown in communication. Communicating in a relationship with just one other person is a lot of work, so when you add other people into the mix you also have to put in extra effort to make sure everyone stays on the same page. It can be a bit exhausting at first, but you’ll soon find your groove as you get used to communicating openly with your partners.
3) Keep things safe
Monitoring your sexual health is super insanely important in open relationships. Gay and bi guys account for 80% of HIV infections in New Zealand and having unprotected sex in an open relationship puts you and all of your partners at risk.
Having a blanket rule that condoms and lube be used every time is the most simple and effective way to keep everybody safe. Some couples have an agreement to not use condoms with each other, but to always use them outside the relationship. There are risks associated with this, so do your reading before entering a setup like this. It’s also really important to have solid communication between everybody so that any of you can let the others know if they might be at risk and need to get a sexual health check.
PrEP is a great way to protect yourself from HIV, but it won't protect you from any other STIs. So if you're using PrEP and not condoms, it's really important to be getting regular STI screenings. A lot of STIs don't have symptoms, so very often just looking at your penis or butthole won't be enough to tell if you've contracted something. Getting a full STI screen keeps you healthy, as well as helping to prevent passing anything on to any of your partners.
4) All cards on the table
Some people take a DADT (don’t ask, don’t tell) approach to sleeping with other guys, but it’s far better to get used to telling your partners what you’re up to, and in turn get used to hearing what they do. The gory details don’t have to be shared, but letting one another know who you’re sleeping with and how it’s going helps keep each partner accountable and safe. Being open about what’s going on is also one of the best ways to deal with the dreaded J-word.
5) How do you meet other guys?
Are you okay with having your face on Grindr? What about seeing your boyfriend’s profile on there? Have a think about the ways you’re meeting other guys and let your partners know. Accidentally messaging your boyfriend’s headless torso on Hornet could be an embarrassing experience.
6) Where do you meet other guys?
Lots of open relationships involve sex with other guys and it’s important to think about where this sex happens, especially if you live with a partner. Some couples will be fine with inviting hook ups home, but for some that will cross a line. Have a talk with your partner about what’s appropriate and what is out of bounds.
7) Be honest with yourself
Being open to having an experience for yourself is one thing, but being totally cool with your partner, or partners having the same experience can be something else. If you’re feeling jealous or confused, that’s totally okay. We all have these feelings, but we can’t deal with them when we pretend they aren’t there.
8) Keep your jealousy in check
If you want to be in an open relationship but struggle with jealousy, a really great way to deal with your negative feelings is to understand compersion. Compersion is an opposite to jealousy and is most simply described as "the feeling of being happy for someone having an experience they enjoy". Lots of books and online resources about polyamory discuss compersion and give some really great advice about how to be comfortable with your partner sleeping with others.
9) Be respectful
It may be fun to sleep with four or five new guys every week, but when you’re in a relationship those new dates can account for a lot of time spent away from your existing partner or partners. Be fair to them and keep your ego in check. If you’re worried about how much time you spend with other guys, talk about it with your partner(s), and likewise, if you’re in a relationship with someone who you feel is neglecting you, make sure you pull them up on it.
10) Set up a timeout
Particularly for guys who are new to open relationships, having the ability to call a timeout can be a very useful safety net. Sometimes open relationships get overwhelming and setting up a rule that you or your boyfriend can call timeout to put a pause on dating or sleeping with people outside of the relationship gives you a chance to talk out these anxieties in a safe and comfortable space.
If you approach open relationships at a responsible pace, with an open heart and an excited spirit, you can have amazing connections with people, lots of love in your life and, well, the sex can be pretty awesome too. If you’re looking to open up your love life, get thinking about the type of openness you’d like to have and remember to get yourself some free condoms and lube so you’ll be ready for it when the action starts.