So! You've decided that opening up your relationship is the best thing you could do and are happily exploring your newfound relationship structure. Still, you're not quite sure how to go about it and everything seems too advanced for you. Fear not, curious friend, we're here to offer you some help during these confusing times.
Making the actual transition from monogamy to non-monogamy is not always an easy thing to do and doesn't occur naturally for most people—and that's OK. Plus, your future self will most definitely thank you. Why? Spending time getting educated on matters that are most important at this early stage will help you create a more personal and mindful approach. You're heading towards finding the relationship style that fits your needs the best and it will provide ground for healthy communication in the future when those needs change (believe us, they will).
Now! enough talking, let's move on to the important stuff—some practical tips that will help you make that transition happen.
Transitions are always difficult to deal with and can be quite overwhelming at first. Take it slow and follow your own pace when exploring the alternative relationship that you want to pursue.
Learning about non-monogamy allows you to negotiate effectively and understand what goes into creating a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
Always seek to personalize your definition and experience to gain a better understanding of what fits you personally. Non-monogamy is not and should not be one-size-fits-all.
If you're a couple opening up, you have to be in agreement about the relationship style you're co-creating. It'll take a lot of talking to each other and trial-and-errors. Remember: it's OK.
Discuss your desires and wants with your partner(s) with the goal of informing, not enforcing. It's OK if they're not on board. It's about letting them know there is room for exploration and communication to happen.
It's not easy to know exactly what you want or what is not okay before experiencing it sometimes. Allow yourself and your partner(s) to be wrong and for check-ins and updates to happen—it's a continuous work in progress so don't be harsh on yourself.
As life goes on and you gain more experience, you'll get a better understanding of yourself and others around you. Use it to keep co-creating the relationship(s) that works for you.
We talk a lot about the need to talk, negotiate, and establish boundaries and you're asking yourself "what exactly?". So, here are a set of rules and agreements that you have to both get on board with from the very beginning and discuss to ensure that there are lesser mishaps in the future. These can be revisited at any point during the relationship as well and will be important in guiding your discussions.
If opening up your relationship involves having sex with another partner, one of the most important rules to establish is to discuss all matters dealing with protection methods, testing and disclosure of it, and contraception.
Discuss with your partner the desired level of emotional involvement that both of you are comfortable with having outside of the relationship. For example: if it's going to be strictly sexual or if romantic relationships are also okay. It's important to be as open and honest as possible.
Now, pause for a moment, you obviously can’t stop someone from developing feelings towards someone else or stop them from getting emotionally involved, it’s out of human control. So, it’s important to take into consideration that once you agree on such a “rule” that you might be doing more harm to your relationship than good in the long run.
You need to be on the same page when it comes to the level of skinship and types of physical and sexual interactions that are okay with each of you. The more detailed you are about it early on, the fewer mishaps you will encounter later on. For example: is it going to be only oral sex? is kissing okay? Is penetrative sex okay?
This involves how much information you are willing to share about your other relationships and are comfortable knowing about your partner's other relationships. Are you going to follow a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, or do you prefer to know everything? It's important to prioritize your mental and emotional health at this stage rather than what your partner's perception of your choices might be.
This involves how much information you're willing to share with people outside of your relationships about your choices. Are you going to let your friends, coworkers, family know about it? How much are they allowed to know? How much are you sharing about each of your partners with your other partner(s)?
It is important to establish any preferences in terms of time periods dedicated to meeting other people and understand what works/doesn't work for you. For example, is staying overnight okay? Are weekend getaways okay? What about holidays?
Discuss who are the people you and your partner are not allowed to pursue and would make you very uncomfortable if done (ex: best friends, friends, colleagues, family members, etc.). This is important to avoid any mishaps and accidental awkwardness. Get into details, drop names, be honest.
Establish that there is flexibility in the rules based on your and your partner's needs and that building your non-monogamous relationship is always going to be a work in progress that needs to be re-discussed in the future and adjusted as you go along. It's essential to keep checking in and communicating.
Always remember that you are on a journey of self-discovery. Keep in touch with what's good for you, be kind to others, and give yourself space to ask questions, learn and make mistakes.