Open Relationships Communication

Open relationships communication What do you do if you are involved with someone (whether it be long term or you just met) and you want to consider an open relationship?  Maybe you are thinking about it because of long distance, a recent discovery of your sexuality, not being ready for a commitment or just wanting to spice up your relationship.   Well it’s time to start talking about it with your significant other.  You may be thinking that there is no way that you can tell your significant other that you want to sleep with someone else!  Well it may not wise to say it like that, but yes, you will have to talk about it. The key to any relationship whether it is open or not is communication.  If you and your significant other can’t communicate, you will not be able to make an open relationship work.  So how do you go about having a conversation?

Testing the waters is always a good way to start.  For example, maybe it’s watching a show that has the same theme and asking your significant other what his or her views are on the subject.  Maybe it’s bringing it up as a fantasy or maybe it’s just being direct with him or her.  Only you know the best way to approach the subject with your significant other.   Be aware that he or she may just answer you in the way he or she thinks you feel about the subject.  So, make sure that you have a good discussion and really talk about what it means.

Ok, so you have had a good discussion and your significant other is truly receptive to the idea.  Now what?   First, you need to look at this together and figure out the reasons behind it.  Talk about these questions honestly:  Are you using it to spice up your relationship or replace it? Are you using this to test the other person?  Are you both really at a point in your relationship that it makes sense to move forward with this now?  You have to delve into all of these issues before you can move forward.  It’s important to know that your relationship needs to be rock solid to go into an open relationship. If you are using the open relationship for anything other than enhancing your relationship it is doomed to fail.  If you are not sure of your motives or you are thinking about it as a way to fix the relationship and not as an enhancement, then it might be time to talk more with your significant other or with a professional about the reason.

If both of you have decided that you are perfectly fine in your relationship and you both feel this is something that is right for you, can you now stop talking about it and just go ahead and do it?  Nope, not just yet.  Your next step is to talk about ground rules.  You need to talk about what you can and cannot do in this open relationship.   For example, discuss these questions regarding open relationships communication :

  • Are you just looking to kiss someone else every once in a while or is kissing to intimate?  If so, is kissing not allowed but sex for the sake of sex is ok?  If sex is ok, what kind of sex?  Oral, vaginal, anal?  Are there any sexual behaviors that are off limits?  Is your partner able to do these things by his or herself, or do you need to be involved?  If you are not involved, what do you want to know about the encounter?
  • If you are looking for sex, are you looking for another couple, a single girl/guy or multiple couples?  Are you looking for “full swap” (a term that just means that everyone in the room trades having sex with each other), “soft  swap” ( a term that means exchanging partners for non-penetrative sexual stimulation e.g. oral/digital ) or no swap (basically just same room sex or the other person just watches).  Also there may be a situation where you can be in a full swap situation but your partner can only be in a soft swap or no swap or vice versa.

A good way to figure out where some of the lines lie for both of you are to verbally fantasize about the encounter while having sex with your partner and see if those things are a turn on or if certain parts make you feel uncomfortable.  If you decide to move forward with an open relationship, keep in mind that the communication does not end with establishing ground rules.  You may not always know what you are o.k. with or not o.k. with until it happens. You will need to evaluate and then reevaluate over and over again all throughout this process.   Your ground rules may change as you delve further into the open relationship.  Remember keeping the lines of communication wide “open” are key.

This tip was develop specifically for Sex Therapy in Philadelphia / the Center for Growth.