Agreeing to an Open Relationship

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Boundaries are necessary in every relationship, regardless of whether it’s open or not. Setting them for general purposes can begin with very simple, practical and mutual guidelines. When it comes to applying them to an open relationship however, it’s best to make these guidelines more comprehensive and thorough, taking into consideration all the situations you may find yourself in.

As a starting point, think about how your time will be managed and which partner will have priority over it, if more than two of you are involved in the relationship. What will happen when important calendar dates come around, are phone calls from the others you’re dating to be taken in private or openly? Is it only sexual connections that can be made, or does dating other people also mean you’re free to have intimate dinners and nights away from home?

These are all the sorts of questions that can seem granular or overly complicated at the beginning, but where possible it’s better to answer them before particular events occur, rather than after. This approach is helpful when assessing any sort of insecurity or jealousy issues that may arise later.

Deal breakers

You should know what your deal breakers are in the situation you and your partner are about to become involved in. A deal breaker is something that automatically pauses the arrangement you have, cancels it, or would even end your main relationship. The difference between this and a boundary is that boundaries can sometimes be flexible, they can be discussed or re-evaluated if things change. Deal breakers are often events that severely conflict with our core values or belief systems and will not be tolerated.

So, are there any deal breakers that mean your open relationship automatically comes to an end; such as falling in love, emotions becoming involved, or one of you having unprotected sex? What if someone falls pregnant, or begins a relationship with a mutual friend, or co-worker? These are possibilities to think long and hard about, so you’re clear on what you need and both parties know where they stand.

Also consider the protocol for accidents and mistakes, such as your children finding out, or the arrangement starting to negatively impact other important areas of your life.


The number one important trait any open relationship must have is a clear and honest line of communication. Not only is this a space to discuss what boundaries and rules you have, but also to be clear about what doesn’t get shared within and outside of your relationships. For example, do you want to share details of your trysts with your main partner and do you want to hear what they get up to with the people they’re seeing? Do you want them to discuss the intimate parts of your main relationship with the other people, or is your privacy as a couple out of bounds for sharing with strangers? What you agree to not talk about can in some cases be just as important as what you do discuss.

Communication is also the basis of setting up and establishing common goals, especially when your specific needs from an open relationship are very differently motivated. If one of you is more conservative sexually, it’s up to you to communicate what you are comfortable with your partner doing and what perhaps you want reserved just for the two of you. This is crucial too if it’s likely that your partner is probably going to be the one having a majority of outside experiences. It makes sense to discuss what should remain sacred and reserved only for the two of you. However, beware of becoming overly controlling or constraining with a partner. Handle the situation with as much delicacy as they should, in not pushing you to have more sexual partners than you’re comfortable with.


Do you trust your partner with your heart, your mind and your body, because if not then an open relationship may not be such a great move for you both, yet. Obviously when you add multiple sexual partners into a relationship there is the very real possibility of sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, tangled emotions. You’re trusting that your partner won’t get carried away in a moment and put your health, or their own, at risk and that they won’t violate your heart in any way.

Equally as important as trust in your relationship, is an exploration and openness to forgive. Sometimes boundaries that haven’t been set will be crossed and neither of you will know until confronted with the reality. It’s not always possible to foresee everything. There may also be occasions where you believed you were okay with something and the reality of it changes your mind. Both of you need to be flexible in respecting the right of the other person to do this.


Why are you both wanting to have an open relationship and is it truly a desire you are both happy with? Your intentions should be as clear here as they are in the rest of your relationship, so that if it’s more variety or more spice you’re looking for, you’re sure about it. The same applies if you’re not getting enough sex from your partner, want to experiment with another gender, or simply have sexual tastes that you can’t explore together. Get super transparent about your intent behind any arrangement. Trust us, details count.


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