So you’ve decided you’d like to redefine your relationship; you want to develop a previously closed, monogamous relationship into an open relationship…what do you do?
There’s three big hurdles to navigating this question. Firstly, you must recognise that it’s about giving yourself permission; you have the right to create a relationship that suits you. Secondly, you need to give your partner/s what they need to help them move forward with you. Thirdly, you have to work on accepting that actually there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships anymore. The conventional notion of ‘the one’ doesn’t necessarily hold up for everyone these days and this can be extremely freeing.
There’s no excuse to be in a relationship that makes you feel unfulfilled- there are so many people on this planet, so many opportunities for connection. Most of the time it seems like the easy option to stay in a space that makes us unhappy or unsatisfied but that is not a healthy option- you and your partner/s deserve more. We should all take responsibility for our own happiness and pleasure by finding partners who want to see us reach our potential sexually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Unfortunately, with comprehensive sex education lacking, support services being underfunded and a vast array of social stigma attached to sexual freedom, advocating for your needs in relationships isn’t something we all learn to do. However, we can start by recognising our own feelings. The decision to change relationships, to develop them into something more, needs to be a decision that stems from a place of awareness- of security, not insecurity. This means a lot of looking inwards, and asking yourself questions about what you want, need and can actually do; before communicating with partners.
Whatever style of relationship you choose, you’re still partnered so you have to consider another’s feelings when communicating about change. Relationships are about intimacy, whether that’s romantic, sexual or emotional, and being intimate with someone is a vulnerable act. So it’s crucial to speak to your partner in a compassionate manner about what you’re feeling. If you want to be heard and understood you need to be willing to listen and understand; relationships should be based on reciprocity. Every relationship, including those which are open, should have a foundation of respect, love and companionship. So opening up your relationship or changing the “terms” doesn’t mean you suddenly get free rein to be selfish or inconsiderate. Open relationships aren’t license to treat someone badly, or a way of staying with someone because you are afraid to let them go; they are a way of exploring yourself, your partner and others.
Open relationships require open communication from the start and every step thereafter.
Both of you have to want to be in an open relationship, and really want to, not just be willing to in order to seek approval or satisfy a partner. Open communication means being conscious, honest and listening as well as expressing. Listening to understand and not listening to respond is key. You’ll have to talk about deal breakers, red flags, yellows flags- whatever you need and whatever the limits. This type of communication is a practice, it’s not a natural feat for many but a skill that takes time. It involves knowing yourself, being inquisitive when thoughts you didn’t expect pop up and being ready to share everything with your partners. Although it’s assumed that when venturing into an open relationship you lose part of your partner, you get less of them somehow, in actual fact the degree of honesty and investment into making your relationship work actually requires more from both of you. You’ll be sharing your whole self in a bid to make the relationship whole.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Regardless of how much your partner understands, or how much you know what you want, it can still be extremely difficult to move forward knowing your relationship style isn’t conventional. Non- monogamy, open relationships, polyamory and swinging are all deemed as alternative in society today and that can hugely hinder growth.
In order to create a relationship that serves you best, it helps to stop thinking about what’s normal and start thinking about what suits you. Stop trying to squeeze yourself into relationship styles and labels that someone else has made up. Find labels, boundaries and experiences that suit you and you’ll be a lot more satisfied and connected. The idea of “one size fits all” is redundant when it comes to relationships; relationships are always evolving and with the increasing freedom in the world today you have the right to choose. The word “open” constructs many ideas in many minds. Yet, it really means anything you want it to; “open” is an opportunity.