There are many different types of relationships – be they sexual, romantic or platonic. For some, a serious committed romantic relationship doesn’t necessarily have to be sexually monogamous. You might be curious, looking to experiment and try something you’ve always wondered about, or you might just be looking for a different way to spice up a sex life turned bland. For those happy with the commitment and intimacy of their loving relationship but looking to expand the sexual relationship – an open relationship or polyamory might be an option.
The term “open relationship” refer to opening the sexual boundaries of your relationship and allowing for sexual activity with other partners while still remaining seriously committed. Often, partners are still very much in love and committed to one another both sexually and romantically but either one or both partners is interested in outside sexual attention. Open relationships can occur within a marriage or in a relatively new relationship. Polyamory, on the other hand, typically includes another or multiple other more permanent sexual and/or romantic relationship partners.
As free and open as this might sound, there are still rules and boundaries that each couple must establish in order to make this type of relationship work.
Trust, Guilt & Jealousy
One major issue that comes with deciding to be in an unconventional relationship style is the feelings that emerge. A certain level of trust is required between partners to ensure honesty and comfort throughout the relationship. However, no matter the level of trust, feelings of jealousy and guilt may emerge. This is not unusual as it can be hard to predict how you or your partner might feel after deciding to be in an unrestricted relationship.
You may be thinking… how will I feel once my partner has had sex with someone else? What does this mean for our relationship? Will I feel guilty as if I’ve cheated on my partner? Is this normal? It is quite common for couples to experience a range of emotions.
Rules and Boundaries
As free and open as these relationships sound, there are always rules and boundaries involved. One of the biggest conflicts experienced by couples in open and polyamorous relationships experience is because they haven’t established appropriate boundaries. Similar to rules and boundaries that might govern a monogamous sexual relationship there will be some things that one or both partners are uncomfortable with.
Open relationships are unique in that you can essentially free yourself of the typical model of a monogamous relationship and design your own. You must decide what is acceptable and what is off-limits. What one partner might feel is okay with them, the other may not see as appropriate and vice versa.
Any type of casual sexual activity or concurrent partnerships outside the confines of monogamy increases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Deciding to be in an open or polyamorous relationship therefore means needing to take extra care when it comes to safer sex. Depending on the arrangement this might mean using protection such as condoms and birth control, being tested for STIs before beginning an open relationship and continuing to get tested throughout.
What can a FemTherapy Clinic sex therapist do to help?
If you and your partner are thinking of opening the boundaries of your relationship, or you are already in an open or polyamorous relationship and are looking for guidance we can help!
Establishing boundaries in open relationships happens through a process of honest and understanding negotiation. Our FemTherapy professionals can assist you in this process to negotiate rules and boundaries that each partner is comfortable with. Through both couple and individual sessions, we will help you explore your feelings and desires, communicate thoughts and feelings between the two of you and ultimately attain your highest levels of sexual and relationship satisfaction!