How to Have an Open Relationship
Monogamy might be the norm, but it’s far from the only relationship style. And if you’re looking to explore your sexuality or have emotional connections with other people, it might be time to dip your toes into the world of polyamory—enter ‘how to have an open relationship’ questions.
Open relationships are a form of consensual non-monogamy where people can pursue multiple partners at once. The best part? Unlike cheating, everyone is aware (and accepting) of the relationship.
Why limit yourself to just one partner at a time when there are so many fish in the sea? Here’s what you need to know about open relationships to turn your #polyrelationshipgoals into a reality.
What Is an Open Relationship?
With so many titles being thrown around, you may be asking yourself, “what’s the difference between an open relationship and a poly relationship?”
It’s simple: an open relationship is a type of polyamory. When you have an open relationship, you’ll have a primary partnership with your romantic partner. But with polyamory, there doesn’t have to be just one primary relationship.
Depending on your relationship (and preferences), that might mean having a primary boyfriend, then a second one, and even a third one…or maybe a girlfriend, too. The important part about an open relationship, though, is that all of your partners know about and are accepting of your other relationships.
Poly Relationship Types
Unlike monogamy, where there’s only one relationship structure, there are a few types of poly relationships. Think of poly as a build-it-yourself project where you can choose the best style of relationship based on your sexual and romantic preferences.
Polyfidelity is a closed-group relationship where all members of the group agree to be sexually active only with other group members.
In mono/poly relationships, one partner is monogamous but agrees to the other partner having outside relationships.
Geometric arrangements are described by the number of people involved and their connections. If you’ve ever heard of “triads” or “quads,” these are examples of geometric arrangements.
Open relationships fall under this category. Basically, sub-relationships distinguish between “primary” and “secondary” relationships.
BDSM poly arrangements can have a few structures: doms with multiple subs, or doms with a sub who will top another sub. There can even be scenarios where multiple doms share a sub (again, with full knowledge and consent).
How to Make an Open Relationship Work
First things first: polyamory isn’t about a lack of love or commitment to your partner. Just like monogamous relationships, poly relationships grow, break apart, and can stand the test of time.
It’s not about what you keep out of the relationship—it’s about what you let in.
So, how can you make your poly relationship goals happen IRL? Here’s what you need to make an open relationship work.
- Set healthy boundaries. Open relationships only work when both partners are on board, and both agree to healthy boundaries. Remember: there are no concrete, right-and-wrong rules when it comes to poly. You might decide that outside relationships should only be sexual, while others might be open to romantic connections.
- Communication is key. Communication is the secret ingredient to every healthy relationship. And for open relationships, it’s even more important that boundaries are crystal clear. If you want (or don’t want) something, tell your partner instead of hiding your feelings or violating their consent.
- Schedule regular check-ins. It’s not always easy to predict what kind of situations and emotions will come up during open relationships. To make sure you’re both on the same page, plan regular check-ins with your primary partner to discuss what’s working and what isn’t.
With healthy communication and respect, open relationships can strengthen your connection to your primary partner and allow you to explore and satisfy more of your desires.
Expand Your Sexual Horizons
There’s no one-size-fits-all structure for a healthy poly relationship, and your boundaries will depend on your preferences and comfort level. Even if it feels weird at first, open relationships are totally worth the effort if freedom, pleasure, and opportunity are your top priorities.
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