People Involved With Open Relationships Explain How It Works

'We set up a lot of ground rules.'

An open relationship or open marriage is where both partners agree they can have sexual relations with other people outside of the relationship.

Some people claim it’s the perfect scenario for couples with differing sex drives. Others believe it’s a great way to seek new sexual thrills, without the need to split up or cheat.

As with monogamous relationships, there are often rules that people in open relationships follow so as to not hurt one another.

Here, Redditors in open relationships and marriages talk about their own experiences of polyamory and dish out their top tips for doing it properly.

Hannes Hepp via Getty Images

1. “We set up a lot of ground rules initially, things like: you can’t hang out with that person all the time and sleep with them more than three times etc. Things that would mean that you were now in a relationship with someone else (we wanted open play, not poly relationships).

“Now we just can’t be bothered seeing other people and the sex was never as good as with each other. We might bring in a person to jointly play with once or twice a year, but we’re kind of just ‘over’ seeing other people. Honestly, mostly the same as before we were open.”

2. “For every stable, open relationship with solid rules that are adhered to very well there are 10 more train-wrecks in action.

“I’ve noticed some interesting patterns. Many times, the man initiates it, but the wife / girlfriend ends up getting way more than he does, and it alters the dynamic of the relationship considerably.

“The ones that seem more solid and lasting in the open state are the fully open ones. That is: multiple full on relationships, not just fucking around. (I suspect that this is because both people are truly committed to the lifestyle, and not just satisfying urges).

“I’ve also noticed a lot more stability in relationships that aren’t fully open where the openness has the rule where it’s only open on mutual attendance. AKA swinging and threesomes.

“The reason the fail rate is so high, is not because it’s inherently ill intentioned. It’s just way fucking harder than a normal relationship. You have to be super on point and self aware at all times with your communication.”

3. “I was in polyamorous relationships for about 10 years, and for five of those years I was married.

“When I met my ex-husband we were both interested in exploring non-monogamy and didn’t see the need for strict monogamy in long term relationships. It was fun, terrible, super sexy, really difficult, and at some moments felt like the best thing ever. Things I learned:

:: Plan/schedule/g-cal everything, your life gets super busy.

:: Tons of time will also be spent talking about EVERYTHING.

:: Negotiate and renegotiate rules, people’s boundaries change.

:: Be endlessly committed to self reflection and personal growth.

:: Be ready for exercising your patience for drama, even those trying to avoid it have drama because if you and your partner are dating multiple people you end up with a huge connected network and drama surely happens somewhere in that network at certain points.

“I feel like I gained some valuable skills and insight during my time practicing non-monogamy (like communication skills, managing my emotions, learning more about what’s most important to me, learning how to be good at being alone, being super awesome at negotiating sexual boundaries, etc.)

“While in my heart I still feel like I’m more naturally inclined toward non-monogamy than monogamy, I’ve actually found that monogamy suits me better in this current world/reality.”

4. “I have a low sex drive and my wife does not. I am a lesbian and my wife is not, she is bisexual. She remains attracted to men, despite being married to me.

“With those two things in mind, we developed a method (with strict boundaries and rules) for her to explore her interest in others. It’s usually a friends with benefits situation, but there has been a one night stand (which violated several rules and we had a heavy argument about it).

“Our rules are as follows:

:: No surprises. I want to know when you realise you’re attracted to someone and to know in advance when you plan to or want to pursue something.

:: No dating. I don’t want my wife having another relationship, I just want her physical needs met where I cannot meet them.

:: No unprotected sex, unless we’re very familiar with that person. And even then, birth control is required on her end.

“That’s pretty much it. I want to know when it’s happening, who it’s happening with, and that she’s safe. There are some other nuances that aren’t exactly ‘rules’, but that I prefer. I would rather it not happen in my house so that I don’t have to look at it or go somewhere else.”

5. “I am not in the relationship, but I am FWB (friends with benefits) with a guy in an open relationship. I have known about it from the beginning and don’t have any issues with it. I appreciate that everything is on the up and up. There are no lies and no disappointment. They have each other’s hearts, and that won’t change, but they both enjoy sex with others so it benefits them to continue that arrangement.

“Their rules are that there are no overnights, they must tell the other person where they’re going, and they must use protection.

“I don’t know how I’d feel if I were the girlfriend and not just the side piece. My heart is not invested so it’s easy for me to have him over and send him home after. But for them, it removes all of the deceit so they’re not cheating on each other. They’re still happy and get to have the sexual fulfillment they want. I appreciate them for that.”

6. “I’m not married yet, but later this year it’ll go from open relationship to open marriage. We’re pretty lax, few rules:

:: Always use protection.

:: No romantic relationships without permission.

:: Have standards.

:: Primary partner (each other) always comes first.

:: I need to know every detail. It’s important for my masturbatory fantasies.

7. “Not exactly fully open, but I’m in a cuckold setup with my wife. We’ve been together for over eight years, married for four. I gave her permission, and encouragement even, to sleep with others. Between when we started dating and we got married she was with two other guys. Since marriage she’s been with five more. Recently she found a Dom and she is his sub. I’ve never been able to play the role of a Dom well, so I’m happy she’s able to explore that kink with someone else.

“It’s going great. We’ve never been closer and are having a lot of fun together. We have more sex together when she is also sleeping with others.

“If you seek an open marriage because you’re having issues, you’re going to have a bad time. If you open it up with trust, respect, clear communication, and honesty, you should be okay. It’s not for everyone.

“We have a few rules, such as to practice safe sex (birth control, STD tests), and to keep it on the down-low. No co-workers or friends.”