How to have an open relationship

From avoiding jealousy to prioritising your partner, here’s your ultimate guide to creative coupling

If you really think about it – and we mean really – there are certain parallels to be made between monogamous relationships and vinyl LPs.

Bear with us. The old-school generation think records are the only way you should enjoy music; pure and traditional. But, as the Millennial generation know, there are other ways to crank up the tunes. And, much like opting for a Spotify playlist over a rare 12-inch vinyl, the experimental relationship route is an electrifying alternative to monogamy.

"The experimental relationship route is an electrifying alternative to monogamy..."

But creative coupling, despite its glamorisation on the silver screen, can be a tricky minefield to master. So, if you’re looking to dip your toe (or, er, any other body part) into the pool of polyamory, here comes the expert advice of Dr Becky Spelman, psychologist and We-Vibe relationship expert.

Don’t jump the gun

Before you get Tinder-finger-happy or decide to DM that recently-divorced mum you met at your late night pilates class, make sure that your partner is as into the idea of an open relationship as you are. Is this something that they really want, or are they nodding and smiling along like Donald Trump’s psychoanalyst?

“The only way to find out is through open conversation. It is never appropriate to put someone under pressure to do something they don’t want, and if having an open relationship is a deal-breaker for you, but your partner isn’t into it, it would be better to end the relationship now rather than store up unhappiness for later”, says Spelman.

Equality for all

If you’ve both decided on prising open your relationship, then congrats! But now’s the hard part (no pun intended). If your partner has agreed for you to have sex with someone else – or even to start a side relationship – then you’ll have to understand that it works both ways.

“You can’t be jealous or possessive if they’re doing the same thing, even if more people are interested in them than in you. It’s not going to work unless you are willing to give them the same amount of freedom that they give you”, says Spelman.

So listen up gents and play nooky with equality in mind. Or, as the traditional adage goes: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Don’t forget your partner

When you’re taken off a strict diet, indulging in the steak house trimmings is always a heavenly treat, but don’t take your eyes off the real prize: the chateaubriand. In this specific case, the chateaubriand is your main relationship. Sure, you’re living your former bachelor-self’s dream, but if your principal partner really matters to you, then devote plenty of time to him or her.

And, if you’re completely fatigued from a week of, you know, then you don’t even have to drag yourself out to the local fine-dining joint to play a bit of footsie with your better half. For Spelman, “You don’t necessarily have to go out — date night is just a time you have set aside to be there with, and for, one another.”

Talk about it

So, you’ve met a few people. You’re still in a seemingly happy relationship. 20-year-old you is beaming with Hefner-like pride. All is fine, right? Wrong. Just because things work out for the first few weeks or months doesn’t mean that’ll always be the case. Keep the dialogue running with your partner, because at some point one of you – yes, even you! – could bring the curtain down on the whole thing while the other is still happy to keep the show running.

“You need to have a frank conversation about what you’re going to do if the open relationship seems to be working better for one of you than the other. Is it going to be the end of the relationship or is the ‘open’ clause going to be revoked? Either could be a solution, but you need to be able to discuss this.”

Check yourself (before you wreck yourself)

Finally, this bit of counsel is more health-related than based on morality. For the more flavours you try in an open relationship, the more likely you’re going to contract a displeasing taste.

“You both need to make the pragmatic decision to safeguard your sexual health,” advises Spelman. “Periodic check-ups at a sexual health clinic are a good idea, even when everyone is being careful”.

The local GP’s clinic may not be as glamorous in appeal as, say, waking up to a bed full of unknowns, but you – and your fellow futon friends – will sure thank us later for telling you to give it a visit.

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