In a world of polyamory, friends with benefits, and Tinder dating, the traditional idea of monogamy continues to be challenged and debated. But could you handle being in love with more than one person at a time? How would you feel if your partner was?
On the Cosmo Happy Hour podcast, Cosmopolitan.com editor Elisa Benson discusses the intricacies of open relationships with senior sex and relationships editor Ali Drucker, Match.com relationship expert Dr. Kimberly Moffit, reality TV star Antonia ‘Toya’ Wright, and writer Sophie Saint Thomas, who was in a polyamorous relationship for three years. They discuss their personal experiences, everything they wish they knew, as well as 10 other things you should definitely consider before being in an open relationship.
1. Open relationships present their own specific challenges. For Saint Thomas, the hardest part wasn’t even the idea that her boyfriend was sleeping with other people. ‘The hardest part was the emotional sharing,’ Saint Thomas says. ‘Ultimately, when it came down to it, I just couldn’t be cool with my boyfriend having feelings and going on dates with other women. So that was the hardest part for me, the emotional availability over the sexual availability.’
2. Being in an open relationship can teach you to deal with jealousy. When your bae is openly seeing other people, jealousy is pretty much inevitable. And while Saint Thomas is no longer in an open relationship, she’s carried everything she’s learned about jealousy into her current monogamous relationship. ‘So things like ex-girlfriends or the hot girl he works with, I’ve learned to become more confident in our relationship and let those threats not be such a big of a deal,’ Saint Thomas says.
3. Make sure your relationship is strong before jumping into something new. After all, you don’t want to complicate a relationship if you’re already on the rocks. As Saint Thomas says, ‘If you’re looking to explore [an open relationship], I would say, if you’re already in a relationship with someone, [make sure] you guys have a really solid foundation. And you have to be able to communicate. And if it’s not working for someone, you’re going to have to come to an agreement.’
4. Being in an open relationship doesn’t mean everyone’s just cheating all the time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. ‘It’s not infidelity in an open relationship,’ Saint Thomas says. ‘That’s the nice thing about it. It’s all honest and up-front…’
5. That being said, communication and honesty are essential. ‘It would have been easier if I had been honest with myself from the beginning,’ Saint Thomas says. ‘So communication and honesty, not only with your partner but also with yourself, is really important when navigating the exploration of various relationship structures.’
6. Remember that your feelings might change. Just because you want to be in an open relationship now doesn’t mean you’ll want to be in one forever. ‘It’s important to be honest as possible but also forgive yourself if you change your mind along the way because sometimes open relationships happen unexpectedly,’ Dr. Moffit says.
7. Consider your sexual health as well as your emotional health. And if you’re concerned about the possibility of STIs, be up-front with your partners and create a game plan. ‘Having that conversation in advance could be really important,’ Dr. Moffit says. ‘Maybe it’s that you agree that you’re both going to take an STI test once a month just so that you’re both feeling comfortable and less anxious about what’s happening.’
8. Before suggesting something like a ‘hall pass,’ figure out what problem you’re trying to solve. A ‘hall pass’ could be a chance for you or your partner to explore being with new people while still maintaining your same relationship. But make sure you consider why you want a hall pass before diving straight in. ‘What is a hall pass going to solve?’ Dr. Moffit asks. ‘Sometimes people suggest it in a relationship because usually, in my opinion, they feel the need for excitement or a new sexual encounter. So what are you missing in your relationship that the sexual encounter will provide?’
9. Talk with your partner about all the various ways you can ~spice~ things up. An open relationship could be a way to add variety to your relationship, but it’s definitely not the only way. ‘Have a conversation about what can we actually do to make this marriage or this relationship more exciting and fun and satisfying for us both,’ Dr. Moffit says. One option? Drucker suggests going to a fun strip club together, and then going home and talking about it/fantasising/having awesome sex together.
10. Think about the long term. ‘I feel like if you open that up in your relationship or your marriage, that’s something that’s going to be hard to stop,’ Wright says. ‘If you’re into threesomes or giving your husband a hall pass, how can you one day wake up and say, “OK, we’re no longer doing that,” without it being a problem?’ Of course, people are free to experiment however they choose, but you also want to be thinking about the future before you change up your relationship.
This article was originally published on Cosmopolitan.com