When it comes to love, nothing is ever really black and white. You might be considering an open relationship, whether that means opening up an existing one or starting out a brand new one. It could work out amazingly for you—or it could be less than ideal. Here are four signs that an open relationship is right for you.
1. You’re both 100% down
If you’re thinking about opening up your relationship, make sure your partner is comfortable with it! And if your partner is the one who brought it up to you, make sure to be honest with them. Don’t feel pressured for any reason to do it if you don’t want to, and don’t pressure anyone else into doing it. “In order to be successful, both partners must have healthy self-esteem and mutual desire to open up the relationship,” says Shirani Pathak, a licensed psychotherapist. “Otherwise, feelings of poor self-esteem, anger, and resentment escalate and lead to breakdown in the relationship.” Talk to your significant other about what an open relationship would entail for both of you, and give yourself time to think about it if you need to.
2. You’re great at communication
The thing about open relationships is that there aren’t any set guidelines for how to make one work. What works in someone else’s relationship could be catastrophic in yours, and vice-versa. For instance, you might want your partner to tell you every time they have sex with someone else, or maybe just for them to be honest with you if you ask. For some people, it’s a way to spice up a relationship (though there are certainly other ways to do that if you feel like it’s a bit extreme).
Regardless, an open relationship—or any relationship, for that matter—isn’t going to work without open, honest communication. Have a conversation about what the “rules” of your relationship will be, since every single one is different. “The most important point needs to be that both partners are 100 percent on board with the idea,” says psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez. “They are both comfortable with it, want it, and know they are comfortable. They set boundaries and guidelines they respect, and they also respect the sanctity of the relationship they have with each other.” Check in with each other, and be sure to always have an open ear. Make sure you both agree on those rules, but at the same time, remember that your relationship is dynamic, and things could change. If you want them to, tell your partner! Communication is an ongoing necessity, and it’s definitely worth it. It takes more than just one conversation to make sure everything is just as great is it should be.
3. You’re ready to leave certain norms behind
Monogamous relationships are usually considered “normal.” But what does normal actually mean? Even within those monogamous relationships, things can vary a lot between different ones. Entering an open relationship means defying certain cultural norms, but it’s not like you’re declaring complete anarchy, even though some people might make you feel that way. Not defining what a monogamous relationship means “often leads to dissatisfaction, both emotional and sexual, with various forms of cheating as an upshot,” says Patricia Johnson, co-author of Designer Relationships. It’s definitely a little different than what most people are used to, but open relationships aren’t as out-there as some people think they are. Do what you’re comfortable with!
4. You’ve laid down the rules about sharing
When you enter into an open relationship, you have to be ready for other people to try sticking their noses into your relationship and trying to tell you how to live your life. Keep in mind that your relationship is only yours and your partner’s business, and you don’t have to tell anyone anything that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. If your partner isn’t comfortable with you sharing certain details of both of your sex lives, don’t breach their trust. Make sure you’re both aware of what is and isn’t okay to tell other people. Additionally, it could be a fun exercise for the two of you to practice what telling your friends is going to be like. Mentally preparing for the kinds of questions—however invasive they might be—you might get about your relationship will help you in the long run.
Ultimately, whether you should be in an open relationship or not is a highly personal decision that will differ between different people and different relationships. Nobody knows your relationship better than you and your partner, so start by having a conversation, and if you both think it’s right for the two of you, go for it.