What do we love the most about our lives, arguably? Our freedom(s). What is one of the first few things you lose about your life when you romantically commit to someone? Your freedom(s). Now that you are thinking about it with anticipation and suspicion, let’s talk about it.
One of the trickiest and the most truthful things you’ll do in a romantic relationship is to talk about sexually or romantically opening it. Opening a relationship, also known as consensual non-monogamy or polyamory, is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and communication between all parties involved. It can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for some individuals, but it is not suitable for everyone. If you’re contemplating opening your relationship, here are five essential things to consider before taking that step.
The foundation of any successful open relationship (or just relationships in general) is open and honest communication between all partners. Before proceeding, have candid conversations about your desires, fears, and boundaries. Be prepared to listen actively and empathetically to your partner’s feelings as well. Communication will be an ongoing process as you navigate the complexities of an open relationship, so make sure you feel comfortable expressing your needs and concerns. Remember it is not one conversation, it is many honest and hard conversations over an ongoing period of time.
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Establish clear boundaries and rules
Setting boundaries is crucial when opening a relationship. These have to be respectful but don’t have to make objective sense to everyone. Your subjective boundaries are important. Discuss what is personally and mutually acceptable and what isn’t – especially in the arenas of emotional and physical intimacy with others. Some common questions to address include whether there are restrictions on whom you can date or sleep with, whether certain activities are off-limits, and how much information should be shared about other relationships. Be open to revisiting and adjusting boundaries as your relationship evolves. Do not weaponise your boundaries to be competitive, mean or as a way to address your insecurities.
Jealousy and insecurity
Jealousy and insecurity are common emotions in any relationship, even for individuals who are generally secure in their partnerships. Be kind to your partner’s insecurities and that of your own. Make spaces as wide as a cricket stadium, if you have to – to listen, talk and discuss your fears, hopes and desires. It’s essential to acknowledge these feelings and work through them together. Remember that jealousy doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of love or commitment; rather, it often stems from fear of loss or feelings of inadequacy. Be prepared to offer support, reassurance, and understanding to each other as you navigate these emotions.
Maintaining multiple relationships requires effective time management. Make sure your existing partners do not feel neglected because of your new-relationship-energy (NRE). NRE understandably takes up your time and attention, but make sure to self-intervene as and where it is required. Don’t start from a place of defence or attack when discussing the perception of neglect. Consider how opening your relationship may impact your existing commitments and responsibilities. Allocate time for your primary partner and other partners while ensuring you have time for self-care and personal interests. Being mindful of time allocation helps avoid neglecting any relationship and fosters a sense of balance in your life.
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Safe sex and health concerns
In an open relationship, there is a higher risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Before engaging with new partners, discuss STI testing and prevention with your primary partner and potential new partners. It’s essential to prioritise sexual health and be responsible for protecting yourself and others. Regular testing and open conversations about sexual health are vital components of a healthy open relationship. I highly recommend that you talk about PrEP, condom use and any other vaccinations that you might need, with a healthcare provider.
While opening a relationship can be rewarding, it may not be suitable for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s essential to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to relationships, and each partnership must find what works best for them. Consider seeking support from experienced individuals or joining local or online communities dedicated to open relationships. Learning from others who have navigated similar challenges can provide valuable insights and guidance as you embark on this journey. Freedom over your body and desire does not take away from the responsibilities you have towards your partner.
For more stories on the LGBTQIA+ community and queerness in India, keep reading Spectrum on TIT Education.