Open relationships, which refer to romantic partnerships where both parties are free to engage in relations with other individuals, have become more prevalent in modern society. Like any relationship, open relationships require effort, understanding, and mutual respect. For such relationships to thrive, they must be built on specific foundational pillars. Let’s explore these pillars that pave the way for a successful open relationship.
1. Open communication
In an open relationship, communication cannot be overemphasized. Partners must discuss their feelings, boundaries, desires, and concerns openly. This continuous dialogue ensures that both parties are on the same page and fosters an environment of trust and understanding. It’s not just about informing the other person about external relations but also about sharing feelings and addressing any emerging insecurities.
2. Defined boundaries
Setting clear boundaries is paramount. Every open relationship will have its own unique set of rules based on the comfort levels of the individuals involved. For some, it might be essential to know about a partner’s external relationships, while for others, it’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Regularly revisiting and updating these boundaries ensures that both parties feel secure and respected.
Without trust, open relationships cannot thrive. This trust is not just about believing that the partner will adhere to the set boundaries but also trusting them to communicate if they feel uncomfortable or if boundaries need revisiting. It’s about having faith in the strength and resilience of the primary relationship.
4. Emotional maturity
Open relationships demand a high degree of emotional maturity. Understanding and managing feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or inadequacy, especially when a partner is involved with someone else, requires self-awareness and the ability to self-soothe. It’s also about recognizing that love and affection aren’t finite resources but can expand and encompass multiple people.
5. Mutual respect
Respecting not only your partner’s feelings and boundaries but also the feelings and boundaries of external partners is crucial. Everyone involved in the relationship web should feel valued and respected. Disregarding or belittling any relationship, primary or secondary, can lead to hurt feelings and complications.
Being truthful about one’s feelings, desires, and external relationships is essential. Dishonesty, even if it stems from a desire to protect the primary partner’s feelings, can lead to mistrust and the eventual breakdown of the relationship.
While interdependence is a characteristic of any close relationship, individuals in open relationships should also nurture their independence. Having a strong sense of self, distinct from the relationship, can help in managing the complexities of multiple partnerships.
8. Regular check-ins
Periodic check-ins, where partners discuss the state of their relationship, any changes in boundaries or feelings, and their external relationships, can be immensely beneficial. These sessions can be informal but should be a safe space where both parties can voice their concerns, joys, and any other feelings.
9. Support system
Having a support system outside the relationship, be it friends, family, or communities that understand and support the concept of open relationships, can be reassuring. These support systems can offer advice, provide a listening ear, or even just validate feelings.
The dynamics of open relationships can change. What works at one stage might need adjustment later. Being flexible and open to change, while ensuring it aligns with both partners’ comfort levels, is essential. This flexibility is not just about the external dynamics but also about understanding that individuals’ feelings and desires can evolve.
Open relationships are not for everyone. They demand a level of understanding, effort, and communication that might seem daunting. However, for those who believe in this relationship model and are willing to invest the necessary emotional and communicative effort, it can be rewarding.
By understanding and actively working on these pillars, couples can navigate the intricate maze of open relationships. These foundations not only ensure the longevity of the relationship but also ensure that all parties involved feel valued, respected, and fulfilled.