Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorced last year. Like them, a good number of famous couples have called it quits. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. And the list goes on. And this cascade of divorces is not accidental or a coincidence. With the increasing freedom and independence sweeping especially through the developed world, monogamy was always going to falter. But how do you evolve? How do you cope with the times? Most people have suggested open relationships. But very few have zeroed in on the open relationship rules.
Before we explore the-what and how of open relationship rules, why is monogamy so hard to sustain?
My argument is this; monogamy gives way too much power to sex. Of course sex is much more than just a physical act. It involves intense emotions, attachments and so many little things in between. But its impact to our lives is so exaggerated. It hurts me that many otherwise healthy couples break-up just because one of them slept with another human being. A lot of good moments and behaviors are forgotten for that reason alone.
Besides sex, there’s the issue of boredom. Routines can be suffocating. Staying with one person day in day out is not easy. Every person becomes depressingly imperfect when you spend a lot of time with them. And sometimes the mind needs something new, someone new. Not for another marriage. But for a simple fling or one night stand. Such that one can feel alive again. It’s no secret that the testosterone levels in older men increase when they’re dating a far younger woman. And older women feel excited at the idea of being appreciated by a younger man.
And no one is to blame in this. It’s all biology.
And it’s because of these reasons and more that open relationships come in handy. You get to stay in an amazing relationship without the suffocation bit. In an open relationship, you’re free to be yourself. Without fear of a backlash from your partner. In it, you can test different waters, fulfill a few lingering desires and yet come back to your primary partner. This feeling is liberating.
But it’s not all milk and honey, things can go horribly wrong sometimes. That’s why caution is key here. You will need (flexible) rules. You’ll need to expect the unexpected. It won’t be a smooth sail.
Open Relationship Rules to follow during a non-monogamous arrangement
- If possible, talk to other couples in open relationships
I can’t stress this enough. If you want to learn more about the music business, you’d have to ask professional musicians about music. The ins and outs of the industry. And this applies to any other field for that matter. Like non-monogamous arrangements.
Talk to people who have walked the walk. People who are going through what you’re about to go through. If you don’t know anyone in real-life who is in such an arrangement, go to different forums on the internet or on the good old reddit. By talking to these people, you’ll be told things you hadn’t thought of before. And this will help you get more realistic about the situation.
And hence more ready.
- Consistent communication
Nowadays “communicate more” has become like a cliché in relationship advice columns. Every were you read, you’re told to communicate more, talk more and so on. Apparently this helps you two navigate problems.
Though this kind of narrative leaves out some important information like “It’s better to leave certain things unsaid”. It’s really useful to use it as your mantra in any kind of relationship with a fellow human being. Communicating helps you get into the mind of the other person. Which is important to stay on the same page. Full stop.
- Protected sex or equal measures to prevent healthy issues
I should have left this one out really. It’s freaking obvious.
Anyway, you can’t leave issues of sex to chance. Set boundaries and talk about what to do in case a certain boundary is broken. For example you might decide that unprotected sex is fine, but birth control for the woman is a must. Or that you as man should ensure you don’t go on dropping babies into women’s bellies.
- Any rule you come up with should focus on each of you as individuals.
I think the idea of rules ruling us has become a calamity to the human species . We set rules and forget that we actually set them to help us. To work for us not us for them. Yet It’s how we normally treat rules.
Now that you’re aware. The rules should bend and twist according to your whims. Not the other way round. Expect them to be broken by either you or your partner. And it’s okay. Since you two are not efficient robots.
Optional Rules to consider.
- Is your bed out-of-bounds to other people or its fine?
You might not give a damn about your bed but your partner sure does. You might be fine with sleeping in a bed she shared with another man yet it’s not okay with her. The bottom line is; beds can be an important piece in people’s lives. So, decide accordingly.
- Are relationships with other people fine? If yes, should you two talk about it?
See, it might be okay for your partner if you sleep with other people. But not so okay if you actually begin having relationships with other people. Is it okay to meet your subsequent partners? These are questions you must find answers to.
Even when you two agree to have them or not with other people. You should not expect both of your feelings to stay the same in future. Since you can’t know which kind of people you’re going to meet. And how sweet or warm they’ll be.
This emphasizes the point I’ve made about rules. They should be flexible. You should amend them every once in a while. And remember, they work for you not the other way.
- Can you handle being jealous?
You might see a non-monogamous relationship as your gateway to having more thrilling sex. And that’s fine. I’m happy for you. But have you really thought about the fact that your partner is going to be having as more sex as you? If yes, are you fine with it?
And please keep in mind that thinking you can handle something is different from actually handling something. So, beyond just thinking, maybe you should put yourself to a test. Maybe try watching your partner having sex with someone else and see how you take it.
- What happens when one of you is emotionally attached to other people?
It’s one thing to get jealous of your partner sleeping with someone else. And it’s also another when your partner gets emotionally attached to someone else.
All these things are possible. Don’t assume your partner is so strong she can’t do that. You have to remember she’s a human being who actually got attracted and bonded with you in the first place. And who can also get attracted and bond with other people too.
All these are possibilities you can’t just wish away. You need to tackle them heads on.
What to expect before diving into such a relationship?
- As a man, expect your partner to get more “action” than you in the beginning. But then, after sometime like a year or so, you’ll get far more action than your partner. So, expect the emotional lows for both of you. I have to say though that always talk about it with the other person. Otherwise it might cause resentment towards the whole arrangement.
It’s more or less the same with connections too. You might slightly find it easier to connect with other women compared to your partner connecting with men. It how the world works sometime.
- A lot of feelings will be hurt. Either yours, your partner’s or someone else.
So, a lot of self-awareness is necessary here. In most cases, no one will be to blame.
I understand we all make decisions to be happy. And our imaginations are good at coming up with colorful pictures of how the future will play out. But like everything else in the world, our imagination is faulty. It leaves out a lot of details about the actual events.
Like feelings of hurt. You shouldn’t expect to enjoy just a smooth ride in this arrangement. There will be lows and highs. And it’s okay. With every low, expect an equal high. And life will be okay.
- Even when the rules are made, some situations you didn’t prepare for will arise. And sometimes you won’t know how to properly respond.
And that’s okay. You can never have all answers to problems, at least not at the same time. So you should expect such situations more often than not. And you should be confident that no matter what, you’ll find a way out.
- Even consistent communication won’t solve certain problems.
There will be things both of you won’t know how to tell each other. For example if your partner had unprotected sex yet you agreed on protected sex. Do you think she’ll be comfortable bringing it up to you? And is she really misguided in her fears? You decide.
- Expect evolution of needs for both of you.
Like anything else in the world, nothing remains unchanged forever. And that goes for your needs too. Some of them will change. At some point your partner might want out. Which might be different from what you want. And so on. When that happens, don’t freak out. It’s part of being alive.
Non-monogamous relationships are too unconventional. And people who practice them are the exception not the norm. And like everything that doesn’t bode well with conventional wisdom, they can be pretty scary in the short-term. But in the long run, you’ll be glad you’re in such a relationship. And for that, I wish you all the happiness in the world.