So, you are interested in taking the path that leads to an open relationship. Congratulations!
While this path is exciting and erotic, it can also be a little overwhelming. Where to start? How to start? How to have that conversation? Why do we want to take this path? What about roadblocks?
Questions, questions, questions!
As a result, we might be at a stand still about how to get started. Basically the, “you don’t know what you don’t know” phase of the journey. Well, we’ve been at the beginning and we’ve seen the trials and tribulations, successes and triumphs of the route, and as a result we’ve been able to gather information and “tricks of the trade” to help you on your own journey.
While our list is chalk full of valuable advice, you will no doubt come across situations requiring your own flair and techniques, but at least this article will give you a starting point, a place to get your bearings. A place to make sure you’ve packed all the essential items needed to get you through the exploration in the most prepared way.
#1 – What Does A Relationship Mean To You?
Yep. While this step is something we should really be doing BEFORE marriage, it’s funny (well not funny, but interesting) how often this question can get lost, or should I say defined differently by both parties without the other being aware. What does marriage/relationship mean to you? Is it security? Love? Attachment? Safety? Unity? Family? Friendship? A little of each? Do we fill roles within the marriage? What does sex look like in our minds eye? How are difficulties handled? What does having a partner mean to you? We have to be able to define what it is we are searching for before we can set out in search of what we want. This becomes even more crucial when two people are in pursuit, both partners have to be aware of what the unified goal is.
#2 – Do Your Research on Open Marriages
What is an open marriage? When we talk about open marriages typically what we are referring too is a committed couple who has agreed to varying degrees of sexual (and in some cases emotional) involvement with others outside the union. Fortunately today there is a wealth of material available to couples searching for this relationship model. If you’re not reading my book, “Swingers Lifestyle: The Questions You Are Afraid To Ask,” you’ll have dozens of other materials available, whether it’s books or podcasts, videos, or scientific research. The point is, soak up as much information as possible. Don’t forget you’re entering a relationship model that for most of us is far outside the lines of how we were taught relationships would look.
#3 – Open Relationships:You Both Have To Be Onboard
Yes, the club websites look enticing, the vacation spots exotic, and the literature erotic, BUT…opening up your relationship is work. What does an open marriage mean to you? What does it mean to your partner? What do the two of you hope to gain? What benefit will an open marriage bring to the relationship?
In the beginning you won’t know everything there is to know about an open marriage, but at least make sure the two of you are in agreement about moving forward. Which leads into communication. Look anytime you try something new there is going to be a degree of uncertainty. Why? Because you’re trying something new. Being “comfortable” with something new will take a minute. Even muscle memory, according to author Malcom Gladwell, requires 10,000 hours of repetition to master a skill, this is why I encourage people not to make a decision on the future of an open marriage from one event. Remember, you are switching up a very strong muscle memory, monogamy, for an alternative model. Give yourself some time to get comfortable with this new skill.
#4 – Ground Rules for Your Open Relationship
What is your open marriage going to look like? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when setting ground rules. Make sure you both understand your partner’s definition of open. For instance, my idea of an open marriage might mean dinner and sex with a play partner, whereas John might define open as sex only. Will play dates be together? What about separate play dates? What about bi play? Sleep overs? Dates? Sex rules? Condoms, oral, anal…What about kissing play partners? What about emotional attachments? Texting? Communication with play dates? Single play? What if one partner doesn’t want to participate any longer? Of course some of the “rules” won’t become rules until you run up against an unprepared situation. If or when that happens remain calm until you can get to a location to discuss what happened. Which brings up another question: What is the game plan for unexpected triggers?
#5 – Be Safe Out there
Yes, we both want to have fun in our open marriage, but in order to have fun, we need to discuss safety. This means conversations about safe words, single play, sexual protection, alcohol abuse (drugs), checking in, exit stratagy, triggers, fears, anxiety, etc… always better to be prepared and not need it, then to be broadsided by a situation, which brings us to the next step…
#6 – Be Prepared for the Unexpected
When I talk about this step, what I’m referring to is our emotional triggers. Those hot spots that send us reeling. It could be watching our partner kiss a play partner. When we set our boundaries we didn’t think we’d have an issue with kissing, but wham, all of a sudden our heart rate skyrockets, our sweat glands kick into overdrive, and anxiety goes through the roof. These are those unexpected feelings which can wreak havoc on us and our partner. Make sure you have a game plan in place for these situations as well. While a trigger can be shocking for the person experiencing it, it’s vital the other partner be as supportive as possible. Take some deep breaths, remind yourself you’re safe, and when you’re ready, sit down and have a loving and supporting conversation. This is a team effort, which means you are both working TOGETHER on this. I don’t know that I would automatically suggest this to couples, but then again, moving a marriage from closed to open can surface traumas and coping skills long hidden or accumulated. Personally, I had some traumas needing attention even after years of being in the lifestyle. I wouldn’t have thought I needed any kind of therapy when we first started out, but I suppose when you are triggered just right, those years old issues will rear their head. Thankfully, I was in the lifestyle and was used to stretching my “muscles.” Reaching out for help, while initially difficult, ended up being a massive gift to self and to my relationship as a whole. I always say we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.
#7 – Slow Down For The Speed Bumps
What is the game plan for road bumps? Therapy? Stopping? Slowing down? Conversations are expected when we hit road bumps, again, the two of you are taking this journey together, but will be experiencing individual perceptions. Be patient with each other.
#8- Networking: Meeting Other Open Couples
NIN, colette, adult social sites. These are all beautiful ways to network with other couples. I mean what better way to get an inside track on what works in an open marriage than to witness one first hand? You will begin to understand that each and every couple have tricks of the trade in making their marriage one that works for them. Some of the tips other couples use will make sense to you while others can be great conversation starters on what you don’t want to incorporate in your marriage.
#9 – Don’t Sweep Negative Emotions Under The Rug
This is a BIG NO-NO!!! Believe me it’s waaaay better to let your partner know how you are really feeling about a situation than it is to mask uneasiness thinking it can stay hidden. It won’t. It will surface as anger, fear, panic attacks, sadness, depression…the point is by not being honest in how you feel about something, you will actually create an even larger hurdle by staying silent. I know it can be tough, but it’s 100 times better to get to the root of the trigger than to let it fester.
#10 – Pre & Post Play Check-Ins
Regardless of whether your open marriage looks like separate play or together play make sure those check-ins are affirming and loving. Even if you aren’t away for playtime, loving texts, notes, messages are all ways we can recognize the love we have for our partner. Keep the romance alive and the hunger for one another burning. Be sure and have those post play time discussions as well. What went well? What went not so great? John and I have found so often these post play conversations are embers to be used to set ourselves on fire for one another, creating a whole new erotic and sensual moment for us to share together.
We know all of you have your own paths to traverse in opening up your relationship and our hope is some of the questions posed in this article will be used as a guide on your own journey. We also hope you will share with us some of the tips and tricks you and your partner discovered while on your own path.
In closing what I will say is opening up a marriage will have you learning things about yourself you never knew. Sometimes taking ourselves outside a comfort zone will reveal long hidden traumas, triggers, and issues we didn’t know we suffered from until expanding ourselves. But the flip side is the act of opening up a marriage can be a catalyst for incredible growth both individually and as a couple. We wish all of you peace, joy, contentment and the beauty of what it means to love openly.
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins”, Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award winning blog Openlove101.com.