Laura Jayne for Cosmopolitan
1. Check your stability. Opening up a relationship is precarious. It is the emotional risk equivalent of stepping out on a narrow bridge over a deep cavern full of rocks. In both situations, you want whatever is supporting you to be incredibly sturdy. If you’re already in a relationship it should be solid. If you’re starting something new then YOU should be solid. It is best not to begin this if you’re in the midst of a personally bad or stressful time.
2. Prepare to be jealous. Jealousy isn’t just something Beyoncé experiences in her penthouse half-naked. Even in the best circumstances, situations will arise in which you feel jealous. You can acknowledge it to yourself, you can talk about it with your partner, but you can’t avoid it. If you are bad at processing jealousy, an open relationship probably isn’t for you.
3. Talk to everyone involved. Whether you are going from a pre-existing monogamous relationship to an open one, or you’re looking to begin something completely new, you need to talk about it with the interested parties. Clarity is critical, so be honest regarding what you want and even more honest regarding what you don’t want. Is this just about sex? Do you want to date other people? Do you expect your primary partner to prioritize you over anyone else?
4. Get deep into specifics. Like a willow tree or a teenage gymnast, being open requires flexibility. Make rules about what you each can do, and with whom you can do it. Don’t forget about what each of you want to know, or not know about what goes down, and when exactly you want to know it. Also, it never hurts to write these things down.
5. Consider a no bang list. Also, think about why those people are on your list and whether there’s a larger point you need to convey. For instance, if your hands-off zone contains most of your co-workers and friends, maybe you really only want them to pursue people neither of you know.
6. Practice reciprocity. If you’re allowed to do something then so are they.
7. Tell your friends. You don’t have to make a formal announcement, but decide what and if you’re telling your friends. It doesn’t need to be a big deal, but you might want to mention it to them — even if it’s only to avoid getting a frantic phone call when they see your lover with another.
8. This is not a quick fix. Many people think that open relationships are a last ditch effort to save something that’s already over. They are not. Let’s repeat that because this point is one of the most important: this will not fix an ailing relationship and it will almost certainly make it worse. If it ain’t broke, then this is the perfect time to consider being open.
9. Be upfront with your side action. Heed the Backstreet Boys’ famous warning: no one likes it when people play games with their heart. Anyone you’re interested in should know your relationship status — namely that you are in one and it is open — BEFORE anything sexy happens. If you’re uncomfortable letting people know you’re in an open relationship, then you should not be in an open relationship.
10. Have fun! If you determine that it’s right for you, open relationships can be amazing. If you enjoy connecting with people on different levels, if you’re curious, if you want to explore, if you love sex, if you love love, if you don’t believe monogamy works for you — or at least maybe it doesn’t right now — then this might be be perfect for you. But if you get into it was realize it’s not the good time you thought it’d be, you can pull the plug at any time.