I’m a big fan of letting people make decisions that work best for them. So when people ask me how to be in a happy, healthy and sustainable open relationship, I always take a minute to sit with the question before offering an answer. Why? Because there’s no one way to be in an open relationship. What one person desires out of ethical non-monogamy might be completely different from what their partner desires. As challenging as that might seem, it’s really okay.
Being in an open relationship has definitely helped me see more of who I am and what I need to be happy with myself and with those with whom I choose to be in a relationship. This is something I did not have direct access to when I was in monogamous relationships. It was quite common for me to lose my sense of identity and independence when practicing monogamy. Unfortunately, this is something many people experience with monogamy.
Moving from having one partner to having multiple partners, has opened my eyes and opened the door for deep transformation and personal growth.
Here are a few things I believe have helped me in the process and offer to people who are wanting to create healthy and sustainable open relationships:
In order for an open relationship to work, we need to be honest with ourselves and potential partners. Being in an open relationship asks that we take a close look at where we are in our lives and in our relationships. We need to consider what we want in a relationship, what’s important to us, and what brings us joy. Some people like the security of monogamy, others like the freedom to explore with others. Both are valid. It really just depends on what feels right. This is an individual choice, and that may change over time. It’s all okay.
Ethical non-monogamy is not for the hidden, secretive types. A functional, sustainable open relationship asks, better yet requires, that we be open, honest and transparent about what we are doing and with whom. This is much different from the “don’t ask don’t tell” mindset. The way to create, nourish, and sustain any kind of relationship is to give oneself permission to ask and to give oneself permission to tell. Yes, this can be a big jump, a risk for some. We are so programmed to question ourselves, to judge our experiences, and we tend to shut down rather than face our fears and show up. Being in an open relationship asks us to show up, communicate, listen, and support others in doing the same.
As challenging as it is at times, we have to own our experience and own our emotions. It’s okay to have feelings. Feelings are a normal part of being human. There’s no need to push them aside, pretend they are not there or dump them on someone else. Taking responsibly for our experience allows us to create the experiences we want to have.
It’s all about choice. Ethical non-monogamy will challenge our notion of what is right and what is wrong. This is good. It helps us choose our own path. I was raised to create a box, get in the box, stay in the box, and fear anything that was outside of the box. Sometimes I would do that, and sometimes I would destroy the box and start all over. The open relationship lifestyle empowers us to choose what kind of relationships we want to cultivate in our life. We always have a choice.