Experiences from an open relationship – does it work? Spoiler: It surely does.

I am crazy in love with my girlfriend, and we have sex with other people. I cannot count how many times I have received a questioning look after that statement. Like, really? And then the conversation usually goes two ways afterwards: 1. No, it wouldn’t work for me.  2. Oh, you will probably break up soon.

Disclaimer: if you know you won’t be able to be in an open relationship, this article is still for you. I am not trying to pull you into one or convince you that you should open up your relationship. If you have read this far, you are most probably curious to know how this works and what it’s all about. And I am here to give you the answers.

Being in an open relationship can mean a lot of different things for different people, but for me and my girlfriend these are the basics: we are a committed couple, in love, planning our future life and common kids together. And sometimes we have sex with other people. We agreed that we are free to date people outside of our relationship.

First of all let’s clear something: are we talking about polyamory here? No, polyamory is something different. It means that one or both people in the couple are seeking love and commitment outside of the primary relationship. It’s not just about sex with other people, but having more commited relationship at the same time - openly.

Why don’t we want to be monogamous?

Freedom is what I value the most in my life. We all know: when entering a relationship,  both partners will need to sacrifice some parts of them in exchange for the perks of a relationship. If there are more gaining points on the scale than losing, then we are in. 

Some of you might say that monogamy is a free choice and  giving up some of your freedom is not a sacrifice when you are in a commited relationship . And I respect this opinion. But we chose a happy ethical non-monogamous relationship and it works perfectly for us.

My girlfriend  thinks similarly, she needs her freedom as well, and I wish her to experience and explore all the best in life. The last thing I want to do is to limit her in any way. I want her to be happy and be able to explore sides of her sexuality that I’m unable to provide her. And I like to be treated the same way. By granting me this freedom, my partner grants me her radical trust and this feeling elevates our relationship to a higher level.

The decision to enter an open relationship or to change from monogamous to non-monogamous is always a decision of two. Otherwise it’s called cheating. Our decisions were all made together after long discussions, boundary checks and making agreements. We revisit them often, it’s not always easy to find a middle ground, but it does worth it!

By the way, a study conducted among married couples, found that 76 percent of couples in open marriages described the quality of their relationships as "better than average" or "outstanding".

Aren’t you jealous?

As a by-nature not jealous person, I was asking myself for a while: what is jealousy? Is it about ownership? Is it something about being unique and special? To be the Only One?
The English language gives us two very similar, though different words: envy and jealousy

I checked in with my feelings: am I jealous that my girlfriend had a threesome with those beautiful girls OR am I envy her having a threesome with those ladies. The second one is what I feel. I am happy for my partner to have a good time. Like if she went roller skating with her best friends and I couldn’t join her because of my twisted ankle. What makes her happy – makes me happy.

Indeed, in the beginning it was hard to see any potential lover of hers as anything other than competition. The sneaky feeling of insecurity was crawling into my head: what if she has sex with someone, falls in love/the sex is better and she leaves me? But the fear of her leaving me for someone who is far more interesting - why else would she want to pursue other people - has only one explanation. My own insecurities. It has nothing to do with her choices.

On the opposite, feeling that she is choosing me, day by day, despite all the possibilities she has, makes me feel appreciated and loved.

Are there any limitations/boundaries?

Can we choose to spend time with someone else instead of our partner?  If so, how often and for how long? Can I have sex with my friends? Where is the line? Every couple sets their own rules, depending on multiple factors. The rules vary, you can choose your own rules with your partner - here are some examples:

  • no sex with common friends
  • no go when the primary partner is in town
  • no unprotected sex
  • keep each other updated about locations and whereabouts
  • share the feelings / or don’t talk about it at all
  • how many days a week you can date someone else 
  • no sex with a person with different genitalias from my partner has
  • the third party must be aware of the primary partner’s existence,
  • probably the most frequent one is ’no sex in our bed’.

Some apply to us, some do not.

Won’t my friends judge me?

Indeed, we were concerned about how others may judge our decisions without knowing their broader context. Some friends still don’t understand but accept, some really don’t care, though they know they won’t be in a relationship like ours. And some were already in an open relationship. I have friends who were a couple, opened their relationship and broke up after that. What’s funny, they both say that the break up happened not because they turned their relationship into an open one, but vice versa. They needed to break up and they needed to feel freedom. Being with other people made them realize that they are better apart. They still adore open relationships.

The decision was made. But how do you find your secondary partners?

To meet new girls I mostly use HER or Tinder as hookups after lesbian parties are not possible since Covid-19 started to spread in Hungary. First of all we are having fun! But responsibly. Hence all the parties need to be aware where they are at. The first thing that I say when meeting someone I like is: ’I am in an open relationship’. And by the reaction you can see whether it’s a go or a no go. Most girls know in advance what they want from a new encounter. Many are looking for monogamous partners, many are not willing to share, and many are still there to have fun!

Are those dates just one-time hookups or something more serious?

Both. With some girls we are turning into friends with benefits. Like with Greta. She is a foreign medical student and I am learning her language. She is busy with studying and doesn’t want to enter into any commited relationship, as she simply doesn’t have the time for it. So I practice German in both ways (pun intended). It’s beneficial for both of us, everyone’s happy.

Though it’s tricky, as not everyone is ready to respect my primary, commited relationship.
Once I got myself into a pickle. I was dating  a girl who did not take my commitment to my partner seriously. We had a good time together, that was remarkable in a way. All my inner tighs were marked with bruises after that intense night. And then she assumed that I would leave my partner for her, or that my partner would leave me as I ”cheated”. Even though I explained the matter of my open relationship to her multiple times, she wouldn’t believe it. She was confused about the outcome. We tried to stay friends, but it didn’t work out.

It might seem like a lot of work.

Yes, it seems to be more complex than a monogamous relationship, but is it really? We can flirt in front of each other, share Tinder matches and discuss everything. No reason for insecurities, jealousy, fear and no reasons to hide anything from each other or to lie. Isn’t that the level of trust everyone wants to have? I know I do.

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