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Open relationships

When we start a relationship it is often with an expectation that we will only have sex with each other. One-to-one, or monogamous relationships, can provide security and be particularly helpful in getting to know each other without distractions. This works well for some, but for others living up to this ideal can be difficult as time goes by.

As the immediate intensity, horniness and passion of a new relationship settles, we may feel the need for something different. While it’s natural for sexual needs, desires and fantasies to change over time, a partner may not be necessarily able (or willing) to adapt to meet them.

Additionally, scene culture endorses and promotes sex with multiple partners and, for some of us, it can be difficult to break the habit even if we’ve met the man of our dreams. It can be hard to stop ourselves from making comparisons, believing – often mistakenly – that the grass is greener on the other side of the bar. If you care enough about your partner you won’t slip off behind his back for an illicit shag. If you don’t care enough you probably will and – in time – you may reap what you sow. (No sympathy there then.)

Contrary to popular myth successful open relationships don’t just happen, and if one appears out of the blue, then one of you is probably trying to rationalise or conceal an indiscretion.

Open relationships are consensual agreements, negotiated jointly – which should allow you and your partner to have sex with other men. This should not threaten your commitment to each other and you should both sort this stuff out before you start shagging around.

Just because the sex has become less exclusive doesn’t mean that the relationship is any less devoted and committed. When talking stuff through, key ingredients should include honesty, being upfront about fears and concerns, and respecting each other’s viewpoints.

For example, you should talk about the difference between sex and love: meeting another guy should be about getting your rocks off, not about falling for him. You also need to manage and overcome feelings of jealousy. Take your time: don’t feel as if a cast-iron agreement has to be signed, sealed and delivered in a single session. This is a big step for both of you, and it could take weeks or months to reach an agreement, or not.

Suggested rules for open relationships:

  • Sex with other men is restricted to once-only shags, or times when one of you is away or threesomes (which doesn’t mean one of you is shagging while the other is asleep)
  • If you don’t use condoms within the relationship – use them every time you have sex with someone else
  • If you go out together, you return home together
  • You talk openly about who you’ve been with, or don’t talk about it at all
  • If you go back with someone you don’t stay overnight
  • Sexual partners are never brought back home, or always introduced when they are
  • Express any fears, concerns or worries as soon as they occur
  • Agree times when you intend to be together
  • Revisit the agreement every now and then to ensure you are both comfortable with it
  • Tell the third person what the deal is

Open relationships are unlikely to work if:

  • Either of you breaks the agreement
  • Either of you fears losing your partner to someone else
  • Either of you has doubts about the existing relationship
  • Either of you conceals any fears or worries
  • Sex is the main or only thing keeping you together
  • The true motive of the open relationship is to hunt for new partners
  • You don't tell the third person what the deal is

For some couples it’s helpful to write out the agreement. Most important though is that you both stick to what you have agreed and are prepared to discuss any issues promptly, should they arise. One of the more obvious problems is falling for one of the guys you’ve met.

Talking it through with your partner first is essential but, if you can’t do that, chat to a trusted friend and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why can’t I talk to my partner?
  • What has the new guy got that my current partner hasn’t?
  • How might these feelings for this guy be a response to something else in my current relationship?


Open relationships | INTO Talkshow | Matt Dempsey, Jimmy Fowlie | 20 Jun 2016 | 49m

Gay marriage, monogamy, and the lure of open relationships | Advocate | 29 Jun 2017
Why I stopped hooking up with guys in ‘open’ relationships | Huff Post | 4 Apr 2017
Sleeping with other people: how gay men are making open relationships work | The Guardian | 22 Jul 2016
How to be in a healthy open relationship | Ending HIV | New Zealand AIDS Foundation
Open relationship | Wikipedia

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