A Q & A with Dr. Dennis Neder
Hello Dr. Dennis!
My girlfriend (2 years of a wonderful relationship) and I have been talking about an “open relationship” where we both could find other sex partners but stay together as a couple. We’re both enthusiastic about it but I wanted to get your take. Is this a good idea? Will it ruin our relationship?
Yes, I have a lot to say about open relationships. They can be extremely good or extremely bad – I find very little in between! There are reasons for that I’ll get into in a moment.
First, let’s make sure we clarify a few things about open relationships.
An “open relationship” means that you and your girlfriend have a “core relationship” that is built on love, trust and respect. You are both confident and committed to your relationship and are self-secure enough to deal with the issues an open relationship will bring. You communicate (extremely well by the way – a requirement) about things and are open and comfortable talking about any- and everything. You have an otherwise good (hopefully great) sex life and want to explore an open relationship as a way to improve areas that are otherwise good.
You don’t use an open relationship to solve problems. I can’t emphasize this point enough! Many people try open relationships because they think they’re trendy or to solve some particular issue within the core relationship and this simply never works. It just winds up driving a greater wedge between you and emphasizes what the relationship is lacking – all without specific solutions.
The point of an open relationship isn’t to have other, outside relationships in addition to the core relationship. It’s to find other partners for one and only one thing: sex.
So, with that understanding, let’s look at some important facts you need to be aware of going in:
• Your girlfriend is going to have little if any trouble finding new sex partners.
• You on the other hand will have far more difficulty – if you ever find even one that will agree to have sex with a guy who is already in a relationship. (Yes, you need to be honest about this!)
• Your girlfriend isn’t likely to bring home girls for you to bang. If that’s your goal, you don’t need to have an open relationship to do that.
• You aren’t going to be allowed to revisit old girlfriends and your girlfriend shouldn’t be looking up old boyfriends. There’s too much history involved.
• There is going to be jealousy. It’s a fact of all open relationships. The trick is in how you deal with it – you can’t ignore it and assume that it’ll be “gotten over.” It won’t.
• You need to have real, hard-and-fast ground rules! These need to be clear and communicated up front – NOT when an issue arises.
• Condoms: every single time, no exception EVER.
• You run the very real risk of losing the core relationship. If you or your girlfriend meets someone, sleeps with them and begins to build a relationship, it’s very likely to happen due to many factors.
• You need to have real, clear goals here. That seems odd at first, but consider what you’re really looking for. Is it to supplement something your relationship is lacking? Is it to gain skills and insight? Is it to relieve the stress of being fully committed or based on fear of long-term commitment to a single person? You need to have answers to those questions.
• You might want to consider having only “professional flings;” yes, with professional sex workers. They aren’t going to let you get close enough to form a relationship and will help insure that things stay “sex-only.”
With all that said, you and your girlfriend need to begin by setting those ground rules and goals I mentioned. One way to do that is for you both to go off and write them out on paper. Don’t try to negotiate without them. It’s too easy for one person’s goals or enthusiasm to taint the other’s concerns.
If you have them written out first you can sit and discuss each one. Talk about what each one means to both of you specifically. You might be surprised to hear what you thought was meant by an item is totally different. This will prevent misunderstandings.
Also, talk about opportunities here. You both need to realize that she’s going to have (potentially) a lot of choices whereas you’ll have very few – if any. Is that really going to be ok with you? If you think you’re going to have a balanced experience, think again – you won’t.
You also need a way to keep the core relationship in place. That means that you’re both working on it constantly along with exploring outside sex. You need regular time commitments to do that. As soon as the relationship becomes an afterthought – even once – it’s over. That means you have to work twice as hard at preventing that from happening.
After considering all these points, maybe an open relationship isn’t really what you’re looking for. Does that mean that everything is off the table? Absolutely not! Let’s take a look at some alternatives:
If the goal is to have new sex partners, you might want to consider bringing in one or more third parties if this works for both of you. It’s a way of keeping the main relationship the primary one while exploring sex with someone else – all while being safe and open with your partner.
Again, this is a chance to have a type of open relationship without the uncertainty. Finding other couples with the same interests helps to reinforce the core relationships between you.
Formal Sex-Oriented Organizations (Clubs, Etc.)
There are many organized sex “clubs” where the point is for couples to explore other forms of sexuality including BD/SM, swinging, fetishes and many others. These are often open to core-relationship couples and provide a safe way to explore alternate sexualities.
Online Hook-up Websites
New sites for committed and married people are starting up all over the place. Joining one or a few of these may give you additional opportunities you couldn’t find elsewhere.
I hope this information helps to clarify some of the things you need to think about in an open relationship. If you go into it with your eyes open, it can be a very good thing for your relationship. Without this, it’s likely to end very badly.
Have a love, dating, sex or relationship question? You can write to me or get more information about “Being a Man in a Woman’s World tm” by going to: http://BeingAMan.com. Follow me on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/cas4w9) and Twitter (http://tinyurl.com/d3pecs).
Copyright (c) 2013, Dr. Dennis W. Neder
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