Guide to Open Dating

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Dating can be a tricky business, even in the best of circumstances. Throw opening up your relationship into the mix and things can get really complicated, really fast. If you’re new to the world of nonmonogamy or are thinking about opening up your relationship, this guide to open dating is for you! In it, we’ll cover everything from bringing up the idea to your current partner, to navigating boundaries and agreements. So whether you’re just curious about dating in an open relationship or you’re ready to dive in head-first, read on!

What exactly is an open relationship?

In recent years, the term “open relationship” has become increasingly popular. Though the concept itself is not new, it has gained a wider audience in recent years. But what does the term actually mean? The answer, it turns out, is somewhat complicated. Basically, the idea is that monogamous relationships are closed, and nonmonogamous ones are open. However, there is some debate over whether the term “open relationship” should encompass all forms of nonmonogamy, including monogamish relationships, swinging relationships, and polyamorous relationships. Alternatively (and more commonly), open relationships can be classified as ethical nonmonogamous relationships. Essentially, this means that the participants in the relationship have agreed to be open about their sexual activity with other partners.

The meaning of “open relationship” can vary depending on who you ask. But one thing is for sure: the term always implies a relationship that exists outside the monogamous framework.

open dating in open relationships

It’s the same as polyamory, isn’t it?

Polyamory is often misunderstood as simply being “open” to having multiple sexual partners. But there’s more to it than that. Polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with more than one person – with the consent of everyone involved, of course. This can take many different forms, from a group of friends who all date each other to couples who have an open relationship and also see other people on the side. The experience of being polyamorous is unique for everyone, but for some, it’s an essential part of their identity. Just like being gay or queer is for others. It’s common that people in open relationships do not feel that their current relationship structure is set in stone.

It’s also not a form of cheating

Anyone who has ever been in an open relationship knows that they require a bit more work than traditional relationships. After all, you’re not only managing your own emotions, but also those of your partner. It can be a bit like walking a tightrope – one misstep and the whole thing can come crashing down. However, if you’re able to find the right balance of trust and communication, open relationships can be incredibly rewarding.

What’s the point of open dating?

There are a lot of reasons why people might enter into open relationships. Maybe they want to experience more pleasure, or they believe that they can love more than one person at the same time. Maybe they’re curious about exploring their sexuality with someone of a different gender. Or maybe mismatched libidos are causing problems in their relationship. Whatever the reason, an open relationship can be a great way to spice up your sex life and explore new things with your partner. Of course, it’s not for everyone. Some people might find the idea of their partner sleeping with someone else to be a major turn-off. But if you’re the type who likes to watch (or hear about) your partner getting it on with someone else, then opening up your relationship could be perfect for you.

How do you know if it’s right for you?

There’s no one right way to be in a relationship. For some people, monogamy is the only way they could ever imagine being with someone. They crave the stability, trust, and commitment that comes with being monogamous. Other people feel like they need more than one partner to feel fulfilled. They like the variety and excitement that comes with having multiple partners. And then there are people who fall somewhere in between. They’re not opposed to the idea of being monogamous, but they also don’t feel like it’s the only way to be happy in a relationship.

If you’re considering opening up your relationship, there are a lot of factors to take into account. First, it’s important to figure out why you’re monogamous and what that means for you. Once you’ve figured out your reasons for being monogamous, you can begin to explore what an open relationship would look like for you and your partner.

Answering these questions can help guide you to the decision that’s right for you:

  • Describe your interest in open dating. Would you like to act on your feelings for someone else? Does your partner or you have many needs which might be better met by more than one individual?
  • Take a moment to imagine how your life might be if you were in an open relationship. Make sure you are detailed. Can you tell me where you will live? Do you plan to have children? Are there other partners in your partner’s life? Which types of sex are you interested in exploring? Which kind of love do you want? Do you feel any emotion when you think about this fantasy?

couple exploring an open relationship

What are the benefits of open dating?

You might be surprised to learn how common open relationships are. In fact, almost one-fifth of people have been or are currently in an open relationship. There are many reasons why people find this lifestyle appealing, but the most common one is simply that it usually means more sex! Many people also find that practicing ethical nonmonogamy can hone their skills in communication, problem-solving, and setting and maintaining boundaries.  If you eventually close the relationship, these skills are still valuable.

Are there any disadvantages to open dating to consider?

While open dating can have a lot of benefits, they also come with some risks. One of the biggest dangers of nonmonogamy is that it can be used to cover up underlying problems in a relationship. If you’re not communicating well, or if you’re feeling jealous, an open relationship is not going to fix those problems. In fact, it could make them worse. So before you decide to open up your relationship, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Otherwise, you might just be setting yourself up for failure.

How should you bring it up with your current partner?

If you’re interested in exploring non-monogamy and your partner is firmly opposed to the idea, it’s likely that the two of you are not compatible. It’s not impossible for someone to change their mind about open relationships, but it’s also not fair to ask someone to do so if they’re not ready. If you’re in a preexisting relationship and only one person wants to open things up, it may be necessary to break up. However, if you’re both willing to talk about the issue and keep an open mind, you may be able to find a solution that works for both of you.

Dating sites for the non-monogamous

When it comes to finding other open-minded individuals, you have a few different options. The area around you might have a gay bar, sex-positive social club, or other venues that attract an open-minded crowd.  For those who live in more rural areas, the internet might be the best bet. Sites like SwingTowns make it easy to connect with people who are interested in exploring non-monogamous relationships. And for those who are just beginning to dip their toes into the world of open relationships, SwingTowns is a great place to start. On the site, you can easily strike up conversations with people that are also new to this lifestyle or that have some experience with it.Plus, the site offers a friendly and inclusive space for people of all genders and orientations to explore their sexuality.   So whether you’re looking for your next great love or just a fun fling, be sure to check out SwingTowns.

How do you establish ground rules?

Here’s the truth: This is the wrong question. By understanding the differences between boundaries, agreements, and rules, you will be able to better understand why.

It is crucial to remember that boundaries are about us, not our partners. We become more responsible for our hearts, minds, bodies, and time as a result. We cannot control or dictate how your partner uses barriers when they have sex with other partners; that is their own business. However, we control how we use our bodies and time. Setting boundaries empowers us to take care of ourselves first and foremost. In this way, we can focus on our own needs and desires instead of those of our partners, which can be liberating and empowering. Healthy boundaries ultimately lead to a more fulfilling and healthy relationship with ourselves and with others.

Agreements

In any relationship, it’s important that both parties feel like they have a voice and that their needs are being considered. That’s why, when two people enter into an agreement, it’s important to leave room for renegotiation down the line. Circumstances change, and what was once acceptable may no longer be. That’s why it’s important to be flexible and to be able to adapt as needed. It’s also important to consider the third party in any agreement. In many cases, the third party’s feelings, desires, wants, and needs are not considered as significant as those of the couple. As opposed to rules, agreements treat them like humans they are. That’s why agreements are more flexible and allow more room for compassion and understanding. If you’re ever in a situation where you need to renegotiate your agreement, remember that it’s important to be understanding and flexible.

Rules are disempowering

In general, rules are made by two people that affect those around them, but these people don’t get a say in making them. Generally, “rules” are attempts to control our partner’s behavior.

Usually, we make rules because of monogamous conditioning, which tells us that our partners aren’t capable of loving more than one person at a time, or that they will stop loving us if they find someone “better”.

When put into practice, rules usually end up being disempowering and unethical. Our recommendation when beginning your journey into open dating is to start with personal boundaries.

couple talking about open relationship

What emotional boundaries should you consider?

Rules about not falling in love with anyone else may sound like a good idea, but they will set you up for failure. This is because you’re thinking of love as a limited resource. After all, it’s impossible to predict who you’ll fall for, no matter how well you know yourself. Instead of trying to control your partner’s feelings, turn inward and ask yourself what it is that you really want in a relationship. Only by being honest with yourself can you find a partner who truly meets your needs.

In place of trying to come up with rules like this, turn inward and ask yourself:

  • In what ways do express my love? What are the ways in which I receive it?
  • In order to feel valued by my partner, how often should I see him or her? What are the priorities for my time? Is there a certain amount of time that I need alone?
  • What information would you like to know? How would I like to share?
  • Is there anyone I share space with and under what conditions?
  • In describing my relationship with others, what words do I feel comfortable using?

What physical and sexual boundaries should you consider?

When it comes to physical and sexual activity, there are a lot of different boundaries that people may choose to set. For some, it may be about sexual risk management, and they may only want to engage in activities that are low risk for STDs or pregnancy. Others may have certain sex acts that are on- or off-limits for them, based on personal preference or comfort level. And still, others may have different boundaries around when and how affection is displayed. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works for you and what doesn’t, and it’s important that all partners feel comfortable and respected. If you’re not sure where to start, talking about boundaries with a potential partner can be a good way to get the conversation started.

For example:

  • Where and with whom can I be touched? Are there any types of touch I would not like to give? Is there any type of contact I don’t want to receive?
  • What tests will I get done and how often will I get tested?
  • In what situations will I use barrier methods, and with whom?
  • When will I ask potential partners how recently they have been tested?
  • What is the appropriate practice for handling, sharing, and cleaning my toys?
  • Where am I comfortable having sex?
  • What is my definition of PDA? What is my comfort level when it comes to physical contact in public settings?

How often should you check in with your primary partner about boundaries?

In any close relationship, it’s important to check in with your partner on a regular basis. This helps to prevent misunderstandings and ensure that you’re both on the same page. However, it’s also important not to over-process your relationship. If you’re constantly analyzing and dissecting your interactions, you may miss out on actually enjoying them. That’s why it’s helpful to set a regular check-in appointment with your partner. You can start with weekly meetings and reduce the frequency as you become more comfortable. By making time for regular check-ins, you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap of over-thinking your relationship.

How do you bring your relationship status up with a potential secondary partner?

Right away.

To be transparent, you need to acknowledge that being polyamorous might be a deal breaker for a potential partner, and them being monogamous might be a deal breaker for you.

Here are a few templates you can use:

  • I wanted to share with you that I am currently in an open relationship, which means that while I can date casually outside of my relationship, I only have one serious partner.
  • I need to let you know that I’m nonmonogamous and I enjoy dating multiple people at the same time. Do you envision being in an exclusive relationship in the future?
  • I am not looking for an exclusive relationship and date nonmonogamously. What are your thoughts about dating multiple people at once, or dating someone who dates multiple people at once?

Does it matter if your secondary partner is monogamous or polyamorous?

One-sided open relationships, also known as mono-poly hybrid relationships, come in many forms. The couple may agree to open the relationship with the expectation that only one partner will “act” nonmonogamous, due to sexual orientation, libido, interest, etc. Monogamous people will sometimes date polyamorous people. Having this information allows the other person to make an informed decision about joining an open relationship.

As with any new endeavor, there is a learning curve involved in navigating nonmonogamy successfully. If both partners are willing to communicate and compromise, a mono-poly hybrid relationship can work well.

Should you have check-ins with your secondary partner(s), too?

Is it important to ensure that your secondary partner enjoys hooking up with you? Should you check in to make sure they feel respected and cared for? Yes, of course!

In any relationship, communication is key. For some people, this means having regular check-ins. Others prefer to let things flow more naturally, only checking in when there is something specific to discuss. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to how often you should communicate with your partner. The important thing is that you find a system that works for both of you and that you both feel comfortable with. If one person feels as if they are always the one to initiate contact, or that their concerns are not being heard, that is not healthy. Whatever your relationship structure is, you probably want all parties to feel comfortable communicating their needs and wants.

Where can you learn more about open dating?

When it comes to dating, there are a lot of different options out there. And while monogamy is still the norm for many people, an increasing number of folks are exploring nonmonogamous relationships. If you’re curious about nonmonogamy but don’t know where to start, one great way to learn more is to talk to friends who practice it. You can ask them how they established boundaries with their partners, how they handle jealousy, and what tips they would recommend for someone new to nonmonogamy. In addition to talking to friends, there are also a number of online resources that can be helpful. For example, you might want to check out articles on fluid bonding and polyamory, or this guide on polyamory. It will be easier for you to enter the nonmonogamous dating scene if you are knowledgeable about all the most important aspects of an open relationship.


Members of the SwingTowns Community can discuss this article and its implications on the lifestyle community forum. If you’re not a member, you can sign up today and see what you’re missing.


Cynthia

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