Open relationships can be thrilling and filled with new surprises. We can hope all of those surprises are enjoyable, but that is rarely the case in real life. So how do you figure out when it is time to pause, change, or end your open relationship?
That is not a simple question. Things can quickly get fuzzy and enter uncharted relationship territory that is difficult to navigate.
One way to protect relationships is to define boundaries clearly and mutually agree on what is & is not allowed. As in any relationship, certain rules and boundaries are important: no matter how open people want to be, certain limits should be clear for both sides. Relationships are meant to be enjoyed and should make both you and your partner happy. Being on the same page is important in an open relationship unless you really like relationship drama.
The list of things to discuss like safe sex, romantic feelings, discretion, and everything else could go on and on. The point is that to avoid getting hurt and damaging your relationship, certain things should be clarified when you decide to “open” a relationship. One shouldn’t assume that things are clear until you both communicate your agreement. Like any relationship, an open one is based on agreements and common choices that need to be respected by both sides. We should also mention that opinions & preferences can change over time, so regularly check in with each other to see if you might need to adjust any of your rules.
Now let’s return to our initial question: when should someone leave an open relationship.
Any relationship can give you signals – more times than not, many of them – that things are not working that well. The most obvious signals include disrespectful treatment, constant yelling, lies, etc. These are red flags that you should address quickly.
The cornerstone of open relationships, of course, is openness. If you no longer feel there is 100% open trust & communication, you should address it before continuing your open relationship.
Communication and trust are critical to any relationship. Given the nature of open relationships, they are even more relevant. For that reason, broken agreements, lack of trust, and/or not feeling comfortable with the “open” part of the relationship are the most common issues and the bigger obstacles that people usually have to overcome to have a healthy and happy relationship.
Open relationships should comply with all the regular demands of any relationship and should never be allowed to make anyone “not so happy” only because they are “open.” If an open relationship isn’t working for either partner, it isn’t working for any partner and should be stopped. Simply pausing or stopping might not even be enough to save a relationship. You might need to consult a relationship counselor to repair the damage depending on your personal situation.
Leaving or Staying
Thankfully most relationships issues can be mended with a return to honestly & openness, especially with the extra help of a relationship counselor. Deciding if you want to repair your relationship or leave it is always a personal issue.
You might want to assess all of the good, not-so-good, and bad issues in your relationship. After you take that inventory, reflect on how they affect you. You might want to consult a therapist privately to help guide you through this.
Also, never forget that you – and your partner – have the right to change your opinion. Even if you agreed to be in an open relationship -or something smaller like bringing other people to your house- you may feel at a certain point that it hurts you or makes you feel uncomfortable, and it should be valid to change the rules after the proper discussion with your partner.
Both members of an open relationship need to be aware of each other’s boundaries and the complexity of this kind of interaction, especially if one or both are having your first relationship of this kind. If this is the case, it could be better to take baby steps and go slowly instead of changing the relationship quickly and radically in one single night. In that way, both will have the chance to explore their feelings and keep things under control before taking the next step.
There are likely things that you can compromise on and things you can negotiate. And there are probably some things that you absolutely cannot accept. Be honest with yourself and see in what category are the things that you don’t like from your present relationship and make a choice. And always remember that you are as important as the other people and both have feelings, desires, etc.
Make everything as clear as possible from the start -or at least from the moment you start feeling uneasy- and reach as many agreements as you or your partner may need. In that way, both sides could return to those agreements when anything feels out of bounds, and it will be way easier to solve things.
Open relationships can be tricky, especially if someone is taking their first steps into them. Society doesn’t do much to prepare us for this kind of experience. But that doesn’t mean that open relationships cannot be healthy and successful experiences. Just take your time to adjust, keep all the communication channels open, and maintain the same ethical standards that you would expect from your partner. However, if all this fails and even good and open communication and trust aren’t enough to solve your issues, it may be time to reevaluate things and maybe take one or two steps back.