In this blog I am mostly talking about the 5 steps to open your marriage, but in some ways the terms polyamory and open marriage are interchangeable. The definition I use for polyamory involves more community building, love and long terms bonds. Open marriage has vast meanings depending on what people’s agreements are, but when I think of an ‘open marriage’ it doesn’t necessarily involve love or community building outside of the marriage and the trysts can be mainly sexual in nature, sometimes transitory. The steps below are more focused on ‘open marriage” but can apply to polyamory as well.
1) Strengthen your Marriage
Find a good counselor to work with you. Make ground rules for communications. A good technique to check out is Non-Violent Communication. Spend sometime to make sure there aren’t hidden needs or resentments. It is okay if there are hidden needs but if you can spend time now clearing things up and fortifying your connection it could Save conflict down the road. Some people open their marriages to have a sexual experience that is not happening with their mates. This can be okay as long as you are clear what you do get from your mate. What is working? Where could you be vulnerable? What values do you share that can help you in this new endeavor? Communication, strong foundation, clear shared values is the glue that holds you together.
2) Create a vision and clear intention
What’s your intention here? What do you want? This could be a good time to both to talk to your partner and also talk to a neutral party, someone you could truly delve into what your motivations are—without worry of unearthing something you are not ready to discuss. If you are the type pf person who is challenged to know how you feel and what you need, slow down. Things can happen rapidly when you open your marriage so it’s good to know exactly what it is you are trying to achieve—before you open things up.
3) Make your own agreements born out of your needs & vision
I think of polyamory as innovation in relationships. Don’t try and ‘follow the rules”, create your own agreements that suit your unique needs. For example, you can say things like: “Under these circumstances I want to close our relationship for a while.” There are many degrees of openness. Just allowing your lover to describe their fantasies or attractions to other people is ‘opening’ your relationship up. This can also allow you to acclimate and learn about your limits before you go further.
4) Openness on a spectrum
There are degrees of openness. I know a couple who gives each other ‘golden tickets’. Each “ticket” is very clear, has time constraints and expiration dates, also void codes. If you are starting out this can be a good thing. Take your time, go slow, and try things out. It can make sense to take baby steps at first. There are so many ways to set up your relationship, explore what works for you.
5) Find a support system
Find a friend, counselor who is a neutral party and helpful observer. You need a space to hash things out if communications go awry—which they likely will. There may be moments when each of you blow it—with all good intentions. This is human. We all want to do it perfectly but sometimes we make mistakes in our communications or in what we thought we heard. This is very different than people who intentionally disregard your boundaries and agreements. Keep in mind bad behavior happens in the world of poly and monogamy—everywhere. Don’t put up with it.