1. Inform yourself.
There are a lot of references out there that will cover your concerns about starting an open marriage. There is empirical research on the subject covering everything from the number of couples involved in the journey of open marriage, the success of open marriages, and the problems facing open marriages. I know that you are ecstatic that you got to this point, but know everything you can before diving into this expedition. You may find that your decision was the right one. You may find that it is the worst possible solution for you and your significant other. One good place to start is the book Open by Jenny Block. She gives a good overview of open marriage from a women’s bisexual perspective.
2. Extensively discuss your rules.
Everyone’s rules will be different. You should be adamant about following them, but realize that things do change with every person you meet. Be willing to change some rules, but always be convinced about the ones that are extremely important to you especially if you feel the change would significantly affect the relationship between you and your significant other.
3. Protect yourself.
You cannot microwave your next potential partner. Know the signs and symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. Pick condoms that have the maximum protection over the ones with whiskers hanging off of them, or glow in the dark products. If you’re a young female, get the HPV vaccine if you don’t already have one. Know that it will protect you from the most common cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. Be safe when going out. Confide in a friend and let them know about your arrangement if you can. If you meet someone out and are going to have sex, let your friend know exactly where you are and what time you will return. Try and stay in the vicinity. Unfortunately, there are people out there who have the potential to harm you. Protect yourself from them. I’m not saying to carry an AK 47, but a taser or pepper spray used in the right way can disable any potential threat. Also, always plan for the best, but be prepared for the worse. Carry money and try to conceal your cash and credit cards. You would hate to be stuck somewhere and not have a way back home.
4. Expect growing pains.
Starting an open marriage is not easy. My wife and I tried going out together since I did not have any friends I could confide in locally. It turned into a disaster! So much that we decided that we would just go out with friends. Remember that starting an open marriage is filled with plenty of uncertainties. You and your significant other will battle over issues like jealousy, money for hotel rooms, and rule violations, just to name a few. Welcome to the abusement park!
5. Control your jealousy.
If your wife chooses a ripped six-foot-four sailor who just happens to be a transvestite, than so be it. Discuss the kinds of people you want to meet and under what criteria you will meet them. For instance, you may only want to meet people from out of town who aren’t married. You may choose not to date people at work. These criteria may be included in your rules. Try to stick to them especially if you are already out there on the prowl. It’s not nice to get a call at 2:30 in the morning to let your significant other know that you met a Voodo Priest, and they want to take you to Africa on a safari. Regardless, whoever this person is that your partner meets, check your jealousy at the door when they leave to go out. Know that they may just meet someone who fulfills a need that is important to them, and this may lead to an incredible sexual experience for them. Bottom line—get over yourself! By the way, jealousy is one of the top reasons why open marriages fail.
6. Honesty and trust.
Your significant other may have questions after a big night out. It may be about the rules, or details about your encounter. Some details may bring some electricity into your own bedroom. Try to oblige them if you can. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing details, make sure these feelings are talked about when first setting the rules. Trust your partner whole-heartedly! Trust that they will stay within the boundaries, and trust that they will talk with you if there is reason to change the rules. A break in trust can lead to heated arguments and feelings of resentment. It may even bring an end to the open marriage, and even the union itself. Honesty and trust represent the foundation that an open marriage is based on. It was there when you first became partners, so embrace and practice it throughout your open marriage.
7. Know you and your partner’s means to an end.
Ask lots of questions and know exactly why you and your significant other want to become involved in an open marriage. It’s really a simple question, “Why do you want to do this? What is your purpose for having an open marriage? What do you expect to get out of it?” You should feel comfortable with the answers to these questions. If not, then talk about it. The answers that you hear may relieve any fears you have, or it may help you to decide whether or not an open marriage is right for you. On the flip side, know why you are jumping into an open marriage. This is not an easy decision, but it starts with you. And this decision may just be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. You are the one who has to live in your skin. Honesty with yourself will make it a much nicer place to live.
8. Get ready to face the music.
Empiric research has shown that not too many people take part in an open marriage. If you chose to go public with your decision, expect the expected. Though there is a tolerance for alternative lifestyles, most people believe in monogamy. After they finish giving you funny looks, they may harbor ill feelings towards you because you don’t conform to beliefs that were taught to them by their families, the media, or their church. Again, get over yourself. You got to this place because you believe and want to practice your beliefs. This is a choice you made for yourself. If you’re self confident you will not care what others believe. So go ahead, if you like, tell them. When you tell a potential partner that you are involved in an open marriage, they will know up front what the expectations are, which could put you in a better position with them. If you chose to tell them later, things could get a bit dicy and unpredictable.
Jenny Block, in her book Open, tackles this problem with precision. She believes that most family members involved in monogamous relationships (or even children for that matter), know little, or nothing concerning the sexual practices or preferences of those involved. So, the chances of them finding out are slim to none as long as you are discreet. There are no guarantees that your secrets will always be safe, especially if you practice an open marriage in your own home. Your ten-year-old child will certainly have questions if someone is sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed. And remember, she will grow up to be an adult one day. Unfortunately, if you are one of those people who chooses to go public with their decision to practice an open marriage, the secret just may end up in their hands anyway.
10. Know when to say when.
Our rules for an open marriage includes stopping immediately when a partner wants to stop. Usually this is because of a major rule infraction. One of mine includes falling in love with someone else. If my partner falls in love with someone else, I believe it would destroy our family. Some open marriage participants believe that people involved in this practice have enough love for several people at one time. I’m not sure if I agree. My end point is to spice up our marriage, and give freedom to my partner to experience other people emotionally and sexually while maintaining a full sense and respect for our family. In other words, family, as well as our relationship, comes first and this is not negotiable! This is what we both want. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee against your partner falling in love with someone else. That’s like trying to stop infidelity inside of an open marriage. That would be ludicrous and almost impossible. This is the major risk to those involved in open marriages.
Hopefully your trust and honesty are strong enough between you both that it wouldn’t come to this. If there are signs that are pointing south for one of those involved, hopefully that person is strong enough to intervene, and maybe even to stop it before it goes any further. This carries over to any major rule violations. If you decide to end the open marriage, expect possible resentment from your partner especially if the practice has been going on for quite some time. The respect for stopping an open marriage starts now, in the beginning.