Open relationships, when handled correctly, can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding for certain couples. Finding potential mates outside your primary relationship, however, can be tricky. Luckily, we live in a world of Grindr and Scruff, which makes things easier. Weirdly, however, it can also make things more complicated.
Let me give you an example…
After chatting with a guy online for a while, getting a feel for what he’s like, and telling him what you’re looking for, you read those fateful words you’ve heard way too many times, “So I’ve been talking to your boyfriend…”
Suddenly what seemed like an easy hookup sends a pang of jealousy through your system, almost like you’re in a competition with your own partner. Over time, this can make you feel insecure, envious, or even resentful towards him, which is not a healthy in a relationship.
For an open relationship to work, you and your partner need to feel like equals, instead of feeling like you are pitted against each other or doing something secretive. The good news is, there are ways to wade through these precarious waters that ensures all parties feel confident, secure, and trusting.
Here are four important tips I often share with my clients who are dealing with this issue…
1. Transparency is everything.
The most important thing to remember is that you and your partner are a team, whether you play separately or together, and you want to be on exactly the same page. This means being really clear up front about your own goals and objectives and making sure you understand his as well. Researchers agree that the best success in open relationships stems from clear communication.
2. Set boundaries.
Being on the apps means discussing the territory–from what apps you’ll be on, to when you’ll use them, to who you’ll meet, to the “rules” around setting up a hookup, er, date. Maybe it really irks you when he engages in conversation with somebody you’ve already been chatting with, so you decide that, if this ever happens, he politely ends the conversation right there. Or maybe he wants to have a romantic night with you, but you’re caught up on Scruff. That can be annoying. There’s a time and place for everything. So the two of you decide when you can be on the apps and when you need to focus on each other. Whatever you decide, the idea is to create clear boundaries that work for you both.
3. Transparency between you and your potential dates is just as important.
If competition is an issue in your open relationship, right from the start, you should let anyone you’re chatting with know that A. You’re in an open relationship and if that means you play separately or together, and B. Your partner is also on the app (if that’s the case). Ask the person to let you know right away if they’re already talking to him and explain that you’d prefer they not be chatting with you both. If they are mature and respectful, then they shouldn’t have a problem with this. And if they want to be rude or judgmental about it, then they’re probably not worth your time anyway.
4. Try using different apps.
Of course, if overlapping conversations really are an issue and its leading to uncomfortable feelings in your relationship, then the easiest solution is for both of you to use different apps. You can stick to Grindr while your partner sticks to Scruff. That way you won’t be wading in the same pool. Sure, you might still have a little overlap on occasion with guys who like to “double dip” on multiple apps, but the chances aren’t nearly as high. And when that does happen, see tip #3.
Navigating open relationships can be delicate, especially when your options for sex outside the relationship are limited, and it can take a little time to figure out, especially if you’ve never been in an open relationship before. Bottom line: communicate fully, respect each other by agreeing on solid boundaries, and remember that no matter what, you’re on the same page.
Jake Myers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and the founder of Gay Therapy Space, the first online therapy platform for and by the LGBTQ community. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy.