As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in LGBTQ issues, I work with a number of same-sex couples, helping them to navigate their relationships and lead happy and successful lives.
Open relationships, “don’t ask don’t tell” policies, or inviting a third into the bedroom to spice things up are not uncommon in same-sex partnerships. These things, while still considered taboo in much of the straight world, can really help a couple thrive without feeling they’re being forced into boxes that aren’t representative of who they are.
That said, opening up a relationship is a big decision, and one that should not be entered into lightly. It’s a tricky road to navigate. If you want to do it successfully, here are five tips I often share with my clients:
Express your feelings.
It’s extremely important to have open and honest communication with your partner about how you are feeling in all aspects of your relationship, including your sex life. Are you feeling bored? Do you want to spice it up? Are you satisfied with how it’s going? Is there anything you’re concerned about or that you would like to change? Talking about these things will help illuminate what’s working and what you might need to change. Who knows? You may both realize that you want to open things up. But you’ll never come to that realization if you don’t talk about it first.
Determine where you are on the same page, and where you are not.
After having these intimate conversations, it’s important to figure out exactly what you’re in agreement on, and where you’re not. If one of you is totally 100% gung-ho to open up the relationship, but the other isn’t, it’s probably not a good idea to force the issue just yet. Success with open relationships comes from both couples having a clear and equal say in the relationship. Pay attention to any nagging intuitive feelings that you might not be ready for this yet. If you’re not, you may end up resenting the decision, or your partner.
Set detailed ground rules.
Once you’ve agreed to move forward and open up a relationship, it’s important to set clear rules. The more detailed, the better. This will help prevent unexpected consequences later on. When exactly is it OK to hookup with another sex partner? Is it something you will always notify the other about, or no? Are you agreeing to always do something together, or being on your own is OK too? How far can things go? Some couples might say oral sex is OK, but anal intercourse is too personal and, therefore, off-limits. Again, details are key!
Be clear you are still 100% on board, and create an “out clause.”
It’s never too late to change your mind. Before you finally seal the deal and open up your relationship, check in with yourself and make sure one more time that you don’t have any lingering doubts. If you ignore that hesitation, but move forward anyway, you may find yourself in over your head and feeling jealous, hurt, angry, sad, or any number of unpleasant emotions. Be 100% clear about what you want, and make sure you 100% understand what your partner wants, as well. I often recommend my clients create an “out clause”, which basically means either partner can pull the plug on the arrangement at any moment, no hurt feelings.
Schedule check-in times to talk
Don’t forget to keep the lines of communications open. Check in with your partner on how it’s going for him or her, how you’re both feeling with an open relationship, and if any adjustments need to be made to the ground rules. You can’t overshare on this issue. By talking about it, you’re actually building intimacy, which can only help things. You may decide it’s going awesome, you feel a newfound sense of excitement and exploration, and it’s bringing you even closer to your partner. Or you may decide it’s making you feel more distant from your partner, bringing up feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or resentment. Share those feelings, as hard as it may be.
The good news is, even if an open relationship doesn’t make sense for you as a couple, there are still other ways to bring excitement into the bedroom (role play, toys, new positions, new locations, et cetera).
The bottom line: Have fun exploring!
Jake Myers is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Boston College and a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy. Visit him on Facebook @jakemyerstherapy or at jakemyerstherapy.com.