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Having been in an open relationship for more than eight years now, there are some surprises about this journey that I’d like to share, especially for those who’d like some insight into the less obvious parts of this path.
Early along this journey, I read several books about open relationships, but reading about other people’s experiences wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped. The main reason is that people practice open relationships differently, so one person’s lessons and experiences often seem a bit alien even when you think you’re following a similar direction.
So in that regard, please take what I’m sharing with a grain of salt because it’s based on my own experiences and values. I suspect, however, that this will likely resonate with many of my long-term readers since we tend to be pretty well aligned in terms of our interests.
That caveat aside, here are 10 aspects of open relationships that surprised me somewhere along the way:
1. The Mindset Is More Important Than the Practice
It’s fairly normal in an open relationship to go through ebb and flow cycles. Sometimes you’ll have an abundance of partners while other times you may connect with only one primary partner (or even no partners) for a stretch. Some people are very active in connecting with new partners frequently while for others it’s just an occasional indulgence.
How you practice openness isn’t such a big deal since there are many ways to do it. What defines openness is more of a mindset than a specific practice. The practice still matters, but I think the mindset matters more because the mindset tends to flow into the practice. It’s also common to screw up the practice side if your mindset isn’t congruent, such as if you believe you must falsely pretend to be single to attract other partners.
When you shift into openness, you see your relationship life differently. New experiences become possible. This sense of possibility can be very empowering. Even when you aren’t actively practicing the openness aspect, just knowing that you have more options available can change the way you feel about your relationship life. Removing the fence around your primary relationship gives you a whole new outlook, even when you choose to spend time in the same pasture that was previously fenced.
When you’re non-monogamous and there’s no fence preventing you from connecting with other partners, life takes on a more magical quality. You never know when an interesting new connection could flow into your life, and when it happens you’re free to say yes to it. This adds a nice sparkle of mystery to an existing relationship since there’s always the possibility of fresh energy coming in and stirring things up a bit. I think this really helps to prevent a long-term relationship from going stale – the extra variety can be very healthy.
The mindset of openness can be tricky to fathom if you’ve only explored monogamy (or celibacy) up to that point. It might seem like too much of a good thing, too abundant, or too idealistic to become real. I get that. It does take time to wrap your head around it.
I was exposed to such ideas a few years before I began practicing this. Sometimes it seemed intriguing. Other times I was skeptical. Then I began to wonder if it would be possible for me. And finally I started leaning into it with action. This process took years, and it wasn’t linear.
You may have some limiting beliefs to work through before an open relationship style even enters your circle of possibility. But once you finally get the mindset, the practice is actually fairly simple by comparison. You basically just make invitations and say yes to certain invitations, and you explore romance, intimacy, and/or sexuality with different people concurrently. But giving yourself permission to do this and believing that it’s possible for you can take a lot of inner work. It’s pretty interesting inner work though, and that’s where much of the value is.
Although I don’t intend to go back to monogamy, I think that if I ever did, my perspective on relationships would remain forever changed by the experience of openness – and for the better. Exploring openness has been a part of my personal growth journey that I consider very precious, much like being vegan for 21+ years. Perhaps a good way to summarize it is to say that openness has helped me feel more connected and loving towards my fellow humans. I feel more welcomed and at home within the social web of humanity.
2. An Open Relationship Is Simpler Than a Monogamous One
On the surface it seems like openness would add complexity to your relationship life, right? There are more people to deal with. There’s more communication. There are more risks. There could be more drama.
When you first begin to explore this path, openness is indeed more complicated, but that’s mainly because you aren’t used to it. It seems complicated because it’s new to you.
Imagine moving to a new city. Even if the new city is more organized and easier to get around than your old city, you may find it more complicated because you haven’t learned the layout yet. The unfamiliarity makes it seem complicated at first.
Exploring openness is similar. There’s a lot to learn in the beginning. The mindset shifts can be tricky. But it gets easier as you gain experience. And once you’ve been exploring this lifestyle for a few years, I think you may find it simpler, easier, and more natural than monogamy. I do.
I’ll share some reasons why.
First, openness is simpler because there’s no need to hide one’s feelings of attraction. You can talk openly about what you think, feel, and observe, especially when you have a conscious, self-aware partner who can handle knowing the truth. Why play games when it’s simpler to be honest?
Second, it’s simpler because I can actually ask for my partner’s opinion about someone else, and I can expect her to be reasonably honest with me. Or she may just volunteer her opinion. She’ll notice things that I don’t. She may point out when she picks up that another woman is attracted to me. She’ll point out potentially interesting connections to me. She’s on my side, and I’m on her side.
Third, compersion (taking pleasure in your partner’s pleasure and feeling happy about your partner’s happiness) is simpler than jealousy. Jealousy is messy, complicated, and sometimes violent. Would you rather have a jealous partner or a non-jealous partner? Would you rather be a jealous partner or a non-jealous partner? If your relationships gets infected with jealousy, that just complicates everything. To move beyond jealousy, you have to work on your own feelings of adequacy, your self-esteem, and your alignment with abundance. That’s challenging of course, but in the long run, it’s so much simpler than dealing with the problems of jealousy. If you and your partner want to explore with someone else now and then, it’s simpler to say, “Have fun and stay safe,” than to attempt to say no and speak from a place of neediness and insecurity.
Fourth, in a monogamous relationship, you have less freedom. There are stricter rules to follow, and the consequences for breaking them can be more severe. An open relationship may still have rules, but they’re likely to be simpler and more common sense rules (at least once you get used to them). If there’s a rule you don’t like, such as not being able to kiss someone else you happen to like, how will you deal with that in a monogamous relationship? Will you suppress that desire? Will you argue about it? Will you feel slightly resentful towards your partner? I’d rather just enjoy a nice kiss. Then kiss my primary partner too. Kisses for everyone! Simple!
Fifth, in an open relationship, it’s harder to blame your partner for any shortcomings in your life. Because you have more freedom to explore your desires, you’re less likely to get sucked into blaming your partner or passively waiting for your partner to change. If you want to explore something, it’s up to you to go explore it. Why is this simpler? It’s simpler because it’s often easier to find a willing co-explorer on the side than it is to convince your primary partner to explore something they may not be into. It’s simpler to explore with the willing than with the unwilling. This hasn’t been a big issue in my current relationship because Rachelle and I tend to have very similar interests in terms of our explorations, but for some people in open relationships, it can be a pretty big deal. Look at it from the other side too. You don’t have to feel pressured by your partner to do something you aren’t into. Instead you can encourage your partner to go explore with another like-minded person and have fun. And it’s a nice relief to know that you don’t have to be on the hook for everything your partner might want to do that involves intimacy, sexuality, or romance with another human being. You get to explore together in your areas of compatibility and interest, and other people are available for everything else.
Sixth, suppose you get married or otherwise commit to your primary relationship for the long run. Is it simpler to accept that you’ll never connect in certain ways with any other human being again? Or is it simpler to stay open to the possibility of connecting with other partners? That’s a matter of perspective. I find the openness path simpler because it’s an easier and more flexible commitment to make; it’s not as rigid as a monogamous commitment. Openness makes life easier for my future self because he has the option (but not the obligation) to explore with other partners on the side if he so chooses. I haven’t fenced him in with my choices, so he isn’t likely to feel trapped.
Seventh, do you only have one friend? I’m guessing probably not. If you can maintain multiple friendships at once, why can’t you also have multiple romantic or sexual partners? An open relationship is a natural extension of having multiple friendships. Why not have a similar standard for both areas? If you like having multiple friends, you’ll probably like having multiple intimate partners too. Seeing openness as an extension of friendship really simplifies the mindset; again it only seems complicated at first because you aren’t used to it.
Eighth, maybe openness seems more complicated because it’s less mainstream that monogamy. But actually the most mainstream relationship style is pretend monogamy that includes cheating by one or both partners on the side (and attempting to hide it). So if you value the herd-based approach, go ahead and pretend to be monogamous while cheating on the side, and you’ll have lots of company. Or just watch a lot of porn – your choice. To me the mainstream options are as ridiculous as they sound when you spell them out; it’s hard to argue that they’re better or simpler just because they’re more popular. I think it’s simpler to feel abundantly loved and connected with people who like you.
I could go on here, but I think you get the idea. Again, openness may seem more complicated while you’re learning the ropes, but with experience it starts to feel simpler, easier, and more natural. I deeply appreciate the simplicity of openness, and I think the main reason is that it just aligns so well with my intuitive thoughts and feelings about relationships. It feels like a more elegant approach to relationships than monogamy (which is pretty inelegant by comparison).
As a side note, I had a religious upbringing that filled my head with lots of nonsense about the value of monogamy, and exploring openness was a terrific way to unload such baggage. It’s kinda ridiculous just how many ex-Catholics you’ll meet on this path.
3. I’m More Attracted to My Partner When I Explore With Others
The first time I had a threesome in 2010, I was a bit surprised by how much more intensely I was attracted to my girlfriend (now my wife) afterwards. And then each time thereafter when I connected with someone else, either one-on-one or as a threesome experience, I had similar feelings.
Connecting with others didn’t make me feel less interested in my primary partner. It actually made me like and appreciate her even more. I think there are two primary reasons for this.
First, when I connect with a new person, I can’t help but mentally compare and contrast some of her qualities with my existing partner. This helps me notice qualities that I really like about Rachelle that I might otherwise take for granted. I kept noticing more to appreciate about her.
It’s so easy to take a long-term partner for granted when you don’t have those contrasting experiences very often. Their specialness becomes normal, so you no longer notice it. But when you connect with someone new who lacks some of those qualities, you can still appreciate this new connection for what it is, and you’ll also be reminded of some things you really like about your primary partner. And that reminder will linger for some time afterwards.
Second, because my partner gets that I’d like to explore other connections now and then, I don’t have to hide this part of myself. I don’t have to pretend I’m not attracted to other women, or they to me. I like this level of honesty, and I like being in a relationship without cheating. Cheating is really about dishonesty, isn’t it? Having a partner that embraces such an honest relationship style makes me feel more attracted to her. I’m attracted to her groundedness, her understanding, and her commitment to a real relationship that isn’t mired in falsehood.
On the other hand, openness can also expose a weak underlying relationship. If you connect with other partners and find yourself feeling increasingly disconnected from your primary partner, that’s a hint and a half that your primary relationship isn’t as strong as it could be, and maybe it’s time to move on.
Near the end of my previous marriage, we tried being open for a while, and we separated within a year (after 15+ years together). In that situation the exploration of openness helped to cast light on deeper issues that we’d been suppressing, and in that respect it was still a good outcome. Our openness phase helped us move on with greater clarity.
4. An Open Relationship Is Less Aggressive
This one was a bit of a shocker to me, so let me ‘splain.
A common conception about open relationships is that this has to be a more aggressive relationship style. If you want to be open, you’ll have to stretch yourself more. You’ll have to be more socially assertive. You’ll have to hit on more people. You’ll have to put yourself out there. You’ll have to explain to lots of people what you’re into.
Some people even think that if you want some degree of abundance on this path, you’ll have to lie. People won’t accept your openness, so you’ll have to hide the fact that you already have a primary partner. Or you’ll have to hide the fact that you like dating multiple people at once.
Now here’s the truth. There are people who pursue open relationships who think and behave along these lines. But in my view, this is counter-productive. It doesn’t align well at all with my actual experiences.
I think the mindset of feeling that you have to be socially aggressive and really take the initiative, as if you need to solicit new partners every week, is rooted in scarcity (and sometimes in sexual addiction). It stems from neediness.
But what if you already have a beautiful, warm, loving, caring, and mutually supportive relationship? What if you already have a healthy sex life with someone you love… and perhaps even some other partners on the side? Do you think that would make you feel more or less aggressive in pursuing new partners?
In my experience, it’s just the opposite. An open relationship makes me feel at ease. I feel relaxed and laid back. My needs in this area are already well met by a terrific primary relationship. And as of last month, I’m happily married now too. So when I connect with someone new, I’m coming from a place of abundance, not neediness. I can just be myself and see what happens. There’s no need to push.
This may sound a bit hard to believe, but I actually find that a fairly passive relationship posture works well. I don’t go hunting for new partners. For the most part, I just let them come to me.
When I reflect back over the past several years, my most enjoyable connections had a similar pattern. The woman chose me first. She chose me before I even had the chance to choose her. On some level she had already pre-approved me, and then she took steps to get on my radar. After that, even if I felt in the moment like I was the one inviting something specific, I was really just playing along with what she was intending all along. She may not have even had a specific intention other than leaning into a connection with me; that’s all it really took.
This was a really interesting subtlety of relationships to understand, and I’m not sure if I’d have ever figured this out if I hadn’t decided to explore this path of openness.
These days I tend to just hold the intention that the universe will bring me whatever connections will be happy, healthy, loving, playful, fun, and growth-oriented for all involved.
In the first few years of this journey, I was more assertive because I thought I had to be. I selected women and did my own invitations, and by and large my choices didn’t turn out nearly as well as when I felt the woman had selected me first. It was the difference between paddling upstream and going with the flow.
This might sound a little odd or even circular, but in the long run, I discovered that the women I tend to be most attracted to and with whom I enjoy the best connections are simply the women who find me attractive. If a woman finds me attractive, enough that she’s willing to reach out and connect in some way, it’s very likely that I’ll find her attractive too, and we’ll probably have a good connection if we get together in person.
So the way I typically explore openness these days is perhaps the ultimate expression of laziness. Then again, you could say that it’s the ultimate expression of alignment and the Law of Attraction. For the most part, I just relax and let the universe bring me partners who find me attractive and want to connect. I pay attention to when a woman is dropping hints that she wants to connect and explore. Many times she’ll let me do the actual inviting, but the truth is that she chose me before I even knew what was happening.
Consequently, I’ve found this to be a very relaxed, non-aggressive path. It’s not crazy promiscuous, but it adds enough extra variety, connection, and intimacy to my life that I don’t feel any need to change it up. I actually feel pretty content just letting women choose me (or not) and responding in kind. Maybe someday I’ll want to explore this path differently, but for now I feel the universe does a pretty good job here.
Some people feel they must push themselves to reach out and solicit new connections, such as by randomly approaching people on the street over and over. Yet when I’ve talked to such people and ask them how often they’ve found good connections that way, their results are usually dismal. They can get people to go along on dates and such, and sometimes have sex too, but they don’t find it happy and fulfilling because the mind/heart/spirit connection just isn’t there.
I’ve felt that it’s more valuable to get better at listening and paying attention to the often subtle signals of interest that women express… and to make it easier for women who might be interested to reach out by adopting a welcoming attitude towards such connections.
Even though this may sound very lazy or passive, it also puts the onus on me to do my part. My part is to focus on being my best self. My part is to keep doing what I believe is good work. My part is to stretch myself and keep pushing beyond my comfort zone. When I keep living in alignment with my values, enough women that I like seem to find me attractive. I don’t have to go out hunting.
Do you find yourself attractive? Do you feel good about who you’re being today? Do you often go to bed thinking, Now that was an awesome day? If you can answer yes to those questions, I think that a fairly relaxed, open relationship style could work for you too. When you’re in the flow of living a good life, you’ll probably be attractive to others because people will want to enjoy and share some of that flow experience with you.
There’s one last key observation I’ll add here. My best connections with women include a lot of humor, laughter, and playfulness right from the start. Things don’t tend to work well with people who are too serious from the start. There’s a certain lightheartedness that makes openness work. That’s especially true of my wife, who is the funniest clown I’ve ever met. She and I make each other laugh every day, many times per day. Laughter is a huge part of our relationship, and it’s a significant part of other connections that flow well too. It took me a while to realize it, but I tend to be super attracted to women who are funny.
I think this humor aspect makes even more sense when you think of open relationships as an extension of friendship. Do you like sharing laughs with friends? I sure do. Even when I go to a professional conference, I’m naturally drawn to the fun-loving and playful people in the room. I love to laugh, and I love making other people laugh. So it feels very natural to bring this laughter element into my exploration of open relationships.
5. People in Open Relationships Are Safer Bets Than Single People
If I wanted to explore or play with someone else on the side, all else being equal, I’d favor connecting with a woman in an open relationship as opposed to a single woman.
This probably seems counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t a single partner be the preferred choice? They’re as available as can be, right?
Well… the woman who already has one or more partners has some additional social proof. At least one other person has chosen her. In my view that elevates her status a bit.
The single person is a riskier bet. This doesn’t mean she’s a bad bet, but it’s fair to say that the risk of a bad connection increases when we add the piece of information that she currently has no other partners. All this tells us is that she lacks the added social proof that a woman with a partner has. That might not be important, but then again, there may be good reasons that she’s currently single.
Getting involved with a single person is a bit like buying a product from Amazon with no reviews. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but it’s a little riskier than buying something with more social proof.
If there’s the opportunity to see this person interacting with another partner before deciding to get involved yourself, that’s even better. It’s better because it gives you more information upon which to make an informed decision, especially when it comes to leaning towards a deeper connection or not.
If a woman already has one or more relationship partners, and she wants to connect, that’s refreshingly simple. I don’t have to explain my lifestyle to her. She’s likely to accept and understand that I have a relationship partner too. It’s likely to be a drama-free connection.
For the single woman, I have to do more work up front to qualify her. I don’t know if she’ll understand and accept my lifestyle. And even if she claims to understand, I don’t know if she can handle a non-exclusive connection unless she already has prior experience in that space.
When everyone already has at least one other relationship partner, then new connections tend to be more about exploration, play, and connection, and they’re less likely to be infected with neediness. If a woman already has a stable partner, her biggest emotional needs are probably already met, and she doesn’t want or need me to fill the role of her primary partner. This can elevate the quality of the connection, making it more heart and spirit aligned for those who want that kind of experience.
People in open relationships generally don’t like drama, and they’re often good at sniffing out warning signs of potential drama. One of the big warning signs is when someone talks about previous relationship partners in a highly toxic way, like if they’re full of resentment or if there was violence involved. This will be a big red flag to many people in open relationships. They may still connect on the basis of friendship, but they probably won’t want to go deeper because the risk of drama is just too great. It may not seem fair, but I think many people in open relationships would agree that the best predictor of future drama is past drama.
Some people actually like the added excitement that a high-drama partner will add to their lives, but for the most part those who are in stable, long-term open relationships tend to avoid drama like the plague.
Having a dramatic past isn’t an immediate kill switch though. The real question is whether someone has healed, forgiven past transgressions, and moved on from resentment. Are they ready to explore a conscious, open-hearted connection with someone new?
Additionally, open relationships generally require a conscious choice. People usually invest a lot of thought and reflection in this possibility before deciding to actively explore it. So if someone is exploring this path, even if they’re just starting out, they’re likely to be more self-aware than most. They’re also likely to be better at communicating their thoughts, feelings, and desires. Sustainable openness requires good communication.
There are of course some unstable people in open relationships, but I tend not to encounter them much because we run in different circles. They usually end up damaging their reputations after a while, word gets around, and then people avoid them.
Now you may be wondering why someone would want to connect with someone non-exclusively. People in open relationships can’t offer exclusivity like the single person can. If you find an amazing partner and want to be exclusive together, that’s great. But what if you can’t find that exclusive special relationship? How long should you wait? That’s a situation where a nice non-exclusive connection (or multiple ones) can keep you in the flow of love, intimacy, and sexuality.
As one very open friend of mine likes to put it, which would you prefer: 100% of a loser or some lesser fraction of a winner? That may be a bit harsh, but I think he has a point. There are some pretty fascinating people in open relationships, and you may find such connections wonderful to explore, as long as you can accept that you won’t be their sole partner if you do so. This could be more worthwhile than a full-time experience with a weaker match who’s 100% available to you.
6. Openness Increases Commitment
One of the most common myths about open relationships is that you must be less committed to your primary partner if you also explore intimate connections with other people. If you think about it, this doesn’t make much sense though. It’s an easy myth to dispel.
If you swear off all other friendships, does that mean you’re more committed to your best friend? Of course not, but it may mean that you’re going to be a whole lot needier with that one and only friend.
Do you need to rely on social pressure to ensure that your primary partner stays with you? What would happen if s/he has the option to connect with other people on the side? Does that possibility scare you a little? Does it make you feel less secure? How committed is your relationship if you need to lean on social pressure to preserve it?
If your relationship is strong enough to handle openness, and you and your partner still willingly choose to be together, I’d say that’s a stronger sign of commitment than trying to impose extra rules to prevent the possibility of escape. If you need those extra rules to secure your relationship, maybe one of you should be looking to escape. Maybe the compatibility isn’t as strong as it could be.
To secure an open relationship, you have to keep investing in it. You can’t take your partner for granted as easily if the door to other connections remains open.
You also have to maintain your commitment to self-development. Be an attractive and interesting person. Live in alignment with your values. Be an intelligent choice for your partner in the presence of other options.
Another thing that increases the feeling of commitment is knowing that you don’t have to break up just to play with someone else now and then. If a side connection is a threat to your relationship, then how secure is the relationship? A flexible relationship can easily feel more secure and committed than an inflexible one. It’s the difference between bending in the wind versus cracking in the wind.
Monogamous relationships also invite more lying, especially when side connections are explored and kept secret (which is incredibly common). Is a less honest relationship a more committed one? You could argue that it’s more committed if people will hide the truth to preserve the relationship, but then what are they really preserving? They may be preserving their living arrangement, but their commitment to the actual relating part is weakened.
There’s another layer to this. I feel that openness has increased my overall commitment to women. On this path I haven’t been able to hide behind a singular connection with one woman and then block deeper connections with all other women for the rest of my life. The door remains open, and sometimes another woman chooses to walk through and explore a connection with me. Sometimes these experiences take me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it would be easier to say no to the additional learning and growth that comes from connecting with different partners. So I perceive openness as the greater commitment to be made, especially in terms of my commitment to lifelong learning and growth.
7. Criticism Fades Once You Own Your Path
When I first leaned in this direction and wrote about it publicly, I received a mixture of support and criticism – mostly the latter. That continued for some time, and the degree of criticism seemed to reflect my own uncertainty.
As I grew more comfortable with this path and gained experience, I became increasingly convinced that it was the right relationship style for me. As my confidence increased, the criticism faded in kind.
That criticism is largely non-existent today. I don’t remember the last time someone gave me negative feedback about this aspect of my lifestyle, even though my old posts about it continue to attract readers. More often I receive questions from people who are leaning into this lifestyle for the first time, and I also hear interesting stories from people who’ve been open for a while.
I feel that the best critics are good at sensing my inner objections, and they reflect my objections back to me. They object to something I share because part of me is objecting on the inside. They can smell my incongruence from a mile away, and that’s when they feel the greatest need to make their voices heard.
But when I’ve pursued a certain path long enough to resolve my own objections, there’s not much for a critic to latch onto. They could still criticize me, but they normally wouldn’t bother. It would be akin to criticizing a rock for being a rock. The rock will remain nonplussed, and the critic just appears foolish for making a pointless effort.
On a side note, this was also a good lesson in terms of exploring desires. Openness invites the exploration of a greater number of desires – romantically, sexually, socially, etc. How confident do you feel about sharing your innermost desires with one or more partners? Do you have any internal objections to experiencing what you want? If you object on the inside, you’ll continue to attract external objections too. So you have to learn to own your desires as well and work through any objections you may have to actually experiencing them.
Do you feel that some desires are too much to ask for? Do you feel you must do extra work to earn them in some way? Of course all you really need is a willing partner, and there are probably many people who’d be willing to share an experience with you if they only knew of your interest.
8. Many People Are Secretly Open
When I went public about being open many years ago, in some ways it was like unlocking a door to a secret society, where the only people who can get access are those who consciously choose this path. People I’d known for years soon revealed to me what I’d never known nor even suspected about them. They too were into open relationships in some fashion.
Why didn’t they tell me sooner? The simple answer is that they didn’t know if I’d be cool with their lifestyle. People in open relationships tend to be highly allergic to judgment, and they won’t often share such details about themselves unless they trust you to be judgment-free about it.
When I opened up about my openness publicly, this act automatically earned the respect and trust of certain people, and it convinced some of them that they could trust me too – not just with the truth but also that they could trust me to keep their secret.
Based on this I’d say there’s a good chance you already know some people who are in open relationships right now. You may even be close friends. But they’ll continue hiding this truth from you until and unless they become convinced that they can trust you to: (1) be cool about it, and (2) keep their secret. You’ll usually have to make the first move if you want such people to trust you enough to share such info.
Does this mean you have to be into open relationships too? That depends on the people. Some will probably come out of the woodwork if they see you declaring your support for their lifestyle, even if you’re not into it yourself. Others will only share the truth with true insiders.
If you want to enjoy some nice connections with people who are into openness, it’s wise to be discrete. Many people prefer to keep such pursuits private, especially if there would be negative consequences for their careers and/or social lives if these explorations were known to the world. Blogging about this topic like I’m doing is unusual. There are other bloggers who are in open relationships but never write about it. I’m fine with sharing my own journey, but it’s important to protect other people’s privacy, so I’m intentionally vague on some of the details. I think that’s a reasonable balance.
9. Finding Partners Is Easier Than Expected
One reason I didn’t explore openness for a while was that I assumed it would be difficult to find like-minded people. That turned out to be a limiting belief – and not actually true.
As it turned out, finding like-minded partners was fairly easy after I passed a certain tipping point and said yes to this exploration. I felt pretty welcomed on the other side during the first few years.
This is another area that gets easier as you go through certain mindset shifts. We tend to overcomplicate this, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
In terms of action steps, two simple strategies work pretty well: Make invitations and also broadcast your interest in non-exclusive connections. Let people know that you’re interested in this, either individually or en masse.
If you object to doing this, then what are your objections? You can actually list them out and analyze them one by one. Are you ashamed of openness? Do you think it’s too slutty? Are you worried about being judged or rejected by others? Are you worried that someone might actually say yes to an invitation, and then you’ll actually have to go through with it? Do you have body image issues?
Note that despite your objections, people like you are already exploring this. It may seem like a big mindset shift, but that mindset shift is the key to the club. We’ve all gone through similar shifts. We’ve all had to work through similar objections. We’ve all had to lean into this with action and face our fears. And the fear dissolves because the fear is irrational.
The toughest part is working through your own resistance and getting your mindset right. The problem of finding good partners is more about inner work than outer effort. The external side is actually pretty easy. It can be as simple as telling someone you like him/her and seeing what happens next. Summoning the courage to do this is the hard part, especially when you’re just starting out.
10. Openness Is Sustainable
I’ve heard some people claim that open relationships aren’t sustainable and that they’re usually short-lived, like a year or two at best. I’d say that may be true for some people, but I know plenty of couples who’ve been going strong for many years on this path with no end in sight. I also know individuals who embrace openness year after year, even if they change up their primary relationships or choose not to maintain a single primary relationship.
There are many ways to explore openness, and it can be sustainable as a long-term path if you want it to be. For me it certainly feels sustainable, and I don’t see a compelling reason to return to monogamy. If my partner and I can handle keeping the door open, why close it?
Some people do choose to return to fenced relationships after exploring openness for a year or so. I don’t see myself going that route, but it’s really a matter of personal choice. I explored monogamy for many years (without any cheating), but I feel that part of my path ran its course, and I don’t see much value in revisiting it. Might I change my mind about that someday? Sure, I suppose it’s possible. But presently I still prefer openness. It adds some extra sparkle to life and keeps me on my toes. It provides an extra mechanism for the universe to surprise me, delight me, or just to throw me an occasional curve ball.
I’m grateful for this relationship style and especially for those who blazed this trail long before I began exploring it. I’m also grateful for the beautiful connections I’ve enjoyed with certain women along the way – connections I might have failed to embrace if not for a mindset shift in this direction several years prior.
What’s your opinion on open relationships? Do you ever see yourself exploring such a relationship style?