Just like every monogamous couple is different from the next one there is not one single form of a poly-relationship. Talking to friends and acquaintances, I have gotten to know something you might call the spectrum of open relationships.
If you wish for sexual diversity in a relationship, the best thing might be simply talking to your partner about wishes and expectations because let’s face it: the only other option is having an affair. I know that this is a hard step and takes a lot of trust from both sides. If one of the partners is not into the idea of opening up the relationship, this might result in an uncomfortable situation.
Still, I believe it’s always best to talk about what both partners want, even if they’re not the same things.
Some couples might start by talking about having a threesome and go from there. Some couples have open relationships, but only when they’re on a vacation or when one of the partners is away for a business trip. Some couples give each other the opportunity to stray sexually but only a certain amount of times.
The only thing all open relationships seem to have in common is that they have set rules and boundaries of what can and can’t happen. Breaking these rules is comparable with being unfaithful in a monogamous relationship. I only know very few people who are in truly polyamorous relationships. These are relationships where, aside from having sex with other people than your long-term partner, you may fall in love with other people or have multiple comparably important partners at the same time. I find these relationships to be the most complex and complicated, but for some people, polyamory works very well.
I am not saying that everyone should be in open relationships.
What I am saying though, is that some people might be better off, opening up their relationship if both of the partners wish to do so. No one is happy when an affair occurs: The one who had the affair feels guilty, the partner feels betrayed. The relationship you used to have is over after an affair. If you wish to stay with your partner and not break their trust, talking about wishes and needs before acting upon them might be a better way.
It is scary to talk to a partner about wanting to have sex with others.
If you’ve been asked something like that by your partner, this is not (necessarily) a bad thing. It doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t love you or doesn’t find you attractive anymore. It can also be a sign of how strong the bond between the two of you is. Coming forward to share secrets and hidden desires, even if they’re complicated and potentially hurtful, takes a lot of trust on both sides.
If you ever consider opening up your relationship, take your time, talk everything out, make compromises. The goal is to find an arrangement that fits both of your wishes and needs. Know that opening up a relationship will make things feel different and will complicate things. And remember, if it doesn’t feel right, it might not be right.
Suggested further reading:
The Truth about Polyamory by Psychology Today
Polyamory through my Eyes by Lady of Pure Filth
Polyamory and Commitment by Oh my Mermaid
The Selfishness of Polyamory by Life.Exe
Also suggested: Netflix’ series Wanderlust on the topic