Life Relationships Open relationships: Do rules really matter? Fidelity isn’t as straight-forward as heteronormative values would have you believe. Many of us are in non-traditional relationships, whether they are open, polyamorous or a throuple (or more). In our fidelity survey, 35% of you told us you’ve had (or are currently in) an open relationship, while 35% of people who have never had one said they would consider an open relationship in the future. Keys to success What makes a successful open relationship? As with more ‘traditional’ partnerings, there are ways to make a relationship work. We asked those in an open relationship what the keys to making it successful are. An overwhelming 93% cited honesty as the major force behind a successful open relationship. This was followed closely by 87% of people stating that rules and boundaries are what makes it work. 62% want safer sex (condoms/PrEP), and 47% believe exes should be out of bounds, as well as not having sex with mutual friends at 43%. 24% believe that only having one-off sexual encounters outside the relationship is the way to make it work, while 15% only play together with another guy. “For us it’s all about transparency,” says Alan, 34. “We play together and apart. When we play with others we don’t necessarily have to agree it in advance but we always share the details after. Not only does it keep our relationship honest, it also inspires our own sex life because it’s titillating. Taking videos also helps.” How to open up When is the best time to open up a relationship? From the start? A few years down the line? And how do you do it? “We were talking after being together for over five years that we wanted to explore our fantasies,” explains Simon, 28. “We both wanted to try a threesome together as both of us had them in the past. We decided to find a guy and give one a go. If it was something one of us didn’t like we wouldn’t do it again. We set very strict rules, and over time these have changed a little but some we will not budge.” “We were in a long distance relationship and saw each other every three to four months. It was seen as a way of fulfilling sexual desires,” says Tyla, 20. Sometimes it is discussed upfront as a relationship begins, as with 30-year-old Sam: “It was discussed early in the relationship as something that may happen eventually. After about 18 months we made the decision to open our relationship up.” Similarly with Rex, 44: “We discussed it on our first date. Neither of us wanted to lie from the start. But we didn’t open up straight away, even three years in we are still mostly closed and only rarely do anything with other people, at the moment always together. We’re in no hurry to go any further yet.” For some, it happens by chance. “After nine years together we had a threesome with a guy we met in a club,” James, 37, tells us. “A year later we had another one in a sauna. It only works for us because we are clear about what we want.” And sometimes it’s the result of a failed monogamous relationship. “After infidelity we decided to open it,” explains David, 22. Breaking the boundaries It’s impossible to ‘cheat’ in an open relationship, right? Wrong. 40% of you said that you’ve had issues in an open relationship where you or your partner has broken the rules. “We’re not allowed repeated meets, but this happened on one occasion. Discussion of this led to a changing of the agreed rules, as it was shown to not be as big a deal as first noted... ‘its just sex’,” says Tyler, 20. “Both of us broke the rules and had a difficult discussion but we resolved it after a long frank weekend. We gave time to resolving the issue,” says Martin, 65. “Sometimes there is emotional intimacy involved with people we play with. This can get tricky but with honesty we can usually dodge the land mines,” says Paul, 31. Breaking the set boundaries can also cause arguments. “On at least two occasions we had a big row. This involved my snooping and finding out his interest in S&M scenarios, and an argument over a Dorothy Squires concert, which is not my kind of music,” says Tony, 65. Sometimes punishments are enacted when the rules are broken, as with 35-year-old Craig: “He forgot to tell me about a meet. He spent two nights on the sofa as a result.” Sometimes things go beyond the brink. “We had threesomes on holiday and they were so good that we started playing back home,” explains Lal, 39, “but when someone was presented that I wasn’t into and my partner at the time drunkenly told me he was going with him anyway without me. I knew our relationship was over. The trust and respect was gone.” “My ex started sleeping with an old ex partner, who he tried to bring into our relationship as a polygamous relationship. Unfortunately I couldn’t stand him so the relationship ended,” Oli, 29, tells us. Moving out of monogamy We asked those who are currently in or have only ever had monogamous couplings for their thoughts on open relationships. Many couldn’t entertain the idea of opening their relationship up. “I couldn’t stand the thought of my husband being with someone else. It would drive me mad,” says Freddie, 33. “I’d have too many self-esteem issues and fear that I wasn’t good enough,” explains Mandy, 19. “I like the idea of an open and active sex life with more than one partner, but jealousy and trust issues would worry me that I couldn’t have an open relationship,” says Jamie, 36. However some are more open to the openness. “The important thing is that boundaries are set. Each couple is different therefore it’s only natural that some relationships would be more suited to polyamory than others,” says Cal, 20. “Sometimes it’s the best option for both parties,” thinks John, 25. “Sex and love aren’t mutually exclusive.” “So long as there are rules it could open up possibilities to new sexual experiences,” says Harry, 21. The best way to do it So, what is the best way to open a relationship? “Make sure you have rules, discuss them and stick to them,“ advises Simon, 28. “Remember they can be changed but that can only be after a meet, and after discussions. Don’t suddenly do something you haven’t agreed on during a meet, as that’s a big no no in my book if you do.” “Make sure both of you are 100% OK with it,” thinks Tyla, 20. “If you are very much into it, your partner may go with it in the hopes that it makes you happier in your relationship. If they show an aversion, it’s because they don’t truly want this, and you should respect that and discuss it.” “Learn to communicate with each other properly, you need to be able to speak freely without fear of recrimination. Understand that you and your partner may have different tastes and enjoy this diversity,” 30 year-old Sam advises. Keep testing When you’re in a relationship, you might think testing for STIs and HIV are a thing of the past. However, if you are in an open relationship and have multiple partners, it’s important to keep you testing routine, even if you are using condoms. Depending on the type of sex you have, test for HIV at least once a year and test for STIs every six months.