Deciding whether to open a relationship up can be a tricky question for most couples. What are the rules? How do we do it? How does it work?

For couples who communicate clearly, opening up the relationship can be relatively easy, whereas it can all turn pear-shaped for couples who don’t.

If you are interested in opening up the relationship, there are some simple tips and processes you can follow to make sure it is right for you, your partner and your relationship.

Why do you want to open the relationship up? Is it for more sex, a different type of sex or more fun with your partner?

Knowing why you want to open the relationship up can be a good conversational starting point. However, have you thought about how your partner is going to react? Is he going to be hurt, offended, angry or excited?

Be mindful that the conversation may not go as planned. It is often best to tell your partner that you are just talking about how you are feeling, and that you are not actually doing anything outside of the relationship.

If you both decide you want to open up the relationship, you and your partner will need to have an honest conversation about what you both feel comfortable with. This means deciding on whether you play with others alone, together, or a mixture of both.

Deciding on what can happen outside the relationship is also important. Is it oral sex, anal sex, group sex, anything? It is essential you decide these rules together as doing so increases the likelihood that you will both stick to them.

Another important discussion involves the rules around safe sex and what will happen if either of you slip up. Are you going to be able to tell your partner if you slip up and do you trust that he could tell you? These questions are paramount if you and your partner are having unprotected anal sex with each other.

Without talking through these issues rationally, you could be putting both your relationship and the health of you and your partner in jeopardy if things don’t go as planned.

Remember that opening the relationship up increases your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection so it’s important to have regular sexual health checks.

Being honest and clear when you discuss opening the relationship up is the best way to ensure that it is the right thing for you, your partner and the relationship.

For examples and tips, check out the relationships section of the staying negative website at www.stayingnegative.net.au

By COLIN BATROUNEY
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre

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