Some couples prefer a traditional monogamous relationship, while others may seek out alternative options that deviate from the path of a culturally-defined “ mainstream” lifestyle. Any of these consensual relationship arrangements can be healthy, and they can also go awry.
As with any relationship, open communication, clear expectations, and firm boundaries are key elements to successful non-monogamous pairings. Just because the relationship is nontraditional does not mean that it is without limits; couples should set guidelines and periodically revisit these throughout their relationship. These guidelines vary widely for each couple; for instance, one couple may only feel comfortable with their partner sleeping with a member of a specific gender, while another may require a detailed account of all interactions.
Some couples may begin their relationship with an understanding that it is open or polyamorous, while others may choose this path down the line as their values and desires shift with age. If you are considering opening your relationship or are currently engaged in non-monogamy, a key aspect to consider is whether you are capable of experiencing compersion. Compersion is a term that means one derives pleasure or joy from the knowledge that their partner is receiving love or pleasure from another individual. Understanding this about yourself can assist in deciding whether or not it would be good fit to enter or sustain a polyamorous or open lifestyle.
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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P