Dating someone who is in an open relationship: What you need to know

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There is nothing more important in a relationship than being able to actually define it, but as we all know, it’s much more complicated than it sounds – some people let their fears and doubts overcome their desire to know what’s going on between them and their partner.

Now, when we talk about traditional romantic relationships, one of the first things that come to mind is two people who share mutual feelings and are exclusively dating!

Basically, what people expect to have is a monogamous relationship, as it’s society’s standards. But, these days, as the dating world has evolved, not everyone chooses to make their relationships exclusive. Some relationships are open.

So, if you’re new to this concept and considering being in one, keep reading to find out what you need to know!

So what’s the deal with it, anyway?

To be honest, open relationships are one of my worst nightmares. I can’t really imagine my boyfriend being with someone else, nor can I ever want to be with someone else!

And it’s not because I’m so brainwashed by the patriarchy – it’s because I find one relationship exhausting already that I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to handle several men!

Open relationships are for emotional jugglers. These people can pursue physical and emotional intimacy with multiple people at a time.

Now, I know I can’t do that because I barely have the attention span for my boyfriend when he needs it.

So, if you are someone used to the traditional kinds of relationships, the concept of open relationships may come off as unethical or somewhat frightening for you.

Unlike the good old predictable relationships that most people know, the concept of open relationships can be pretty hard to understand and take in at first.

As humans, though, we can’t control our feelings. Let’s say you fall in love with someone who is in an open relationship, and you start to date. What do you need to understand before you start to dive into that world?

 Jealousy and possessiveness are normal

Revolving around multiple partners sounds fun and challenging, especially at the start. Trust me, I get the appeal. But for this type of relationship to work, of course, both partners in the relationship should be on board.

Now, let’s say you’re dating someone who’s in an open relationship. Your partner goes on dates, get intimate and has sex with someone else other than you.

You have agreed to these terms beforehand, but all of a sudden, you have these unwanted feelings of jealousy and possessiveness. You didn’t know what you had gotten into until it was actually happening right before your eyes…

What should you do? Take a step back and breathe.

Remember, these feelings are normal! You feel jealous because you’re afraid someone else might threaten your relationship with your partner or “steal” them away from you.

But you have to remember that open relationships challenge the very notion that we can exercise any type of “ownership” over our partner. It disrupts the kind of thinking that someone can “belong” to another.

So yes, it’s actually an entire cultural shift that is going to take a while to get used to…

If you’re really determined to make it work, then you must overcome these feelings. Acknowledge that they exist and tell your partner that you’re uncomfortable with the situation.

Admitting you’re jealous is never easy, but it can help you better control your emotions.

Know your boundaries

Aside from acknowledging that jealousy is instinctive in any relationship, even open ones, setting boundaries is also imperative!

I personally can’t imagine myself being in an open relationship simply because when I like someone, I don’t see anyone else.

Once someone catches my eye, my attention and affection are for that person only. For some, that might seem lame. But what can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic.

I want the type of love you see in the movies. The type of love you read in books. I don’t like the idea of an open relationship because being in it would make me feel like something is lacking from me.

Insecurities and trust issues may arise, and I don’t want to be in a relationship where I don’t feel secure. I would rather be single than be with someone who’s available for others.

There’s no judgment here. Personally, I like mine exclusive. 

If your partner is currently in an open relationship or is planning to engage in one, make sure to establish the expectations and boundaries that both of you should have.

When it comes to personal boundaries, you need to have ground rules with them.

Opening your relationship to other people doesn’t equal having a hall pass for basically anybody. Tell them the ones they should avoid, like common friends, workmates, or even people they had dated in the past!

Discuss your hesitation and explain your side early on so that you can avoid any possible conflict.

This can also apply to sexual boundaries. Let’s say you’re okay with your partner having sex with other partners.

Ask yourself: What acts are you or aren’t comfortable with? Be honest and specific as possible!

You can also discuss safe-sex practices to avoid possible transmissions of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Clarify your core values

Now, after you’ve identified some boundaries with your partner, it’s time to take a step back and assess your own core values.

This is important because your values describe the principles that can guide and motivate you as you go through life.

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Keep in mind that there is a primary partner

Speaking of exploring your core values, in this kind of setup, it’s crucial to include reflecting on respect. And with that comes talking about having a “primary partner.”

This person should always come first before others. They can give stability, emotional support, and a sense of security to the person who’s dating multiple people.

But the important question to ask the person that you’re dating is, “Is it going to be me or someone else?”

Now, before you think that sounds a bit confrontational, let me tell you why it’s necessary.

Being open can be exciting and fulfilling, but it can also be challenging to navigate without a strong foundation.

A primary partner can serve as their “home base,” a person to turn to when things get complicated or overwhelming.

This chosen partner can offer a level of commitment and intimacy that may not be possible with other partners and can help establish rules for the relationship.

So, make sure to determine if that partner is you or someone else to avoid petty fights as well as serious issues like emotional and mental distress.

As hard as it may seem, knowing this will help you better set the boundaries in your relationship.

Communication is key

When they’ve settled on a primary partner, you should know when and how to express your feelings and expectations.

Let’s say you’ve made the relationship open or accepted that your partner wants it to be, or your partner is already in an open relationship… Have you ever considered your own take? How open are you, exactly?

What are the things that make you uncomfortable? What are your fears? What do you hope to achieve in this? Do you want your partner to tell you everything that happened with their other lovers? These are some of the questions that you can ponder.

I’m going to play the devil’s advocate for a bit here and argue that open relationships are not sustainable!

At first, being in one and getting free passes can seem pretty good and very convincing.

It can even become this perfect fantasy where everyone is free to do whatever they want. However, relationships, as simple as they should be, are always complicated.

As human beings, it is normal to feel things such as lust and love. You may think that in open relationships separating these two would be easier, but it’s actually the opposite.

As you engage with more people, you form connections. How can your partner know whose needs should be prioritized first? Is it always the primary partner? What if the other one has a problem with more serious consequences?

So, these are questions that need to be addressed, and I hope you can get clear answers.

Listen, if you want your relationship to work, it’s best to make sure that your partner is on the same page as you.

Be honest about how you feel and be specific about the things that you want to know and those you would rather stay disconnected with.

Try to be open to new experiences

And if somehow you’ve managed to clarify all there is to know about your set-up with your partner, you should try to enjoy these new experiences!

It’s a big ask to see someone you care about go on dating other people, but I guess when you’ve managed to overcome and work on the negative feelings, you can start to appreciate the novelty of everything.

Dating someone in an open relationship may mean exploring new types of relationships and experiences, so it’s important to be open to trying new things!

Here are just a few examples of the things that you can do:

  • Going on dates with other people
  • Traveling with multiple partners
  • Engaging in group activities, like joining a sports team, taking a class, or participating in a hobby with your partner and their other partners.
  • Trying new things sexually with the consent and communication of all parties. Exploring new sexual experiences and fantasies can be a rewarding and exciting experience, so don’t be afraid to try it out if you feel like it!

The pros and cons of an open relationship

Now that you know the essential things to do or clarify when someone you’re dating is in an open relationship, let’s check and see if it aligns with you and your values.

But before we can do that, we must first establish the benefits and disadvantages of this situation. If you find yourself agreeing or rejecting some of these points, you’d be one step closer to knowing where you stand.

So, an open relationship may seem wrong to the uninitiated. For some people, especially if they’re still so used to the traditional way, it can be seen as glorified cheating.

But for some, the concept is a blessing. But what are the consequences? Are they good? Are they bad? I guess you’re just going to have to decide for yourself.

Before you commit yourself to this experience, give it a hard think. Here’s a personalist list of some of the pros and cons:


  • You have emotional freedom
  • There’s lesser pressure on you since there are multiple partners
  • You will get to know yourself better
  • Openness


  • Jealousy and trust issues could arise
  • Risk of STDs and other diseases
  • The relationship could turn into a competition
  • Secrecy
  • Potential drama

Final thoughts

It’s time for me to act like a cautious virtual best friend and hit you with some brutal honesty. Personally, I find this type of relationship both exciting and stressful. But I’m not here to judge.

It might just be that I’ve been monogamous for the longest time that I find this all very confusing. But for some people, it works. For others, it’s just not something that they can tolerate.

And whether open relationships are doable and realistic depends on the people involved in the relationship and their willingness to maintain it. If you’re curious and open to exploring, it may work for you.

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