Defending the Raven

Bisexual. Married. Man. Open. Read On.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Open Relationships

You may have read that I’ve struck up a fun online friendship with Wanton Maleness. I remember having found his blog when I first started blogging, but he had a full year on me and I never caught up with his archives. Plus I wasn’t so sure we had much in common. Me being of the bi persuasion and having the open-ish marriage things. And his being a pretty straight-forward (pun intended) sex blog about his adventures with his wife.

Well, I realized that I had been getting some isolated traffic from his blog and went over and read some recent posts. It seems that he and his wife are testing the open waters (again, pun entirely intended – WM will like these) and there were some subtle bi overtones to his interests. So me being my normal slutty friendly self I ended up emailing him after we traded some comments on each other’s blogs. His response came back asking me some more specific questions about having an open marriage and how SR and I make it work. That led me to giving him our full story and how we operate, including the recent developments.

This was not the first time I’ve had this conversation with someone. It often comes up with people we are trying to connect with – sexually speaking. Plus we’ve met a bunch of people in open relationships and have learned things from them about how they work.

I thought I’d share some of these things with the group. I list seven because, well, I wanted a hokey subject title, but in developing them as I thought of additional ones I realized that they fit into ones I’d come up with. This is not an exhaustive list for sure, but I think it covers the big things.

1. To thine own self be true. First and foremost before even entering into the conversation about opening your relationship in any way you have to be honest with yourself. Is this something you, as an individual, want? Something you’re interested in, excited by, and want to try? Or, are you doing it for your partner? If you are then stop. We had one awkward experience where it was very clear that the woman in the couple was doing it for her boyfriend. She wasn’t 100% comfortable with things initially and was very awkward over drinks. It wasn’t a complete disaster because she did get into things. However, this was very early in our exploring. We should have known better and not gone back to their apartment. It’s important for the health of your relationship, but also the comfort level of the other people you will bring in that this is something you are both into. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into something or to get caught up in the moment by something you might regret.

2. Like in monopoly, house rules apply. Everyone has their likes and dislikes when it comes to sex. I’m an open book and will do just about anything. SR doesn’t like anal. There it is. Other people we have met don’t “full swap,” meaning that intercourse across couples doesn’t happen. Some single guys we’ve been with weren’t really bi. There are various levels and sides to all of this. But whatever peoples rules are, make sure you know theirs and they know yours up front. That’s not to say rules aren’t made to be broken, but you have to be careful. Sure you can push the envelope on people. I can count three guys who’ve said they’d never kiss another guy and then later that night I have their tongue deep down my throat. But that’s an easy one. It can get more complicated when there are other couples involved and if you get into more intimate activities. You just have to know to make sure that if someone is crossing a boundary that they set-up ahead of time that you check in with all parties. We were with one couple where they said they didn’t full swap. The guy obviously wanted to fuck SR and went for it, but she made sure his wife was cool with it. She was. It was a great evening.

This is also a big one when it comes to the bi stuff for us. We are both completely and openly bi. That’s not to say that every experience has to explore that, but it is a preference. But if we’re with someone who isn’t comfortable with bi play then that’s something that needs to be known. And it needs to be understood that they won’t freak out just because one of us is. This is most true with guys. I’m not gonna push the bi thing, but I don’t want him to all of a sudden freak out if we’re naked and having fun and our bodies touch. It’s sex. Bodies brushing together happens. But if he’s gonna freak out thinking I’m trying something with him we’d rather pass.

3. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I think that equality is extraordinarily important. There are people who have open marriages where one partner plays outside of the marriage and the other does not. This is not what I’m talking about. That is something entirely different. What I’m talking about is setting up rules in a way where one gets to do something that the other doesn’t. The most common I’ve seen is where I guy can fuck another woman, but he doesn’t want another man fucking his woman. Yeah, sorry that doesn’t work. I think that’s just a breeding ground for resentment. This might be something would disagree one, but I think it’s incredibly difficult for a couple to remain “Ok” when someone is doing something that the other isn’t. Plus when you bring others in it can make things very difficult for them too.

4. Everyone gets a veto. We all have our types of people we are into. We also all go through the regular ebbs and flows of interest in things. In setting anything up where you are including others you have to be sure that they jive with both of you. Are they physically attractive? Is their personality attractive to both of you? Then are you both in the mood to do this. This can be an immediate question of planning for an upcoming night or even long-term. Do you still want to have an open relationship? Is it working? Do you want to take a break? For all these questions both people get a veto and its absolute and can be exercised at any time. And here’s the thing, there are no hard feelings between relative strangers, so don’t worry about the other person(s) being upset about things. As long as you’re honest and upfront it should all be fine. And if they are an asshole about it… you dodged a bullet of a bad experience.

5. “Can you hear me now?” is not just a cheesy line from a commercial. You know how in the Verizon commercial the guy is always asking “Can you hear me now?” Well that’s how you both should act. You should always be checking in with each other. I’m not saying that you need to have big conversations or ask how you’re each doing at every step. But depending on the situation its very good to go and connect one on one. When we’re out at a party or something and maybe we’ve separated we both make the effort to find the other one every once in a while. This is also good to do once you’re engaged with others sexually. It’s sometimes natural for certain people to click more than others. Make sure that in the excitement of it all you are not leaving out the other person. Also, if we’re meeting people casually for the first time and things are going well and maybe we’re ready to take the night to the next level I always make sure that SR is in the same place I am. There has never been a case where we’ve disagreed, but it’s always important to ask.

But the bigger thing about this one is that this is where communication is the most important thing in having an open relationship. You have to be willing to talk about everything. You can’t hold things inside or make excuses for the other person’s behavior if something upset you. Talk it out. If you don’t it will only be compounded. But it’s also good to talk about the good things like when an experience was great. Or when something new occurred. Share those things. It’ll only enhance the experience.

6. Change is a Force of Nature. People change. Relationships change. A relationship is not something set in stone. It is a moving, living thing. And you both have to be ready to move with it. So if you’ve opened the door to your relationship that doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. One of you may decide that it’s been fun, but now you want to dial it back. That works the other way. Maybe you’ve put heavy limitations on things, but are ready to take things a step further. You have to be ready for those changes and open to discussing them. That doesn’t mean that every change will happen, but you have to realize that nothing will be entirely set in stone.

7. 1 + 1 + x = 2. Always. SR and I have always approached exploring with others from the point of view that we see it as an extension of our marriage. It’s an extension of our sex life. It’s a way for us to meet new people and do new things or things we can’t do together. We’ve talked about all the various ways things can go for us (e.g. how open, polyamory, etc.), but at the end of the day it is about “us,” her and me together at the core. The “us” is always the focus and when its not is when we get into trouble.

Those are my thoughts on things. They really are based in my own experiences. I’m sure others will have plenty of comments to add.

By the by, WM and I have actually been having fun chatting. It’s amazing how similar we think and have often taken the words out of each other’s mouths. We also seem to have/have had similar situations in our marriages in a lot of ways. Of course, this would normally be great signs for Him, his wife, SR and I all getting together some time and such, but alas geography screws us – and not in the good way.

; ; ; ; ; polyamory


May 7, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Mark, this is a great post. I agree with everything you have to say pretty much completely. I think communication and honesty are by far the most important things to focus on in an open relationship.

    Your former Ticket to Zen,

    Comment by Evan | May 8, 2007 | Reply

  2. I love reading you when your thinking with your head.
    The correct head.
    Hugs and lots of love to SR…
    – me!

    Comment by e.e. | May 10, 2007 | Reply

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