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As much as nonmonogamy and open relationships are moving into the mainstream, it has become painfully obvious that a vast majority of the people who claim to want to participate in the lifestyle don’t have a clear understanding of how it really works.

I was going to make this post specifically about men, since it is men with whom I most often run into this problem personally—but there are undoubtedly some women who also get it wrong. Let’s just set the record straight once and for all, shall we?

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In the excitement at the prospect of being able to have more than one partner, sexual or otherwise, people often skip over the most important part of nonmonogamous and open relationships: communication.

Nonmonogamous relationships need open and honest communication.

Nonmonogamy cannot function successfully without an open and honest dialogue about expectations. If everyone is not definitely on the same page, the relationship—or situationship—is doomed to fail.

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These relationship structures come with a lot of responsibility, and there have to be clearly defined rules and boundaries. Some people seem to want to just skip over that part and jump right into bedding everything that’s moving, but that’s not the way this works.

Are there people who have a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in their relationship? Sure, and it is likely because they had a discussion and agreed that it would work for them within their relationship dynamic. But remember that every relationship is different. You have to make these types of agreements together.

Nonmonogamy doesn’t mean you can just fuck anyone you want indiscriminately.

Entering into a nonmonogamous relationship is not an invitation to fuck as many people as you want, whenever you want, without ever being asked about it. If that is the position you are coming from, you aren’t looking for a truly open and honest nonmonogamous relationship; you are looking for a hall pass, and that is something entirely different.

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The fact is, even if you do have an agreement to see and sleep with other people, you still need to take into consideration your partner and their health, safety and feelings.

Nonmonogamy means that both partners have the option, not just you.

Now, this point I am going to direct toward the men, because they seem to be the ones who struggle with it the most.

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If we are in a nonmonogamous relationship, that means each of us has the option of being with other people.

It does not mean that you have the option of being with as many people as you want while the woman keeps her pussy on lock for you. That’s not how any of this works.

Sadly, a lot of men claim that they want an open relationship, when the truth is that they want the option for themselves, but they want their partner to remain faithful. That is childish and unfair.

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For a clearer understanding of how to navigate the specifics of nonmonogamy, a good starting point would be the book The Ethical Slut, Third Edition: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love, by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. It’s what I read when I started out on this adventure, and it provided a lot of clarity for me. It tackles many topics related to the lifestyle, including jealousy, which can be a big issue.

At the end of the day, nonmonogamy is a choice that two people make when they decide to be together. Those two people need to be congruent at all times.

Anything less dooms the relationship to failure.