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If you, or anyone in your social media circle, watches HBO’s hit series Insecure the topic of open relationships (OR), or polyamorous relationships, is likely on your radar.

Molly (Yvonne Orji), one of the show’s main characters, found out that her childhood best friend Dro (Sarunas J. Jackson)  is in an open marriage and interested in having a relationship with her. After initial rebuffing the notion, Molly lets Dro jump into things, penis first. Now, she too is part of this nebulous thing called an open relationship (OR).

Why are things murky? Because communication with all parties is essential to avoiding an “I bust the windows out your car” moment, and we know how much folks love to talk honestly about uncomfortable subjects.

For starters, openrelationships.org defines the term as a committed relationship between two individuals who want to share a life together but agree to a non-monogamous lifestyle.  A core value for practitioners is that “abundance bring us over possessiveness.”  In order for these types of connections to work both parties have to be on same page. It’s not about parity, meaning each partner gets to sleep with, let’s say five extra people, per month. Instead it’s a couple’s decision to prioritize their mental connection over the physical and come to an agreement that satisfies the sexual and emotional needs of everyone involved. Like all relationships, ORs have rules. The more finite the boundaries are the better things go, as it reduces the chances of hurt feelings, confusion and disappointment.

The elephant in the room is that there is a stigma against open relationships. It’s easy to reduce couples who engage in them to “freaks.”Another issue is that in real life, and in pop culture, we encounter women who admit to only engaging in open relationships to keep their male partner from leaving, or to keep tabs on who he’s actually sleeping with. Obviously, all couples who engage in polyamorous relationships aren’t sexual deviants. Additionally, while we are inundated with stories of women who have said they later regret being in open relationships, there are many stories of those who love it. Ultimately, success and happiness in an open relationship is determined by how honest you are with yourself and how well you’ve communicated with your partner(s).

Learn from Molly’s ordeal. Here are some immediate ideas to vet before you get it popping.

1 Understand the nuances in polyamorous v. open relationships.

While folks may use the terms “poly” and “open” interchangeably, polyamory specifically refers to being in love with more than one person at a time. Open relationships typically have a hierarchy where one partnership is identified as the primary, and that couple has a tighter bond, and privileges, over all others involved.

2 Know the parameters of the open relationship.

Like driving a car, open relationships are easier to navigate when you have directions. Specifics matter. How many partners can each person have? Do people call the house? Are there date nights? Are there group dates? Are we doing this for a month? A year? A lifetime? What happens if we have children? Of course, all relationships require flexibility, but communication minimizes the occurrences of flagrant fouls.

3 Don’t bone friends.

Everyone has a sexy friend who they’d love to smack bellies and cheeks with…but if you’re already in a primary relationship becoming intimate may complicate the friendship. Can you really invite her over to family gatherings without thinking about taking a dip? Also, will she or he, and/or your main partner, be okay in close proximity together? What about emotional intimacy? Once you add sex, your bestie is on the same level as your main girl. It’s all drama. Play it safe and stay in the friend zone.

4 Trust your instincts.

If someone looks good but your Spidey senses say no at first, go with your gut. There is a reason your intuition is saying to stay away. Follow it.

 5 Keep the lines of communication open.

Open relationships require extra transparency with your primary partner. You have to let them know what’s up as soon as something changes because trust is the super glue holding everything together. That means you have to think before you act. If you’re feeling something— from interest in a person to a rule tweak— you’ve got to speak up. If not, you’ll end up getting screwed…and not the way you want.

S. Tia Brown handles all things lifestyle at CASSIUS, is a core expert on the Dr. Oz Show and a licensed therapist. 

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