Chantelle Otten

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You want to open your relationship…

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Open relationships, stigma and secrecy.

People commonly tell me that they are in an open relationship, but that no-one else can find out because of the job/family/children/community etc.

There is a huge mismatched now between how common open relationships are and how rare it is for an open relationship to be anything other than a secret.

This is a vicious cycle: The stigma incentivises secrecy, but the secrecy reinforces the stigma by giving the impression that open relationships are weird, strange and rare things that other people do.

Every person that I know in an open relationship has confidence in the bond they have with their primary partner, the love/sex with others is fun and inclusive, and there is support and trust.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to begin the process of opening your relationship, and how to figure out if it’s even right for you


One. Think and feel. 

This is the hardest part. It’s kind of existential, but the crucial part that no one else can do for you. What kind of life, what kind of love, what kind of relationship is meaningful for you? You need to think and feel into these questions.

Two. Understand there are limitations.

An open relationship is not a utopia, and not all close relationships can or should be opened. If you are starting off in a close relationship, it’s best not to make assumptions about how existing panel reacts to conversation about opening at. Instead…

Three. Learn.

Read books like opening up by Tristan Taormine, more than two by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux and Rewriting the rules by Meg John Barker. Connect with information and discussion groups online or go to local meet-ups if they’re available (we can discuss you meeting someone I know when you are back). Every relationship is different, and as we know, it may not work for you.

Four. Talk to the other party involved.

Your partner will need to do steps 2 – 4 as well and you will need to compare notes.

Five. Collaborate. 

Once you decide to go for it, remember that a relationship is like a work of art, with more than one artist. Adopting a creative mindset can make all the difference to the rest of the process.

Six. Customise.

Agree on what kind of relationship you want. The specifics of your friends. Some people use a formal relationship contract, others prefer to talk informally. Some like to think in terms of rules, others like in terms of what they comfortable with. However you do it, customise relationship with the people in the relationship. Step one matters so much here.

Seven. Change.

Relationships are living things. Think of them like a plants, it’s normal and good for them to grow and change. Plans that don’t do that I did. Feed a relationship and expect growth and change.

Excerpts from Carrie Jenkins Elle Australia June/July 2018