Some key tips for people exploring an open relationship:
1) Talk about it. No really, TALK about it. Then, talk about it some more. I tell clients one of the best things about consensual non-monogamy is it requires a LOT of communication between partners. And one of the most annoying parts of consensual non-monogamy is it requires a LOT of communication between partners. Talk about what you want...why you want it....what DON'T you want....why DON'T you want it. Explore it in the theater of your mind before jumping into the real world. But then take the leap. If you wait until you are absolutely sure this is all worked out...you'll never move. And, spoiler alert, even if you absolutely think you've prepared for all contingencies...you haven't.
2) Know what TYPE of consensual non-monogamy you want. I worked with a couple who had done the communication. They were both excited about opening their relationship up. They both went out on dates. They both supported their partner being on dates. They had amazing sex with others, and that actually heated up their OWN sex life. It was great. BUT...they hadn't discussed the level of connection they wanted. She wanted great sex with multiple partners, but her relationship with her primary partner would be the only emotional connection. He, on the other hand, needed emotional connection to enjoy a sexual experience with someone. He wanted to be with other partners and form a true bond with each of them, while still keeping his primary partner at the center. She felt betrayed, like he was emotionally cheating. He felt frustrated that she was changing the rules on this thing they had agreed on. For all the communication they had done (and it was a lot) they never explored emotions.
What type of open relationship do you want? Do you want to be swingers, where essentially both partners are together while they explore sex with others? Do you want a hall pass....if one partner is out of town on business she/he can do whatever? Do you want to actually DATE other people? And if so...can you stay overnight? What about safer sex? What about love? Figure out the structure of your open relationship. But recognize that structure probably will change as you explore, experience, and evolve.
3) Consider this a science experiment. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying (there's a lot of dispute whether he really DID say this...but who cares?) that he had never failed in his experiments. He had successfully discovered 1,000 ways NOT to build a light bulb. It's the same thing with open relationships. You probably will make a mistake...find something that you thought would work for you but doesn't. That's not a failure. It's one of the thousand ways NOT to do it. Good work!!
4) Feeling jealous doesn't mean it isn't working. Consensual non-monogamy can tap on a lot of insecurities and emotional vulnerabilities. That, believe it or not, is a good thing! Don't try to push the feelings into a corner. Explore them. What are you learning about yourself? How can you self-soothe? How many of your feelings and fears actually are realistic?
Most importantly, breathe! Know you will make mistakes. But, as long as you and your partner(s) have each other's backs (and sometimes fronts) you'll grow and learn from the experiences you have.
(David Singer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. He has more than a decade experience working with couples and individuals looking to find more intimacy and connection in their lives. He specializes in working with people exploring, experiencing and evolving in consensual non-monogamy. You can find him at LAKinkShrink.com)