Too Many Rules? Not Enough? How Rules Help or Hurt Open Relationships

Early on when exploring an open relationship, it seems like setting rules is the right thing to do because it creates a sense of security. Opening the relationship does indeed create a new dynamic that can bring up insecurities and fear, and that in turn creates a need to control in order to feel safe again.

Because one partner wants to get things going, they tend to agree to the strict rules made by the person less interested or more scared about opening the relationship. And the partner who is excited about opening the relationship will agree to almost anything just to make it happen, without thinking about how it will impact the relationship.

Possibly counterintuitively, too many rules, or too much restriction can actually lead to less success in an open relationship.

What Does the Word Rule Mean?

The word, ‘rule’ feels like one person being in control of, or in power over the other. It feels restrictive, and therefore has the opposite feeling and energy of “open”. It seems to also make one person in the relationship responsible for enforcing the rule and that doesn’t create a very healthy dynamic.

Instead of creating “rules”, I suggest having agreements, just because the mental position the word ‘rule’ puts people in. And, when it comes to the agreements, I encourage you and your partner to get really clear about what’s behind the agreements.

What do the rules mean? Where do they come from? How will they effect the relationship?

I found that most the rules, especially in the beginning, come from a place of fear and/or insecurity, which makes us not think clearly.

Should There Be Rules?

Let’s talk about expectations or agreements. One common agreement I hear is that partners only play together and not separate. There is nothing wrong with this, and yet it’s really important to look at what it means and what it could be hiding, because the rule in itself will not fix the problem.

Is the expectation based in insecurity? Do you have a fear that you can’t trust your partner? Are you afraid they will do things that you wouldn’t be happy about if they weren’t with you? Are you worried that they will like the other person better, get closer to them and eventually leave you?

These concerns need to be addressed, because what is behind the rule will come back to create tension later if not addressed. Consider what need you are trying to meet with the ‘rule’, and discuss it so you can get to the core of the belief, rather than having to deal with what happens later when problems arise. Remember:

“Open relationships will not destroy a solid relationship and will not save one with a cracked foundation.” (Source: No More Hiding: Permission to Love Your Sexual Self, by Dr. Rhoda Lipscomb)

Make a strong foundation and explore. If it isn’t for you, you have tried, and if it is, it can open up an entirely new and incredibly satisfying experience for you and your partner.

As you consider your options and how you may transition from monogamy to an open relationship style, I hope to be a resource for you. If I can help you get to the bottom of your fears and help you set up your open relationship for success, request a free consultation today at

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Greenwood Village, CO 80111
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