An Open, Long-Distance Relationship Can Work, As Long As You Have This Conversation With Your Partner First
There are a number of reasons why an open, long-distance relationship might be the right move for you and your boo. Perhaps your partner will be away this summer, interning in a city far away. Maybe next semester will bring your turn (or your bae's) to study abroad. Whatever the reason, with distance now coming into play, you know that you'll be missing sex and cuddles and all physical touch. Breaking up probably isn't the right answer, but staying strictly monogamous seems incredibly challenging.
When it comes to relationships, the words "open" and "LDR" can feel a bit daunting. They can be scary because both types of relationships require a lot of trust. You have to trust that your partner is being forthcoming about who they're sleeping with and when. You also have to trust that they want to see your LDR through and will make the effort to come back to you.
Open and long-distance relationships also require a lot of communication. If you're thinking it might be a good fit for your summer or semester, there are healthy ways you can address those concerns.
Step one is to talk to your partner! If you are trying to figure out if an open LDR can work for you, then it's important that you two are on the same page — specifically about expectations. Here are the main two talking points to help guide your conversation about open LDR expectations with bae.
The "Open" Part Of An Open LDR
A quick distinction: an open relationship is a non-monogamous relationship in which you and your partner sleep with people outside the main relationship; a polyamorous relationship is one where you and your boo date and engage romantically with folks outside the main relationship. If you're considering non-monogamy with your partner, it's worth discussing what exactly you'd be looking for — and how that looks in practice.
Courtney Watson, a sex therapist who helps their clients with non-monogamy, told Elite Daily, "There needs to be a clear establishing of what is OK and not, and the conversation needs to be revisited as one or more relationships develop and change." Plunging into an open relationship without a clear set of boundaries is the quickest path to jealousy and resentment. It's a simple misunderstanding that could just be cleared up by talking.
A helpful exercise is sitting down with your partner and making a "Yes/No/Maybe" list for the open part of your relationship. That way, you can be on the same page about what sexual acts and behaviors with other partners are a "yes," a "no," or a "maybe" as far as your comfort level goes.
Likewise, it's important that you set up times to check-in — because again, communication is key. This can be checking in on the sexual aspect of your open relationship. For example, you can discuss how your dates with other people are going, the deets on your hookups, or what from the yes/no/maybe list has changed for you.
This can also be a time to talk about your emotions. Often, the topic of jealousy comes up when discussing open relationships. Whether it's in the early stages (as you're feeling out an open LDR) or during your check-ins, honesty about when and why you're jealous can help eliminate hiccups later.
The Long-Distance Part Of An Open LDR
As mentioned before, long-distance is tough because you don't get to physically be with your partner. Ask yourself (and your partner, too), "Are you excited by the prospect of an LDR?" If the idea of being able to keep going until you reunite outweighs the dread of being apart, you'll be in good shape.
A helpful talking point here, again, is — you guessed it! — communication. How often will you be talking? What methods? Will you talk to recap your days or touch base about the big stuff?
On average, 40% of LDR couples come up with rules about how often they should communicate, according to a 2019 survey by Typing.com. Typically, people gave their partner between about four and five hours to respond to messages. It's about finding a communication rhythm — and method: text, phone call, FaceTime, something else — that works best for you and bae.
Dr. Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist, said the key is to communicate "often but not constantly" when in LDRs. "Trying to make up the time you are not together by talking, emailing, and texting constantly simply creates a level of expectation that can’t be sustained," Klapow told Elite Daily. "Keep it regular but regimented, so that communication doesn’t take over your life." Constantly being in touch might also make your partner feel like your relationship is suffocating. It's important for you both to strike the right balance, so that you can keep your lines of communication are open.
Additionally, Klapow said, you should each do what you can to embrace your time apart — another talking point to include in your convo about open LDR expectations. Alone or together, brainstorm what you're going to turn your attention to when you're apart. "Focus on work or school when you are not with them. Make friends and enjoy them fully, not as a stopgap for the relationship," Klapow suggested to Elited Daily. "The stronger your life can be in terms of activities, hobbies, and other people, the healthier you will be."
When embarking on this next phase of your relationship, it's important that the endgame is you and your partner having all of your needs — physical, yes, but romantic and emotional, too — met. There may be missteps or awkward moments in getting there. But you can always come back to this convo about expectations, to remind each other what you need.