Dating, sex, love, basic human connection is hard. But we’ve got just the little snack to help. Ask An Alfawhore, the sex and love advice column from the tell-it-to-ya-straight, sex-positive, uber feminist older sister you always wanted is back. This week: throwing bricks at plate glass windows.

Dear Alfawhore:

A few months ago, my long term partner and I opened our relationship. We’ve had lots of long talks about it and it feels like the right thing for us as a couple at this time – our libidos have been out of sync for awhile and we both miss the rush of new relationship energy. That being said, we deeply love each other and see our future together, and we’re both a little concerned at any possible risks to our relationship.

My question is: how do we compartmentalize? How do we enjoy our sexual freedom, while also protecting our relationship?

Sincerely,

Nervous Newbie

Dear Nervous Newbie,

I wish there were more mainstream support for alternative relationships. There’s so much emphasis placed on monogamy in romantic love and, for a lot of us, that’s at the core of the failings in our intimate relationships. I’ve always believed, as one of my favorite writers once said, that monogamy is a “plate glass window begging for a brick.” That being said, polyamory isn’t for everyone and doing it well takes practice. Don’t be discouraged if you hit a bump in the road, and be sure to occasionally connect with your partner to make sure you’re both still feeling good about your arrangement. Assuming you’re both equally onboard with this decision…

Bravo for trying something different, it demonstrates a different kind of commitment to your relationship. It sounds like you love each other and you want to stay together, but you’re not sold on the traditional route, and you want the freedom to experience other people sometimes. Open relationships can be beautiful arrangements that inspire constant growth. They can be breeding grounds for some of the most honest communication between couples.

But lovely as it may be to set love free, it can get tricky sometimes.

For starters, there’s a lot of uncharted territory to navigate: jealousy, guilt, the very real restraints of time. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. We’ve been programmed to accept monogamy as the standard, the thing we all “should” do, and most of us haven’t been exposed to problem-solving within healthy relationships that include multiple partners. There’s no official playbook I can direct you to, but there are some great resources out there (The Ethical Slut is one of my favorites on the subject and a great place to start).

Open relationships are not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Different things work for different people. Some people prefer a primary coupling with secondary lovers, while others choose not to have a primary partner at all. Then there are details you have to figure out, things like whether or not you are you going to openly talk about your other partners, and what the rules are about sleepovers, and scheduling. As you can see, it’s not all hot, dreamy throw downs. If you are both new to this lifestyle, these are the kinds of things that don’t just “work themselves out.” This lifestyle requires a level of emotional intelligence and intuition. Try to make choices that enrich your life, not ones that complicate it negatively. When a difficult situation arises, ask yourself: how can I solve this while staying true to myself, while also respecting my partner and lover/s?
Enjoy yourself, be strong and thoughtful, and don’t forget to take time for yourself: lovers are nice and partners are a blessing, but you will be the greatest love of your life.