In a lot of the advice columns and relationship articles I read about opening up a relationship, one of the major points is always to “keep the primary relationship at the forefront.”

I do think that it’s important, when pursuing an interest in someone you’re not already in a relationship with, to try to keep a good head on your shoulders and avoid neglecting the existing relationship for the new one. Not everyone is capable of that, to be honest, which is why I don’t recommend everyone run out and give nonmonogamy a try.

However, I feel the need to, once again, point out that different relationships are different. Try all you want to “keep the primary relationship at the forefront;” when it comes down to it, sometimes your primary is in another country, or works 12-hour days, or is pursuing a new relationship of their own. It doesn’t make you any less in love. It doesn’t mean you are “doomed” or “failing.” It doesn’t mean that one relationship is “leveling up” over the other. It simply means that this relationship is one way, and your other relationship might be another way, and it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings for each person honestly, without designating one over the other as “primary”. It means that your relationships with different people are different, not necessarily better or worse, and really, would we want it any other way?

You need to trust that your partner will be honest with you, and you can’t do that if your partner feels pressured to reassure you that you are their #1 or “one and only”. If you make a deal where you say, okay, we’re open, but no falling in love with other people, guess what? You can’t turn emotions off. If your partner does start to fall for someone, they either won’t tell you out of fear, or they will, and you will likely want to make them stop seeing the person if they tell you. And let’s be honest…love stops for no one.

If you open a relationship, you also need to open your mind. Realize that we are human, and that opening a relationship is absolutely scary, because we tend to fear change. If you’re opening a relationship, it’s probably because you’ve grown comfortable and confident enough with the person you’re with to take this less-beaten path. There is no guarantee that you’ll both want to be each other’s “primary” two months from now, but, hey, there was no guarantee of that when you were monogamous, either. There needs to be trust.

It takes a LOT of trust, honesty, and communication to take this path. Natural hierarchies will develop based on the length of time you’ve been with someone and the strength of the relationship in that moment, regardless of how weak or strong it’s been in the past. Those natural hierarchies shift as people come into and move out of our immediate lives, and that’s something that needs to be accepted. If you try to force yourself to the top of the hierarchy, you chance forcing the person you love into going against their heart, and that is what is truly a recipe for disaster.

Tread carefully, and intelligently, my friends.

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