Being in a long distance relationship can be both romantic and grueling all at once. Couples who can't bear the loneliness sometimes negotiate some openness in the relationship. Can you handle an alternative long distance relationship?
What exactly is an open LDR?
According to Sarah Sloane , a sexuality and relationship educator, long distance couples often find that they are missing particular kinds of intimacy – going out on dates, sex, making out, sleeping with another person, etc. Open relationships of all sorts can be structured in ways that allow the couple to decide what activities they're comfortable with, and which are off the table.
Should you consider an open relationship?
Long distance relationships are often frustrated by the needs not being met adequately; whether it's face time with a lover, or the need for sexual intimacy, or even just the need to have someone to hold hands with. In fact, notes Sloane, we often deny our own needs for connection in order to abide by relationship expectations. By bringing these frustrations out to the surface, and working as a couple to find solutions that are consensual and healthy, the couple has an opportunity to grow together and to reinforce their bond of love and respect.
Keep reading for Seven tips for a successful alternative long distance relationship
#1 Communicate very regularly with your partner
Make sure that there is time set aside for each of you to talk without being judged or attacked.
#2 Remember that cooperation and compromise are key
Nobody should feel pressured or rushed into a decision that they're not comfortable with, nor should one person always get things their own way. Both partners need to commit to doing what's best for both of them, as a couple, not just what's easiest for themselves.
#3 Keep something sacred for yourselves
Whether it's a particular sexual act, a specific “date night” each week, special pet names, a restaurant or vacation spot, having some things that are just for you and your partner can reinforce how important you are to each other, and create a sense of your relationship being separate and special.
#4 Decide on your safer sex boundaries well in advance of needing to use them
Make them as clear as possible. Don't just say “I'll use condoms for sex” without specifying whether “sex” also includes oral sex or other sexual contact. The clearer your rules, the easier they are to communicate and stick to.
#5 Handle jealousy as soon as possible
Jealousy that goes unresolved turns into resentment and anger, and they're harder to deal with once they've gotten overwhelming. Look for not just the “whys” of jealousy, but also for the triggers. For some people, jealousy springs up not because of physical intimacy, but because of more “emotional” connections, such as holding hands in public or spending the night at another partners house.
#6 Figure out your jealousy triggers
Resolving jealousy by reassuring our partners is great, but unless we look at the triggers and how to manage them, it will keep coming up.
#7 Don't surprise your partner in bad ways
Telling them the morning after you hook up with someone might leave them feeling abandoned, if they did not say that it was okay. Most people like to have a little notice on changes; talking with your partner about when they want to know things, and at what point, is absolutely key to ensuring that everyone feels respected.
So are you a prime candidate for an Alternative Long Distance relationship?
Couples who do well with open relationships are those who have excellent communications skills, are able to negotiate equally for their needs, willing to be honest and open about their feelings and fears around relationships, and share an understanding that multiple partners does not mean that they are cheating their lover out of the love they deserve.
“Even if a couple decides that open relationships aren't the solution, the simple fact that they've challenged their unspoken assumptions of their relationship gives them a chance to consider what it really is to be committed to each other, ” says Sloane. “If they do decide to explore open relationships, they have the chance to explore new levels of emotional connection, honesty, and trust with each other.”
Couples that engage in open relationships also have the chance to be involved with people who will open up new levels of growth and self-awareness, and potentially create a stronger, wider support system through their new partners, notes Sloane. In fact, in many instances, long term partners-of-partners can offer the stability of an extended family of sorts, and that in turn increases the strength of the couple as well.
Couples not suited for an open relationship
According to Sloane, couples who are just starting out and have been monogamous previously, and those who are on very unstable ground, are probably not great candidates for open relationships (at least, until they've had a chance to get a firm footing underneath them). Having an open relationship in a way that's healthy also requires consistent open and honest communication while some people already have great communications skills, more often I find that this is a skill set that has to be developed or improved in order to have healthy relationships – and is needed even more if the relationship will be different for the couple in any way. I also recommend that couples who want to be involved in open relationships be willing to really look at what their own needs and wants are, and be willing to take responsibility for them.
“The consequences of trying to open a relationship up can be significant if it's not handled openly and honestly between both partners, and with any other people that they become involved with,” says Sloane. “Resentments and jealousy can spring up, and if not handled can create an emotional separation between partners. Additionally, issues of trust may arise if both partners are not up front and honest with each other. There are also very real risks of STD's, particularly if both people in the relationship do not practice adequate safer sex practices.”
Remember that it's okay to say no. Some couples have a “veto right” in place if either feels uncomfortable with their partner's choice of outside lovers; some couples agree to close their relationship to outside partners if either feels like it's not working out; however, often we try to save our partners feelings at the sake of our own emotional well being.
Saying no when we need to – and having it heard – can go so much farther towards helping us feel safe and secure in our relationships – which helps us to have even more self esteem and grow both as individuals, and as a couple.