Rules Of Entanglement: Understanding Polyamory and Open Relationships

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith on Red Table Photograph: Facebook Watch

It’s been over a week since Jada Pinkett Smith brought herself to the Red Table. Smith, along with her husband Will Smith discussed her interaction with August Alsina, while they were separated. Once the episode aired on Facebook Watch, Black Twitter and social media erupted in laughter at Jada’s word choice of “entanglement” to describe their interaction, before Will further clarified it as a relationship.

As I watched the reposted meme’s and colorfully creative content surrounding the interview, I had to ask, is this really a thing? Are people allowing their significant others to date and explore freely? Does it hurt or help relationships? And finally, what are the rules for a successful polyamorous relationship?

According to Psychology today:

“The best evidence suggests around 4 percent of adults. That may not sound like many, but it means one couple in 25. If you know two dozen couples, chances are one participates in consensual non-monogamy (CNM), also known as “open” relationships. Put another way, 4 percent means some 2.8 million U.S. couples.”

First, let’s define Polyamory vs. an open relationship.

Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. In contrast, although similar is an “open relationship,” it is a marriage or relationship in which both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others not to be confused with Polygamy, which is the practice or condition of having more than one spouse. Once I understood each relational preference fully, I reached out to a few couples in open relationships, both heterosexual and from the LGBTQ community. They shared their stories and advice on keeping things straight if you decide to get “entangled.”

D.O. decide for yourself if it’s something you want to explore.
The couples’ all mutually agreed that it was okay not to be open to the idea of being involved with others while in a committed relationship. If your significant other brings it to your attention first, do not feel compelled to engage, take time to reflect, and make a fully conscious decision.

DO NOT shame your partner if they bring it to your Red Table, and you are not interested.
50% of the couples advise that the suggestion to be open or polyamorous was introduced to them by the other party. They emphasize to be empowered in your “no”. However, they also advise that you do not want to risk crushing your partner’s curiosity or sexual desires by embarrassing them for being vulnerable, and this can cause further issues in the relationship.

D.O. asks as many questions as you need.
One party stated that they instantly asked why their partner would be interested in sharing something so intimate with another? They clarified if there were underlining issues in the relationship that need to be addressed that would not be solved by inviting a 3rd

DO NOT get jealous.
Fear of being replaced in the relationship or outshined sexually was a common fear amongst all the couples. Admittedly, they contended that this was normal, and subsided after a thoughtful and careful conversation was had.

D.O. Set Boundaries.
Communication is KEY. Every couple agreed that transitioning into Polyamory or being open required a lot of conversations. Topics ranging from who to how are often discussed, and in some cases, how long will they participate in the act. One couple highlighted that they have a “reserve the right rule”. Which allows them the option to decide they no longer want to participate without judgment.

Do NOT let anyone define your relationship but the parties involved.
The couples all addressed the fear of sharing their desires with their partner because they feared the labels placed on them by others. Having their privacy exposed caused them to repress parts of them. They all agree that the world has become more accepting of Polyamory, that doesn’t mean you should be subject to who will approve or not. It is an intimate decision solely between active parties.

Finally, the most important rule of any entanglement is maintaining safety and ensuring it is consensual. While some couples advised that it helped their relationship by increasing honesty and raw communication, the other couples did not say it helped nor hurt their relationship, rather just something they both enjoy.

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