“Just opened and honestly a little a naive of me, but I never really thought about the whole getting romantic attachments to people we have sex with. I know, duh, but like there’s a lot to process in these early stages.
Is it doable to try and keep things casual with our FWBs? My partner and I (together 4 years) are very much in love and are sexually and romantically happy with each other, we’re just also very open to trying new things and being sexually experimental.
I’ve been reading a lot of posts in this sub and realized how many non-mono people are in multiple relationships rather than committed to their primary and just having sex with other people, and it dawned on me that it could well be likely that romantic attachments will result from sex with others. It’s not that I’m definitely against this, it’s more that I just genuinely hadn’t really considered it and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.
Basically, do you think it’s a plausible way to go about our boundaries to say romantic relationships are a no-go but sex and friendships is fine, or do you think that’s not likely to work?”
Dear Ocean Coliseum,
Various swingers have already perfected the practice of establishing basic emotional boundaries so that their sexual connections can remain at a purely sexual level. So that is honestly what I would advise, to establish proper boundaries to ensure that you are not getting too emotionally entangled with your partners.
Here are some basic boundaries and rules you can initially set up and tweak as you go.
Many have found that emotional entanglement is very natural and very closely associated with the amount of time they spend with a new person. Strictly identifying and limiting the amount of time you spend with new partners (whether that is measured in days of week or number of hours in total) could be a good personal gauge to make sure that things don’t get too romantic between you and your new partner. Upsides of this boundary are pretty clear: ability to quantify emotional entanglement in compartmentalized time investment.
A similar boundary/rule you can implement is to put a “sunset” date on any new engagement. This means that you put an expiration date on how much you can see the same partner. Some folks even only do one night stands to meet new partners. Applying this boundary/rule will help you further identify when you are getting too emotionally involved with a new partner.
There are some other practical boundaries and rules you can implement to ensure that you and your partner of four years are keeping things casual with your respective or collective FWBs.
It might be beneficial for you and your respective FWBs to establish early on that this is a strictly sexual connection. So that means no going on one-on-one dates after the first meet & greet to establish basic chemistry. It can feel really awkward to have explicit discussions about sex and sexuality, but first impressions and expectation settings are really important to ensure that these connections remain casual.
It’ll be important for you and your partner to acknowledge that you will both need to have a failsafe plan in case either of you develop feelings for your respective or collective FWBs despite all these boundaries and rules. Sometimes, emotional chemistry is instant. And sex does stir up hormones that cloud our best judgments. So coming up with an external good-faith rule to immediately end any connections via veto might not be a bad discussion to have. I’ll add that veto itself comes with its own heaviness as it recognizes that you are acquiescing some power in your own engagements to your partner. But as long as it comes from a good and sound place that isn’t jealousy- or insecurity-driven, vetos can be ethically practiced as well.
The last piece of advice and recommendation I have for you is to implement a “test period”, which is to say set a time frame in which you are open. I get the sense that this is your and your partner’s first experience with non-monogamy. And your first steps are going to be rife with mistakes. Setting a sunset clause to your open arrangement before you two can close up and reassess how this trial period went can also help you establish and set expectations to reconnect with your partner.
Traditionally, men have harder time finding non-mono partners than women. And depending on where you and your partner are located, it might take you more than a couple months to find interested parties who want to opt into this arrangement. So it’s important to recognize that with each and every boundary and rule you place on your external relationships, the harder it will be for each of you to explore non-monogamy. So please be mindful in not over-committing to boundaries and rules.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!