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Lifestyle FAQ Open Relationships 101

Open relationships cover a huge range of configurations including monogamish couples, swingers, relationship anarchists, and people with a "don't ask, don't tell" agreement. These relationships can be limited to a hall pass when one partner is out of town or be fully integrated into a couple's everyday life; they can involve intense emotional attachments or be strictly sexual or everything in between. They are more widespread than you probably realize, and with increasing visibility in pop culture and general society, more and more people are considering whether the one-size-fits-all standard of monogamy actually works for them.

Still, there's some negative stigma and misconceptions around open relationships; many people involved in them do so privately, so as to not impact other areas of their lives. When you're presenting to the outside world as being in a relationship or married, it can be difficult to find new partners. That's where communities like Love Voodoo's come in: discreet, shame free, and sex-positive spaces to connect with other like-minded people. We're glad you've found us!



Working Through Jealousy

Jealousy is a very, very common concern that comes up when people begin exploring open relationships. Even folks who have been doing this for years feel it to some degree; it can be really hard to witness your partner's enthusiasm for another person for the first time (or the twentieth). A healthy open relationship isn't necessarily free of jealousy. However, you should be able to talk honestly about these emotions with your partner; often they come from feeling not totally secure in the relationship, sometimes in ways that have little to do with it being open.

It's your responsibility to speak up when something is making you anxious or upset. And if your partner is the one feeling jealous, be patient with them, talk it out, try your best to reassure them that they are important to you and that you will be mindful and respectful of your relationship while dating others. To address this, some folks grant their partners a veto: a way to shut down a potential situation that feels too difficult, no questions asked. (And sometimes having this veto power can make you feel better without ever having to use it!)

Very few people are always 100% cool with their partners being with other people. More often, they've worked hard to get to a place where they can experience jealousy safely — and hopefully even experience its opposite as well, aka compersion. Compersion is the lovely feeling of taking pleasure in the pleasure of another person, ie. feeling happy for your partner who's out on a date with someone they're excited about. Even though you're personally not getting to do the fun things yourself, you still end up feeling good. People who can master compersion are bound to have an amazing time in open relationships, in our humble opinion.



Health & Privacy

At LoveVoodoo we strongly encourage safe sex and regular testing. Asking someone about their health status before engaging in sexual activities with them is not intrusive or too forward; it's common sense and the best way to protect yourself and your partners.

Be honest about your own health and test results. You're not a bad person if you've contracted an STI, but you are if you do not disclose your status.

There's no way to protect against all health risks in an open relationship — same as being sexual active when you're single — but common sense and transparency go a long way. In our experience, people involved in this lifestyle are among the most careful and thoughtful about using protection, but set your own standard and never let anyone pressure you into doing something that feels unsafe.

Privacy concerns can be minimized, if you are conscious of what you do. We recommend that you take some time to think about and discuss the potential fallout for you and your partner should your privacy be breached. For some, it's no big deal if their open relationship is public, but for others it can have serious repercussions. The truth is, anything you put out there in terms of photos, messages, or personal details, people may have access to. Do your due diligence and join a site that has been around for a while and is secure. On LoveVoodoo, we take numerous precautions to protect our users: our database is encrypted, we use a third-party credit card processor, we disable right click for photos. No site can 100% protect your photos. If you are concerned about the potential for your photos ending up elsewhere, we strongly suggest you "password protect" them on whatever site you use. You can also crop or manipulate the photo before you post it to obscure your identity.



General Etiquette

The most important aspect of this lifestyle is transparency. We call them open relationships not just because they're open to new sexual and romantic possibilities, but because they thrive on openness and honesty.

Be upfront about what you're looking for and what your boundaries are. For example, if you meet someone who's looking for an emotional connection and that's not on the table for you, say so; on the other hand, if you're wanting more than sex, speak up. Advocate for the type of connection and experiences you want; the more you put it out there, the more likely it is to become a reality.

That said, even on a site like this one, it's often best to get to know someone a bit before laying out all the gory details of what you're looking for. Don't make assumptions about the people you meet here; while folks on this site tend to be open minded, that doesn't mean they're always DTF. Make connections on an individual basis. Participate in the blogs and forums on LoveVoodoo; it's a great way to share experiences and get some context for your own.

Directness and honesty are almost always appreciated, but it's still good to be courteous and respectful and make sure you're all on the same page first and foremost.

Don't yuck anyone's yum. This is an expression often heard in the poly and kink communities. Simply put, it means "live and let live." Everyone's taste is different. Someone may have a sexual fetish or preference that you may find gross or weird or even upsetting. If asked to participate in something you don't want to do, you can politely decline without shaming the person for their kink.

However, if someone is being aggressive or overly persistent, that's not OK either. While this community can present great opportunities to try new things (sometimes things you've never even considered before) no one should be pressured into doing something that doesn't feel good to them, ever.

Be realistic about your expectations. It will probably take some time to find the right connection. You may have some disappointing dates and interactions in the meantime. Some people go out, have a lackluster date, and are left with the sense that open relationships are not right for them. But no person or couple that you will meet is representative of all people in open relationships. Be patient; chances are you didn't meet your own partner on the very first date you went on as a single person either.

When presenting yourself on this site, choose photos that are accurate (as in, taken within the last couple years) and show that you're making a bit of an effort. Avoid gratuitous dick pics. (Seriously, women have seen enough of those, and it's not proven to be wildly successful.) Using misleading photos or information is just going to lead to disappointment when you meet in person. Screen names are an opportunity to show some individuality, but names that refer explicitly to sex acts or dick size often come across as trying too hard.

Consent is key. When you meet up with someone from the site in person, talk about your boundaries before getting tipsy and/or naked. Ask for and give enthusiastic YES's and firm NO's. A response that isn't either one can be impossible to decipher. We like to say that if a response is not a HELL YES, consider it a NO. Better to err on the side of caution than to put anyone in an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation.

Finally, this should be fun. Some aspects of it are harder than others, but we should all be here voluntarily. Figuring out the type of open relationship that works best for you takes some trial and error, but is also a way to meet amazing people and have some truly mind blowing experiences.



Open Relationship Terms and Definitions

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and like any slang these terms may change, evolve, or mean different things depending on the people using them. But here are some things you may come across on this site and in other places where people are practicing open relationships.

ASEXUAL: A person with little or no desire for sex or sexuality. Asexuality should not be confused with lack of interest in romantic relationships. Asexuals can and do form romantic relationships, though those relationships may include little or no sex.

BBW: aka Big Beautiful Women, a term sometimes used to describe plus-sized women.

BHM: Similar to BBW, this stands for Big Handsome Men and is a term used to describe plus-sized men.

BDSM: An acronym for "B&D" (bondage & discipline); "D&S" (dominance & submission); and "S&M" (sadomasochism). Used to refer to any consensual activities or lifestyles between adults which include some or all of these things. The term "BDSM" can also be used in a general sense to describe any situation or practice which includes erotic power exchange, dominance and submission, pain play, bondage, sensation play, or anything related to these.

BIGAMY: A relationship in which one person is married to two spouses, regardless of the sex of those spouses.

BISEXUAL: Sexual attraction to or sexual activity with both men and women, though not necessarily equally; as, a bisexual person: a person who is sexually attracted to or sexually active with partners of both sexes.

BULL: A (usually well-endowed and sexually dominant) male who cuckolds and humiliates husbands while servicing their wives.

CISGENDER/CIS: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex.

CLOSED MARRIAGE: Any marriages where there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage, aka a monogamous marriage.

CLOSED RELATIONSHIP: Any romantic relationship that excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.

COMPERSION: A feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of "jealousy;" it is a positive emotional reaction to a partner's other relationship.

CONDOM CONTRACT; or CONDOM COMPACT, CONDOM COMMITMENT: A formal agreement within a relationship to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free sexual contact to the people in that relationship, each of whom has been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom contracts may specify under what conditions a member of that group may exchange body fluids or have sexual contact without barriers with a new partner, or may specify that such contact is not permissible with any new partner.

CONSENT: Aka YES MEANS YES, NO MEANS NO. Affirmative permission, assent, or approval. Consent is based on the active, willing participation of everyone involved in a particular activity. Consent is valid and meaningful only if it is informed, meaning that all the participants have full knowledge of the activities to which they are consenting (including but not limited to the circumstances under which the activity will take place and the possible risks, if any, inherent in the activity); if it is uncoerced, meaning that the participants give the consent freely without threat, force, or intimidation; and if the people involved give that consent from a condition of sound mind, meaning their judgement in not impaired by drugs, disease, or any other condition which might cloud or distort their ability to make reasonable, rational decisions.

CO-HABITATE; also, COHABITATE: To live together.

CUCKOLD: A man whose female partner has sex with other men, often while he watches.

CUDDLE PUDDLE: A social gathering of adults which encourages consensual physical affection, such as cuddling, massage, and other forms of physical expression, but which forbids overt sexual activity or sexual stimulation.

DOMINANT/DOM/DOMME: A person who assumes a role of power or authority in a power exchange relationship. A dominant takes psychological control over or has power over another person, and may, for example, give that person orders which are to be obeyed.

DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL (DADT): A relationship structure in which a person who is partnered is permitted to have additional sexual or romantic relationships on the condition that his or her partner does not know anything about those additional relationships and does not meet any of those other people.

DYAD: A relationship involving exactly two people. The most accepted form of romantic relationship in most Western countries is a monogamous dyad.

EDGING/EDGE PLAY: The practice of sexually stimulating one's self or another person to near the point of orgasm, often repeatedly, without allowing orgasm. This can be done to create an intense state of arousal, to tease and frustrate the person being edged, and/or as a form of control.

EMOTIONAL INFIDELITY: emotional intimacy or love that occurs outside the boundaries of a particular relationship and may not involve sex or physical intimacy. Some swingers practice emotional fidelity, ie. sexual relationships without emotional attachment.

ETHICAL NON-MONOGAMY (ENM): The choice to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way. Aka any relationship that is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Ethical non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Ethical non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well.

EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: 1. A monogamous relationship. 2. Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will.

FETISH: anything not generally considered sexual which arouses a person, as a foot fetish or a leather fetish.

FISTING: The practice of inserting the entire hand into the vagina or (less commonly) into the anus. Contrary to common misconception, fisting is not done by making a fist and shoving it into the vagina; rather, the fingers are placed together and inserted slowly; as the hand is inserted, the fingers tend to curl into a loose ball.

FLUID BONDING: The exchange of bodily fluids, such as in barrier-free sexual intercourse.

FREE AGENT: A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents himself or herself as "single" or behaves in ways that are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when he or she has romantic partners.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB): A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship that includes sex or sexual activity, but without romantic love or expectations. Also known as a FUCKBUDDY.

GGG: Good, Giving, and Game. More specifically: good in bed, giving equal time and equal pleasure, and game for anything — within reason. The term was coined by Dan Savage, gay author and sex advice columnist for The Stranger.

GG or Girl-Girl: a sexual situation in which just the female participants play together and the men either watch or join their partners but do not have any interaction with the other person's partner. Some couples are interested in GG with limited touching.

GENDERQUEER: aka non-binary, is a category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine — identities which are outside the gender binary. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression.

HARD SWINGER: A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity with other swingers outside of his or her existing relationship.

HIERARCHICAL RELATIONSHIP: Hierarchical relationships usually refers to when some relationships are considered more important than others (for example: "my husband will always come before anyone else"), although in some cases it's more of a descriptor, used to describe levels of commitments (for example: "my husband gets a majority of my resources because we live and are raising children together, but that doesn't mean I love or consider him more important than my other partners"). NON-HIERARCHICAL RELATIONSHIPS come in various forms, but the factor that ties them together is that no one relationship holds more power than others by default.

HOT WIFE: A partnered woman who takes male lovers outside her relationship, often in the context of swinging or BDSM.

HUNDRED-MILE RULE: An arrangement within an otherwise monogamous marriage or relationship, particularly a marriage in which one of the partners travels a great deal or is often away from home for extended periods of time, which says that sexual situations that occur during the course of these travels or over a certain distance from the home don't "really" count and hence aren't cheating.

INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY: A residential community made up of people who share a common set of ideas, principles, or goals, and deliberately set out to create a planned community that reflects those ideas and goals. Intentional communities need not be polyamorous; there are intentional communities built around common religious, philosophical, or economic ideas, for example.

INTENTIONAL FAMILY: A family made up of people who have consciously and deliberately chosen to consider one another as a single family, as opposed to family that is the result of birth or marriage (i.e., family in law).

LIFE PARTNER: A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship.

LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP (LDR): A relationship in which the people involved do not live together, and are separated by great distances; as, for example, partners who live in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries.

MÉNAGE À TROIS: Sexual activity involving three people.

METAMOUR: Your partner's partner, with whom you do not share a direct sexual or loving relationship.

MONOGAMISH: A relationship that is mostly but not 100% sexually monogamous. The term was coined by columnist Dan Savage to describe committed relationships that still allow some "outside" sexual situations.

MONOGAMY: Formally, the state or practice of having only one sexual partner or only one romantic relationship at a time.

NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of a new romantic relationship. NRE can last as long as several years. Some researchers believe that new relationship energy is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship.

NRE JUNKIE: A term sometimes applied, often dismissively, to a person who starts many new relationships in rapid succession but does not seem to maintain relationships for very long. Such a person may appear to seek out the euphoria and intense emotion associated with new relationship energy over the maintenance of a long-term relationship. Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the intensity and euphoria associated with new relationship energy can be psychologically addictive.

ONE PENIS POLICY: An arrangement within a polyamorous relationship in which a man is allowed to have multiple female partners, each of whom is allowed to have sex with other women but forbidden to have any other male partners.

OPEN RELATIONSHIP: Any relationship where one or both of the members involved can have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. Some folks use the term open relationship as a synonym for polyamory. To other people, the term is used specifically to describe relationships that are sexually non-monogamous but that still expect that the people involved will not fall in love or engage in romantic relationships outside the couple, as for example with many swinging relationships. It's important to be careful when using this term, as it may carry very different connotations for different people.

OPEN SWINGING: A practice in which a group of swingers will exchange partners and then have sex together in the same room; sometimes but not always assumes group sex.

PAIN PLAY: Any activity in which one person inflicts pain on a consenting partner, for the pleasure of one or more of the people involved. Spanking, flogging, paddling, and whipping are all forms of pain play.

PANSEXUAL: Attraction to and/or sexual or erotic activities with partners of all sexes and orientations.

PARALLEL PLAY: Two (or more) couples or groups having sex in the same room, without members from one couple or group having sexual contact with members of another couple or group.

PLATONIC RELATIONSHIP: A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy.

PLAY PARTY: A party with emphasis on shared sexual activity or experience. Play parties may be public or private gatherings, and may or may not permit overt sexual activity. Play parties also offer the opportunity for people to engage in exhibitionism and voyeurism.

POLY: Of or related to polyamory; as in, a poly relationship, a poly person.

POLYAMORY: The state or practice of maintaining multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all the people involved. Many people use the term "polyamory" to describe only those relationships in which a person has multiple loving partners; some people have extended the term to include relationships in which a person has multiple sexual partners regardless of the emotional component or degree of commitment between them.

POLYANDRY: The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time.

POLYCULE: A romantic network or group within a romantic network whose members are closely connected.

POLYFAMILY: A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family and/or a polyamorous group whose members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.

POLYGAMY: The state or practice of having multiple wedded spouses at the same time, regardless of the sex of those spouses.

POLYGYNY: The state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time.

PRIMARY/SECONDARY: A relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of connection, emotional intensity, practical or financial matters, or power within the relationship. A person in a primary/secondary relationship may have one (or occasionally, more than one) primary partner and one or more additional secondary or tertiary partners.

PRIMARY PARTNER: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement, or sometimes the person given the most importance.

RELATIONSHIP ANARCHY: A philosophy or practice in which people are seen as free to engage in any relationships they choose, spontaneity and freedom are desirable and necessary traits in healthy relationships, no relationship should be entered into or restricted from a sense of duty or obligation, any relationship choice is (or should be) allowable, and in which there is not necessarily a clear distinction between "partner" and "non-partner."

RELATIONSHIP ORIENTATION: A preference for sexual or loving relationships of a particular form; for example, a preference for relationships that are monogamous or for relationships that are polyamorous.

ROLE PLAY: Any activity in which the people involved assume roles or identities different from their own and act out a scenario. For example, one extremely common form of role-play has one of the participants assume the role of a teacher or other authority figure, and the other assume the role of a student or other character in a position of less authority, and the people act out a scenario in which the character in the position of authority somehow takes advantage of that authority, often in a sexual way.

SAME ROOM: sexual activities in the same room as others, either with one's own partner or as some kind of a SWAP.

SAPIOSEXUAL: Sexual attraction to people of any gender based on their intelligence.

SERIAL MONOGAMY: A relationship pattern in which a person has only one sexual or romantic partner at a time, but has multiple sexual or romantic partners in a lifetime, and may change partners frequently.

SOFT SWINGER: A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity only with his or her partner, but may do so at a swing club, or in the presence of other swingers. Occasionally, soft swingers may engage in some limited form of sexual activities, often stopping short of intercourse, with partners outside the existing relationship.

SUBMISSIVE/SUB: One who assumes a role of submission in a power exchange relationship. A submissive is a person who seeks a position of or occupies a role of intentional, consensual powerlessness, allowing another person to take control over him or her.

SWAPPING (FULL vs SOFT): In a FULL SWAP situation, two couples "swap" partner with one another; often this implies intercourse. Some FULL SWAP couples are interested in playing in the same room, and some in separate rooms. In a SOFT SWAP, the couples exchange partners but do not have intercourse. We highly recommend speaking with your partner to find out what you are both comfortable with before a "play situation." This way you can make it clear to the other couple or individual what your limitations before you're in the moment.

SWINGERS CLUB: A place where swingers meet to socialize or engage in recreational sex and/or a social organization for swingers.

SWINGER: A person who engages in swinging.

SWINGING: The practice of having multiple sexual partners outside of an existing romantic relationship, most often with the understanding that the focus of those relationships is primarily sexual rather than romantic or emotionally intimate. However, people who self-identify as swingers can and sometimes do form close emotional relationships with their partners.

SWITCH: A person who can change roles, being either dominant or submissive at different times or with different partners.

TRANSGENDER/TRANS: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

TRIAD/THROUPLE: A relationship composed of three people.

UNICORN: Almost always used of a bisexual woman who is willing to have sex with or date both members of an existing couple. Such women are seen as very rare, while couples (aka UNICORN HUNTERS) looking for a situation like this are very common.

VANILLA: refers to something outside of the poly or swinger community, ie. a vanilla club or vanilla party. Can also refer to a person with conventional sexual tastes.

VETO: A relationship agreement which gives one person the power to end another person's additional relationships, or in some cases some specific activity. A veto may be absolute, in which one partner may reject another partner's additional relationships unconditionally, or may be conditional and used more as a way to indicate a serious problem in a relationship.

VOYEUR: One who is excited or aroused by watching others, particularly in a sexual context or while engaged in sexual activity.