No matter what you call it — an open relationship, swinging, polyamory — one thing is definitely certain: Non-monogamous relationships are a very complex subject and no two couples are the same. But regardless of the specifics of the arrangement, communication and consent are vital, and it's important to discuss your limits, and to know your partner's. Consider these people's stories about what happened when they opened up their relationships — the good, the bad, the sexy, and the shocking.

1. "It takes an exhausting amount of communication to do this successfully."
"It's been a little under year since we opened up our marriage and we've collectively had between 10 and 15 experiences. We have yet to have a really bad experience physically, but it hasn't always been easy. There is definitely a learning curve, and there is no one set of rules that works for everyone. It takes an exhausting amount of communication to do this successfully. Managing your feelings and the lust that comes with any new relationship can be hard, but as long as you are open and honest with your partner, you should be all right.

My wife and I had incredible communication long before this, and now it's even better. We both speak freely about all aspects of this lifestyle with each other and the honesty and being upfront makes it very easy to handle the emotional toll this can take on a person and a marriage." —Ted, 31

2. "I am living the dream."
"I went out on a date with a guy from a dating app. We met at a fancy wine bar I wouldn't typically go to. (I am cheap.) He was older, French, and like me, he hated small talk. We quickly jumped into a deep and sensual conversation about film and books. I was having an amazing experience even before any physical contact happened, so when we left and got to his place it obviously only got better. I spend a fantastic few hours having hot, new sex with another man and then I got to go home and share it with my husband which then led to hot sex with him. I love my husband for reasons I don't have to explain or validate, but he doesn't drink and he doesn't love international film, reading poems, or dancing, and that is fine because I get to do these things and still come home to him. I am living the dream, and I think if others could put their socially-pushed ideas and judgments aside, they could see a relationship doesn't have to mean making sacrifices because of your differences. If you remain honest and talk often, this works — at least it does for us, and we aren't turning back." –Cydnea, 29

If you remain honest and talk often, this works — at least it does for us, and we aren't turning back.

3. "Make sure you have the capacity to hold multiple committed relationships."
"So I'm actually in a polyamorous relationship, which differs from an open relationship in that there is no priority or hierarchy within the multiple relationships, and we are free to explore. Open communication is key to how it works for us. I knew going into the relationship I'm in that my partner had two other serious partners. I was worried about the amount of time and space they would have for me but that ended up not being a problem. I think to stay happy and fulfilled in a poly relationship you should be sure you have the capacity to hold multiple committed relationships and that you are on the same honest page as your partners." –Chris, 28

4. "I genuinely was happy and turned on."
"One of the funniest experiences my partner and I had was when I brought him to his first orgy. I had been going to this party for a while before I was seeing him and I asked the organizer if I could bring the man I was dating. Because I am a sex educator and coach, I made sure that he and I discussed how we wanted to approach the party and that we would have a signal in case either of us felt we needed to pull the rip cord and leave. I knew most of the regular characters who attended and figured it would be a good way for my partner and me to explore together with people that weren't related to our social circle. An hour or so into the party, a woman walked in who I knew from the music scene I'm in. I had no idea she was kinky or polyamorous, and I felt like my worlds were colliding. It felt like a meteor ripping through my world, like I was going to be outed immediately. I was half-dressed, sprawled across a couch like this was the set of Caligula in this amazing luxurious hotel suite and here was a woman standing there, fully dressed, who I had been to shows with. There was a lot of high pitched, awkward pleasantries, 'Oh nice to see you' as we both tried to play it cool. I'd always had a pretty solid rule of not engaging with friends or even acquaintances. Oddly enough, she ended up being the first person my partner played with. It was so hot watching her play with him. I genuinely was happy and turned on watching him with her." —Domina, 40

5. "I was kind of disappointed by the whole experience.""
"We were into the swinger lifestyle for over a year. We would go to house parties and hang out with people, group stuff. And I will say, I was kind of disappointed by the whole experience. We are still open and still explore other people, but definitely not in the swinger capacity because the consent there isn't the same as the consent in other alternative sexual communities, like the BDSM community. So I felt like if I was naked, it would give men a license to touch me. One time a guy came up from behind me and grabbed my breasts, and I've had other times that they would just assume that I would say yes to them. There wasn't much dialogue. I felt like they didn't get to know me, or talk to me. It was very 'Hey, you down?, let's do this.' And while I'm actually quite like that, I can appreciate that, I kind of got on edge. I thought at any moment someone could touch me, and there just wasn't a consent culture in the communities that we hung out in. And it got really boring; it's vanilla sex." –Janet, 38
And it got really boring; it's vanilla sex.

6. "The particular events that we went to had great food, and that's what I looked forward to."
"I was surprised by how much [swinging] mimicked a porn film. It was like, This is the way orgies are done in porn, or gang bang events, and this is how we are going to do it. How many guys are you going to make happy? The guys are the ones dictating how we dress, and if we are accepted and if there's going to be any action, and who's the best looking girl there? This is going to sound like a joke, but after a while, the particular events that we went to had great food, and that's what I looked forward to, because everything else was so cliché." –Carlos, 53

7. "You have to be secure in your relationship."
"This isn't for everyone. You have to be secure in your relationship, and ready for one or both of you to be rejected. If you remember that it's all for the goal of enriching your sex lives together, you can have a great time." –Jake, 33

8. "There are going to be times when you find yourself seeing inside of someone else's relationship."
"This is a very intimate situation, so there are going to be times when you find yourself seeing inside of someone else's relationship. You don't normally get to see a couple's sexual dynamic. People are vulnerable and often need to work things out together right away, in front of you. For example, sometimes jealousy can come up unexpectedly. We've had to stop a group play (a four-way swap kind of deal) when the other wife felt left out and needed some time to reconnect with her husband. That is always totally fine. That can take some getting used to for sure, and you should always allow for couples to be there for each other no matter what. But there are other surprises too with this lifestyle. For example, finding out a mild-mannered IT guy actually has like 10 dick piercings can be a bit of a shock. It probably wouldn't have been awkward for me if he had been open, but he was a shy dude and just didn't mention it until we were swapping and the pants were off. I had to ask for guidelines on how exactly to 'handle' that, haha. Give a lady a heads up!" –Jess.