What Is a Hall Pass In a Relationship — and Is It Ever a Good Idea to Use One?
When you talk about hall passes with your partners, it may feel sexy, flirty, and fun to entertain the idea of having sex with someone you've always admired. Or, on the flip side, it could be something to which you have a visceral negative reaction. Either way, on the surface, hall passes seem like innocent, entertaining fun for lovers to discuss (hence the movie literally titled Hall Pass).
But are hall passes in relationships something you should actually take seriously? When and when shouldn't you take advantage of a hall pass? Here's the deal.
What Is a Hall Pass In a Relationship?
Just in case you're unfamiliar with the term hall pass, here's a little refresher. A hall pass is when people in a romantic relationship (generally monogamous) identify a dream person outside of their relationship — in many cases, a celebrity or someone equally out of reach — they wish to have sex with. The idea is that both partners consent to giving each other a "freebie" or a "hall pass" to venture outside the relationship that one time, taking into consideration that it's extremely unlikely that it would ever happen. Because of that, it's normally a purely hypothetical, light-hearted conversation. (See: 50+ Flirty, Romantic, and Sexy Questions to Ask Your Partner)
Can You Actually Use a Hall Pass IRL?
Talking hypothetically about your dream hall pass with a partner is perfectly healthy, harmless, sexy, and fun — but acting on it is a whole other story.
First, it pays to examine the type of relationship world in which we collectively live. No matter what you identify as or what your lifestyle is now, you were likely brought up in this monogamous society that is obsessed with sex — but not in a helpful, healthy way, but more of a "monogamy is your only option for a real relationship" type of way. Monogamy is a wonderful relationship structure for some folks, but it's not the only option. And discussing a hall pass is, essentially, musing (even if only hypothetically) about some limited version of ethical non-monogamy.
Coming from someone who is polyamorous, there's quite a bit (and I mean quite a bit) of communication that goes into the dynamics involved in any sort of non-monogamous relations. Of course, I don't think most people are being super intentional while discussing hall passes, but even if they were, it's likely they don't have the tools to communicate about it in a healthy way. After all, most people weren't taught how to have these types of conversations.
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But let's discuss the hypothetical. Let's say you're monogamous. You and your partner have a fun, flirty conversation about your dream hall pass people, NBD. Let's say your partner is on a business trip and happens to stumble into their hall pass and hit it off — one thing leads to another, they hook up, and your partner comes home. It's incredibly understandable that this would be upsetting to you. After all, you have a monogamous relationship structure, so technically this is cheating…but also, since you previously had a conversation about hall passes, is it okay?
Here's the thing: Whether you're in a monogamous relationship, ethically non-monogamous relationship, or something else altogether, proper communication, established boundaries, and agreements are incredibly important to any relationship structure.
Instead of the conversation simply being around, "which famous people do you wish you could have sex with if I, your partner, said it was fine?" it can instead be around where your partner and you each stand on sex outside of the relationship, as well as what, exactly, constitutes "sex." Is kissing okay? Flirting? Dancing? Sexting? Hand stuff? Grinding? Etc. Even if you aren't actually interested in opening up your relationship or pursuing any sort of hall pass IRL, it can still be valuable to draw clear boundaries in your monogamous relationship that specify which behaviors are and aren't okay. (Related: 6 Things Monogamous People Can Learn from Open Relationships)
If You're Really Into the Hall Pass Idea...
Does the idea of sex with people other than your partner interest you? Could this lead to more honest, intentional conversations about creating a relationship dynamic that fills both of your cups? It's likely all you saw represented growing up was a monogamous relationship structure, so even if you might want something different, you might not know exactly what to ask for, how to ask for it, or it just might not even seem possible.
You might be thinking, "Yeah, okay, but can't this just be a fun, meaningless conversation to have with my partner?" Absolutely, 100 percent, yes. But for others, it may be a wonderful step into a new direction of possibilities. With that being said, my advice is to have this conversation, to listen to your partner, and to ask as many questions as possible. (Related: How to Have Healthier Relationship Arguments)
A Disclaimer About Jealousy & Exploring Outside a Relationship
Even if your hall pass conversation is purely hypothetical, thinking about your partner sleeping with their hall passes may cause feelings of jealousy to creep in. That's okay — in fact, listen to them. Why are you feeling jealous? Are you feeling jealous because you enjoy having sex with your partner, and it's uncomfortable to imagine your partner having sex with someone else? There's nothing wrong with that. You know what else? You're allowed to say that. It's honestly better if you do instead of bottling it up and isolating the feeling. Say something such as, "It makes me feel jealous thinking about you being with someone else. Not because I wouldn't want you to experience pleasure, but because I love experiencing pleasure with you." (More here: This Polyamorous Therapist Thinks Jealousy Is a Wonderful Emotion — Here's Why)
Honesty is what leads to true and genuine vulnerability, which then leads to real connection and intimacy. This then leads to less confusion and more understanding because all parties involved are able to truly understand and express themselves.
And if you're actually considering opening up your relationship or exploring ethical non-monogamy, that might be setting off all sorts of other feelings. Take heart that, again, your reaction isn't unwarranted.
You were likely taught, thanks to our very monogamous society, that if your partner wants to have sex with someone else, it means you aren't enough — but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Humans all have very specific, individualistic needs that may or may not mirror those of their partner. Meaning, if you are someone whose sexy-time meter gets filled up having sex once a week, great! But say your partner might desire sex six days a week — how do you compromise on that? How do you meet both needs?
So if your partner expresses interest in exploring outside the relationship, don't assume it means that they don't want you. Don't assume that because you can't meet all your partner's needs that you aren't enough. Instead, ask, talk, and communicate. (See: How to Have a Healthy Polyamorous Relationship)
So, are hall passes a good idea? Much like many other things in relationships, they're only a good idea if there are clear agreements and communication surrounding them. Sure, talking about hall passes can be a fun, simple, lighthearted conversation — and it can also be one that allows you and your love(s) to break down your feelings for each other, your relationship dynamic, and what you desire. Even if you end up staying the exact same as you already are, exploring the possibilities together and making sure everyone's voice is heard is so important and necessary.