I've already posted a retrospective of our first year experience. Here I will discuss what I learned from what we did right.
We Approached It With Enthusiasm for Ourselves and Each Other
Truly, we had the best intentions for each other from the beginning. I didn't want him held back from life experiences because of me. We both wanted freedom and each other. We both wanted to make sure the other one was comfortable with things before moving forward. We were excited, maybe a little too excited, by the new possibilities that lay before us. We had fun discussing things before we ventured forth. The sex we had was always great, but the new level of openness between us allowed a new excitement and new experiences between each other.
Telling Our Friends and Some Family Created a Support Network
We weren't alone. Having our closest friends and select family members in on the secret meant we could go to them when we needed to air things. I love sharing stories. If I had to keep all the NRE to myself at the beginning of things between me and NMB, I would have exploded! At least sharing it with my friends kept my poor husband from bearing the full load of things. When things went sour, people who knew about the open relationship also knew that we had gotten good experiences out of it. I could discuss the problems we were having without having to disclose the open relationship and having people immediately blame everything on poly. "No, wait! It's really what we both want, it's just gotten away from us!"
We Started With Rules, But We Renegotiated Many of Them Quickly and Easily
We started out discussing things like "No sex with others in our bed" and "No anal sex with others". When these things became impractical, we renegotiated quickly and easily. We kept communication open instead of holding fast to our rules. Rules are a sensitive subject and one of those things experienced poly folk often criticize new poly folk for, but this is one area where we handled things the right way, I think. Rules can be a tool to create comfort and build trust in the lifestyle. Poly Man Whore had a post a while back stating that rules were proof that you didn't trust your partner. Maybe so, but it also takes time to build trust in the poly lifestyle and learn the skills to make it work. Rules can help protect you while you get there if you don't cling to them too desperately.
Initially, Our Communication Improved
As I previously touched on, we were all about sharing in the beginning. We talked about a lot of what-ifs. We shared sexual fantasies that we hadn't been completely open about. We had always been fairly open about who we found attractive, but now we could be really honest without fear of hurting each other's feelings. I could say to my husband, "I'd like to fuck that guy." I'm ashamed to admit that I used to have some jealousy issues with him looking at porn. Not that I had ever told him he couldn't, but it was something I didn't like to think about due to insecurity on my part. This was quickly resolved when we started exploring being open. A year later, we watch porn together and I'm mostly unfazed when he sleeps with someone new. I found my compersion and I want him to have good experiences.
Meeting the Local Poly Group
This was one of the first things I did before we actually opened. I looked up locals in nearby Big City and I went to a small social event at someone's house. Meeting some people in the real world that make this happen gave me the confidence to move forward and give it all a try. Without having had that experience, I would have been much slower to make moves. After getting a good sample size of poly people who were nerdy, intelligent, interesting, well-educated, grounded and stable, I started to feel like it was possible to make it work in a way that I could live with. (Side note: I'm glad I found the one poly group that I did first. I went to one meeting of another group and the best way I can describe it is that it felt "cultish". I may have walked away with a different opinion. That group and it's vibe might work for other people, but it did not work for me.)
The Internet Was a Fantastic Resource
I read a lot. When I was having a particularly difficult time with jealousy in the beginning, I did some Google searching and found More Than Two. I can't recommend it enough as a free and comprehensive resource. It's full of helpful tools. The Internet lead me to the aforementioned local poly group. The Internet gave us OkCupid and my boyfriend. I continue to listen to the Savage Lovecast and learn more about other people's monogomish lifestyles. I posted on r/polyamory when things got bad and reached out for the support of experienced poly people who like to write about it. I used it to find the local poly group. The books we read, The Ethical Slut and Opening Up were great, but the Internet gave us a searchable limitless database of other's experiences and lessons-learned. Many people have noted that widespread access to the Internet has likely contributed to the growth of polyamory. If I had not been exposed to the idea, I never would have come to it on my own.