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How to Tell Your Partner You'd Like an Open Relationship

Anabelle is a writer hailing from paradise (aka Victoria, BC). She writes about love, sex, relationships and kink at The Story of A, and also about home decor. She practices Zen Buddhism, cat petting, knitting, and book reading. She’d lo...

So you think you want to open up? Here's how to tell your partner

If you ever felt like monogamous life wasn’t for you, you’re not alone. A recent study found that about 1 in 5 Americans have been in an ethically nonmonogamous relationship at least once in their life.

But the social and cultural pressure of being in a relationship that’s seen as “normal” is still very strong. The only model we ever see is the married, monogamous couple — whether happy or unhappy. Anything outside this norm is presented as bad, immoral and even evil.

More: What to do when one partner wants an open marriage

Being in a long-term committed relationship, however, doesn’t mean that you stop feeling desire for other people. Sexual and romantic attraction can hit any time, anywhere. But most of us have been taught through the media, our culture and our family structures that we need to resist the temptation and be faithful at all costs.

But what if there were another way? What if you could open up your relationship so both of you could indulge in your crushes and attractions without compromising your commitment to each other? A growing number of people are coming out nonmonogamous and changing the way we imagine healthy, respectful relationships.

More: "We became a polyamorous couple and it saved our marriage"

What is ethical nonmonogamy?

An ethically nonmonogamous relationship is a relationship in which the two people agree to have relationships — sexual, romantic and otherwise — with other people. The conditions and rules for outside relationships may differ between couples, but the core ideas remain the same for all of them: honesty, openness and trust.

Ethical nonmonogamy can include relationship modes like swinging, hookups and polyamory.

Their common denominator? Everyone knows what’s going on. Jackie, a married polyamorous woman, says: “I want full disclosure, all of the information.”

Breaking the ice

The most challenging part of opening up is often bringing the topic up with your partner. Because of the taboo surrounding nonmonogamy, there can be a lot of fear and worries about telling your partner that you want to pursue relationships with other people.

For those with the courage, naming the topic directly is probably the best, most effective way to do so. Clive, Jackie’s husband, says: “Fear is the enemy. Even if the truth hurts, it will hurt less than a lie, obfuscation or avoidance.”

Being direct about your desires and your need to open up the relationship will give your partner the possibility to have all the information they need to pursue the discussion further.

More: Open relationships: Couples who've found success

If you’re a little shy, maybe reading a book on the subject is a way to get your partner to ask questions about why you’re reading it, and what it’s about. Suggest that you read it together, and discuss how you can implement some suggestions in your own lives.

Are you ready for an open relationship?

Be careful, though. A common error that many couples make in opening up is believing that it, alone, will solve problems they’re having with sex, communication and trust. To the already troubled couple, opening up will only compound the issues.

Clive adds, “Successful open relationships require respect for the relationship you have and self-awareness. If nothing else, take a few minutes daily to think about the open relationship and how the interactions are affecting your partners, your relationships and yourself.”

Doing so requires being honest and fearless about yourself and your couple. If you are facing problems in your relationship, tackling them before opening up will save you much heartache down the road.

As Franklin Veaux says, “‘Relationship Broken, Add More People’ almost never works.” That’s why you should strive to open up by building on an already functional, healthy relationship.

Think you’re ready to open up? Take a look at some of the books and plentiful resources online to get the discussion going between you and your partner.

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