What to do if your partner wants an open relationship

Everything was going well with you two, great even. And suddenly your partner says, almost in passing: “What do you think about trying out an open relationship?”

You’re confused, life didn’t prepare you for this. Let’s figure it out.

First, let’s establish what an open relationship is.

OK, so an open relationship (or an open partnership)  is a form of relationship where the participants want to be together, but at the same time agree on non-monogamy. To put it simply,  they award each other freedom for romantic or sexual relations with third parties. As you know, in this format of relationships, sex with others is not considered cheating and is totally allowed.

Given the above, it’s obvious that this type of partnership is possible if it suits both partners. Otherwise, it’ll be called something else.

Therefore, to begin with, it’s worth clarifying: what does your partner mean by this concept? How exactly does see imagine this free, open relationship?

There is no point in continuing the conversation if you hear something like “well, it means that I can do whatever I want, with whomever I want, and you’ll be fine with it without any drama”.

If it’s really about an open partnership, then before breaking off the relationship or, conversely, easily and quickly accepting the “rules of the game”, try to figure out the reasons that prompted your partner to take such a step (by the way, sometimes you can decide whether or not to agree at this very stage):

  • you have different temperaments and “appetites” (for example, having sex twice a month is fine for you, but for the partner it is almost celibacy)
  • your partner is not a monogamous person and in his system of values ,polyamory is a more important and interesting option
  • something is missing for the partner in sex, so he hopes to get it from another person (in this case, you can really discuss this situation and, possibly go without involving a “third party”)
  • it seems to the partner that it is you who is bored and wanting some novelty, which is why he is offering this strategy
  • the partner feels that he’s not getting enough attention and love from you (which, again, is worth discussing)
  • your partner has suggested this option as soon as certain difficulties have made an appearance in your relationship (unfortunately, this may be a sign of an immature and childlike personality, and his decision is unlikely to strengthen your relationship).

No, there’s no single reason, even if a very compelling one, that means that your task is to bow your head peacefully and follow your loved one into an unknown and possibly unsuitable territory for you. Set aside the received information as a point for analysis and continue to study the issue.

Research the different types of open relationships, their pros and cons. Who knows, maybe something will even interest you. By the way, rejection of monogamy can take different forms – flirtation only, kisses only, online dating only, etc. Every couple chooses an option that suits them.

In order to make an informed and conscious decision, you have to work with your thoughts and feelings.

  • Analyze and write down what you feel when you hear or read about open relationships (interest, nervousness, anxiety, panic).
  • Write down everything that upsets you about these relationships.
  • Write down the pros of this type of communication that you perceive.
  • Consider the courses that the events could take: what’ll happen if I say “yes”, and if I say “no”.

The more you describe your feelings, the better you’ll know yourself and it’ll become clearer which decision should be made.

Please remember that refusing an open relationship doesn’t make you a bad, fussy person. And agreeing to it doesn’t mean that you are doing something terrible. It’s important for you to rely on your feelings and agree to the offer ONLY IF YOU COME TO THE CONCLUSION: YES, I ALSO WANT TO TRY IT.

So, if you think that an open partnership is worth a try, but you feel some anxiety and uncertainty, then the most reasonable step would be to have a frank conversation with your partner, where you’ll discuss everything in detail and dot all the i’s and cross the t’s. Namely:

Set clear boundaries:

  • What’s allowed and what is strictly forbidden in your partnership ( meet anywhere but don’t bring anyone home; it’s necessary to introduce a new paramour, etc.)
  • With whom the sex is off-limits entirely (colleagues, best friends, exes, Elaine)

About jealousy

It can’t be avoided no matter what, so it’s best to tell one another in advance what can cause it (nighttime calls, social media comments, traces of lipstick, etc.) and try not to allow such situations to occur.

About safety

Always observe the rules of safe sex!


Agree that after some time (a month, half a year) you’ll return to this conversation again. This will be necessary in order to once again revise your arrangements, add or remove something, find out if everyone’s happy with everything.

Accepting a suggestion of an open relationship, finding a “compromise” or breaking up – any of these decisions will require your awareness, wisdom and courage. The most important thing you should remember: the decision to go into an open relationship in fear of losing a partner is a bad option that will definitely end in the collapse of not only the union, but also yourself.