It’s important to understand how your partner feels about open relationships before you bring it up. It will help you to frame the discussion and convey your point of view in a compelling way.
It’s also important to think about your own motives before asking for an open relationship. It will help you to address any insecurities that may arise.
1. Start Small
As with any delicate conversation, you should take the lead in setting up a time and place to discuss it with your partner. Be sure to do this when both of you are feeling calm and in a space where you can have a lengthy discussion without being interrupted or distracted.
When you’re ready to broach the topic, start by describing your reason for wanting an open relationship. Explain that you’ve been thinking about it for a while, but haven’t acted on it because you want to keep the relationship that you have going strong. Reassure them that your decision is not because they are not good enough for you or that you’re jealous of them.
It’s important that you don’t sugarcoat what you’re asking for, or your partner may not be ready for it. If you’re unsure about how to approach it, talk with people in an open relationship or seek out counsel from a therapist who understands the dynamics of consensual nonmonogamy. It will take time to find a balance between exploring your needs and staying in a monogamous relationship that still feels like a solid foundation for you both.
2. Be Honest
Open relationships are a form of consensual non-monogamy, which means they involve two partners seeking sex and/or love outside their primary relationship. They can take many forms, from just sex to emotional or intellectual attachments to even cohabiting with other people.
When you decide to ask your partner about an open relationship, be honest about your motives and how you envision this arrangement unfolding. You might find that your partner has been thinking about an open relationship as well, but they just haven’t had the chance to talk it out with you. Be sure to have this conversation when you and your partner are in a good mood, not during an argument or in the aftermath of a bad day.
Also, it’s important to be honest about the sexual and emotional boundaries you both want to establish. This will likely include things like how much information you’ll share about your outside hookups, whether you’ll require your partners to use protection, and how often you’ll check-in with one another. You’ll also want to discuss how you’ll prevent jealousy by communicating effectively with your partners, including reaffirming each other and soothing insecurities.
3. Be Prepared
As the concept of open relationships becomes more and more mainstream, it can be intimidating to ask your partner to consider one. Whether your partner is already in an open relationship or they’re considering consensual non-monogamy, it’s important to discuss the possibility with them honestly and directly.
The key is to keep the discussion open, not accusatory, even if they get upset in the moment. It’s also a good idea to think about what your motivations are for wanting this kind of arrangement and why it’s important to you. It can help to write them down and practice saying them out loud before bringing the topic up with your partner.
In addition to sexual boundaries, it’s a good idea to discuss emotional boundaries as well, such as how comfortable you are with your partner going out on dates or seeing other people in their social circle. As with any conversation, it’s best to do this when both of you are in neutral-to-good moods and have time to talk through the issues. It’s also a good idea for both of you to decide whether or not this is an arrangement that will be public, private, or both.
4. Don’t Get Awkward
All open relationships are different, but the basics are that you and your partner practice consensual non-monogamy. It’s usually a conversation that comes about because the monogamous setup is no longer working for your relationship, or your partner feels like they need more connection and fulfillment in their life outside of you.
It’s a huge decision, and you want to make sure that your partner is fully on board before moving forward with it. It’s also important to broach the subject at a time that isn’t too rushed, and in a setting where your partner is comfortable.
During the discussion, you should clearly explain your reasons for wanting an open relationship, and how you plan on navigating the emotional guidelines of the arrangement. For example, you should discuss who is fair game for your partner to hook up with, and if you ever feel jealous, how will you handle it? It’s not uncommon for jealousy to play a role in the success of an open relationship. But it is important to avoid letting it escalate into an argument.
5. Be Respectful
If you are exploring non-monogamy in a relationship, it is incredibly important that you talk through this with your partner and respect their boundaries. It can be a difficult conversation, and it may take time to get everything worked out.
Start this discussion when both of you are in a calm and respectful mood, and make sure that you have plenty of time to talk. Do not rush or accost your partner when they are busy. Having a good, long talk will help them feel supported and respected.
Once you have had the discussion, be sure to create sexual boundaries for yourself and your partner right away. This includes defining what you are both comfortable with in terms of penetrative sex, oral sex, and kissing. You should also discuss what protections you will use and require of your partners to reduce your risk of getting or spreading STIs.
If your partner is not comfortable with openness, respect their decision and move forward monogamously. Do not try to force them into a polyamorous relationship, as this will only lead to resentment.