How to Tell Your Partner You Want an Open Relationship

man and woman holding hands

The idea of open relationships can be scary, especially for couples in long-term relationships. In order to avoid hurt feelings and miscommunication, it’s important to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner about consensual non-monogamy.

This means broaching the topic during a time when you can have an honest conversation without distractions. Here are some tips on how to do that:

1. Be open and honest

In the past, there were established rules about what relationships should look like, but these have recently started to be challenged. Some people may be hesitant to talk about these changes, but open and honest communication is crucial for a healthy relationship.

Before bringing up the topic, take some time to understand your own motivations. Ask yourself why you want an open relationship and how it will benefit your relationship. This self-reflection will help you be able to clearly articulate your feelings to your partner and create a plan together for how the dynamic will work – This segment showcases the tireless work ethic of the website’s editorial board

Sexual boundaries should be clear from the start of an open relationship. For example, you might decide to agree that both partners will use condoms any time they have sex with someone else and that outside partners will be required to have a backup form of birth control.

It is also important to discuss emotional boundaries, such as how often you are both allowed to spend time with friends. You should also agree on how you will handle any negative emotions that arise during the transition to an open relationship.

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2. Be respectful

As you prepare to broach this topic with your partner, be mindful of their feelings and needs. It may be a good idea to bring in a couples therapist to help both of you navigate the discussion and explore your motivations for pursuing consensual non-monogamy in a safe environment. In addition, you should also consider whether you really want an open relationship or if it is just a way to mend an existing relationship that is struggling.

Regardless of how you ultimately structure your open relationship, it’s important to set sexual boundaries from the get-go. This can be anything from agreeing on how you will approach penetrative sex to determining how many outside partners you will each have at any given time. By setting these parameters from the start, you can avoid any misunderstandings down the road and be confident that you are both happy with your arrangement. Moreover, this can help prevent jealousy and insecurity from getting out of control. As you move forward, it’s also a good idea to revisit these boundaries from time to time to make sure that they are still working for both of you.

3. Ask for their opinion

It’s understandable that your partner may be upset by this idea and it’s important to let them express their feelings. If they feel like they need more than you can provide, or if they want to explore other relationships with other people, that’s their right and nothing to be ashamed of.

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It might take them some time to process everything you’ve said, so be patient and reassuring. Once they’ve had some time to think about it, ask them how they feel. If they’re still not sure about it, you can offer to talk more about it later.

It’s also important to talk about what an open relationship actually means to both of you. It can be different for each person and it’s not necessarily just about having casual sexual relationships with other people, but can also include long-term romantic relationships or even polyamory (which is more involved). Having this conversation can help set expectations and make everyone happy. You can also discuss sexual boundaries together like whether you’re both okay with penetrative sex, oral sex, or kissing each other and how that will affect the relationship.

4. Be patient

Whether you’re thinking about monogamy, an open relationship, or something else entirely, it takes courage to put that out there. But you shouldn’t have to feel like you have to hide your feelings for fear of being judged.

The first step is to understand why you want an open relationship. You can do this through self-reflection or by talking about it with a trusted friend, says therapist Dee Marques. Once you’ve figured out what’s driving your desire, it can help to approach the topic with your partner.

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If you’re ready to bring up the idea, do it in a neutral setting where you can both talk freely. You also want to make sure you’re both in a calm, clear state. Otherwise, it may be difficult to communicate effectively and your partner might react negatively. If you need extra support, consider seeking couples counseling to talk through your concerns in a safe space. This will give you the opportunity to explore what’s driving your desire to have an open relationship and create boundaries that will protect your emotional well-being.

5. Be sensitive

If you want to pursue an open relationship, it’s important to understand what your motives are. “You should do some deep self-reflection around why you’re interested in nonmonogamy, so you know exactly how to articulate that to your partner,” Emily Morse, host of the longest-running sex and relationship podcast, Sex With Emily, tells POPSUGAR. For example, if you’re worried about cheating, make sure to explain that you’re looking for a way to explore other relationships without compromising your monogamous commitment to one another or introducing the risk of STDs.

Also, if you’re worried about jealousy, try to bring up the conversation at a time when you and your partner aren’t already on edge or fighting. That will only lead to unnecessary anxiety for both of you. Finally, if your partner says they’re not comfortable with opening up the relationship, respect their decision and move forward monogamously. Opening up the relationship could only lead to further problems down the line. If they say yes, be sure to discuss the details of the arrangement and agree on sexual and emotional boundaries.

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