Monogamy has been the social standard for romantic relationships for quite some time, but more and more people are beginning to realize that most of us just aren’t wired that way. In fact, many so-called “monogamous” relationships aren’t truly monogamous when you examine them more deeply. But having agreed to remain exclusive, our exploration of other romantic or sexual interests often takes the form of cheating, which causes a great deal of mistrust and conflict, and can often damage a relationship beyond repair.
There is another way, however. An openly non-monogamous relationship can offer one the freedom and transparency to explore other relationships without secrecy and shame. But if you’ve already agreed to a monogamous relationship, making the transition to non-monogamy can be tricky. Simply suggesting the notion can bring up a lot of unsettling emotions in your partner, especially if they have strong beliefs about exclusivity. So when is the right time to talk about it? And how can we discuss it in a way that remains sensitive to our partner’s feelings?
This is an issue that comes up quite a bit, and it’s a big decision so you’ll want to be sure it’s the right decision for your relationship. You might have concerns as to whether an open relationship will work for you and your partner, or whether your partner will even respond to the idea in a positive and receptive way.
I have to say that bringing up the idea of opening your relationship while you’re already well into an agreed-upon monogamous relationship could be potentially disastrous. So before you jump the gun, you really need to spend some time looking into why this idea has suddenly arisen. Some people have always been aware of the fact that they aren’t monogamous, but they’ve denied this aspect of themselves in fear of being ridiculed or rejected by friends, family, potential lovers and society in general. The general unacceptably of this notion can also cause us to feel shameful whenever we find ourselves attracted to someone other than our primary partner. Or it may be that you’ve always been primarily monogamous, but now you just want to add some variety and spice to your sex life.
Ideally, it’s best to begin a relationship with clear and open communication concerning what type of relationship best suits you. This way there are no surprises later on. However, this article is aimed toward those who are already well within an established monogamous relationship and would like advice on how to transition into an open relationship.
You really have to ask yourself why it is you want to open the relationship, and what you expect to gain from it? How do you envision your open relationship? How do you see yourself interacting with others outside of your primary partnership? How do you feel about your partner exploring sexual and romantic interests apart from you? And have you considered how all of this might affect the current relationship?
From what I’ve observed it would seem that many people seeking to make this transition are looking for a way to improve upon their existing relationship. The idea of opening the relationship seems to come up well into the relationship, rather than at the beginning. For most couples this occurs just beyond the honeymoon stage when the passion and excitement has begun to fizzle down, and monogamy has become synonymous with monotony.
It may be that the relationship has become a bit dry, maybe even boring. Or it might be that you just don’t connect with your partner as deeply as you once did. Perhaps you’re beginning to find the relationship a bit unfulfilling and dissatisfying. Or there might be resentment and a feeling of disconnectedness, and you and your partner just aren’t getting along anymore. Maybe the relationship feels old and worn and you’re seeking to explore something new and exciting again.
If any of the above mentioned issues describe your current relationship, I would suggest you stop right there. If you think that adding another person into the mix is going to fix your problems, you’re only going to make those problems worse. Transitioning to an open relationship is not a healthy way to resolve your current relationship issues. It’s only going to complicate those issues. If you can’t maintain a strong and healthy relationship with just one other person, what makes you think you’ll be capable of maintaining a healthy relationship with two or more?
Maintaining a strong and healthy open relationship requires a level of maturity that many people are just not yet capable of maintaining. It requires a high degree of honesty, clear communication, and a deep sense of commitment. Yes, that’s right. A healthy non-monogamous relationship requires commitment. If that seems strange to you then you may want to rethink the way in which you understand commitment. Because real commitment is about being dedicated to one’s partner, even when that doesn’t include romantic or sexual exclusivity.
Commitment is very important in regard to non-monogamy, because what we see too often in relationships is a partner who is not truly dedicated. It might be agreed that the relationship is monogamous, but it may also be that you’re only committed to the relationship until someone better comes along, and that isn’t really commitment at all. Commitment in a non-monogamous relationship means that no matter who else shows up in your life, you still remain dedicated to your primary partner. This kind of commitment means that you are constantly giving your energy and attention to maintaining that relationship, to resolving issues as they arise, and to building and maintaining a deep and lasting heart connection. If the relationship lacks this kind of depth and intimacy, if you are unable to easily resolve conflict, and if the two of you do not feel strong and secure, both individually as well as in regard to the relationship as a whole, then opening the relationship to other partners is likely going to cause some friction. Before attempting to make that transition, and perhaps before even mentioning the idea, you should spend your time and energy on strengthening your current partnership.
When I hear the term “Open Relationship”, I’m reminded that the most important ingredient is openness. This means being transparent, clear and radically honest with your partner. Your partner should be you closest confidant; your best friend. You should be able to discuss anything with them. You should be able to reveal your deepest darkest secrets without any fear of judgment, ridicule or condemnation. Achieving this deep level of friendship requires that you and your partner accept and respect one another, despite your many imperfections and differences. It requires that you listen to one another attentively with non-judgmental compassion and understanding. It requires that you take responsibility for your own emotional reactions, and that you learn to process your emotions in a healthy way, so that, while your partner is speaking their truth, you do not react in a way that will cause them to want to shut down.
An open relationship also requires a great degree of emotional security. Taking responsibility for your own emotions means that you do not rely on anyone else to make you feel happy, secure or loved. However, it is also important to regularly show appreciation and gratitude for your partner. This helps to maintain a strong bond and encourage a deeper connection. If you aren’t able to maintain such a connection with your current partner, then I would not recommend an open relationship.
An open relationship requires a strong sense of security in your current partnership. How does your partner handle the possibility of you being intimately involved with someone else? And how do you deal with the possibility of the same scenario when reversed? Do you or your partner struggle with feelings of jealousy and insecurity? And if so, are you able to work through those feelings rationally and constructively?
People in open relationships aren’t necessarily free from jealousy and possessiveness, although this is one of the aims. But getting to that place requires a great degree of understanding and self-awareness. Are you and your partner capable of such understanding? This is important to know, because jealousy can ruin a relationship, regardless of whether that relationship is monogamous or not. So before considering opening your relationship, you need to have a firm grasp on jealousy. Again, I’m not saying that you need to be in a place where jealousy no longer exists, although that would certainly be wonderful. But you do need to be in a place where both you and your partner recognize the process of jealousy, how and from where it arises, and how to deal with it in a healthy and productive way.
There are so many things to take into consideration when thinking about involving other people in your relationship. But as I said before, the most important matter is the overall health of your current partnership. If you can’t maintain a healthy relationship with one partner, adding other people to the mix is just going to complicate things all the more. Whatever unresolved problems or issues you have with your current partner will be multiplied. So take time to resolve them now.
If it sounds as if I’m trying to discourage you from making this transition, it’s because I am. To be realistic, it’s just not something that everyone is currently capable of handling. I can’t stress enough that an open relationship requires a great deal of maturity on the part of every person involved.
I don’t advocate polyamory, polygamy or swinging. And I don’t advocate monogamy either. Nor do I condemn any of these relationship styles. What I do encourage, however, is a conscious relationship founded upon mutual respect, acknowledgement of individual freedom, open communication, acceptance, transparency, authenticity and unconditional love. It’s not about the form or style of relationship, but rather the quality which determines how successful it will be in the long run.
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