Transformational Pleasure

By Melissa Fritchle LMFT Holistic Sex Therapist and Educator

Opening Up Your Relationship Part 2: How To Talk to Your Partner About It

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 Asking a current partner to change the rules of the relationship can be scary. If you love your partner and want to stay in relationship with them, shaking things up can feel incredibly fragile and remind you of what you stand to lose. If you are thinking about an open relationship, I hope you have spent some time asking yourself questions and gaining clarity on what it is you want, why you want it, and what you are willing to compromise.

Once you have some clarity for yourself, you may decide to approach your partner and explore making changes to your relationship agreements. Here are some tips, pulled from couples I have seen in the therapy room, for those early conversations.

Find a time when you feel close, strong and relaxed – Thinking about opening your relationship to new partners will feel vulnerable and risky, so start the conversation from a solid foundation. Be sure you will have time and privacy, that you both have had recent clear reminders of why your relationship is healthy and strong, and there are no other major life stressors drawing energy. If you have recently had a breach of trust, or communication has been painful, or you are not enjoying spending time together, this is probably not a good time to explore opening your relationship. Rather focus on strengthening what you have together so that you have a good base for adventures later.

Be prepared to hear No – Remember if you come to this with only one acceptable outcome in mind, it is less a conversation than an ultimatum. You may be very excited about this possibility, but try as best you can to actually approach your partner with curiosity. Your first conversations should be to explore the idea together, not to try and convince them. Ask questions; what do they imagine an open relationship looks like?, what would scare them about it?, what excites them?, what would it require you to change? If your partner doesn’t feel pressured or manipulated, it is more likely you will be able to revisit the topic again.

Be prepared to tell your partner how they are special to you -  In thinking about adding new partners in to a relationship dynamic, It is natural for your current partner to wonder, “Am I being replaced? Am I lacking in some way or not enough for you? Will you treat me just the same as you treat other partners?” Come to the conversation able to speak to what is unique about your relationship with your current partner, what you appreciate about them, and how you see them as being different than other partners. How will you prioritize your partner? How do you see their role in your life as special?

Be prepared to talk about time management and priorities – The truth is having more than one romantic or sexual partner requires more time. If your partner already feels squeezed into your life or both of you are barely getting through your weeks requirements as it is, you will need to think about what is realistic. What will you have to  give up doing so that you time to spend with new people? What is going to take priority?

Don’t Bully or Belittle – One behavior I have seen again and again in unsuccessful conversations about open relationships, is one partner treating the other as though they are unenlightened, up tight, brainwashed, jealous – pick your patronizing insult. The results of this approach are no better than when the partner who is against an open relationship accuses the other of being slutty, immature, immoral, or worse. Relationships are about emotional needs as well as shared values. Even if the idea of monogamy no longer makes sense to you intellectually, remember that decisions about relationships and love are deeply emotional. They don’t always rely on the rational. Our relationships are not just socio/political exercises, they must be uniquely shaped by the humans in them. Be respectful of your partner’s stance and honor the emotions and vulnerability at play.

Expect this to be a long conversation – Look at this as a shared exploration. The two of you cannot figure out how you feel or what will work for you in one sitting. This will take time to develop, a series of conversations, starts and stops, re-evaluating, questioning, and even back tracking. All of this of ok, in fact it is the basis of an honest, alive, growing relationship.