At first, it might not be obvious that your
partner wants to start seeing other people. But over time, you might notice a clue or two. If they're constantly checking out cute strangers, for example, or seem to be hinting at expanding their horizons, you'll definitely start to wonder what's up.
Of course, "the only foolproof way to know for sure if your partner wants to date other people is if you ask them and they confirm,"
Pella Weisman, a dating coach, tells Bustle. From there, if you're both into the idea of opening up your relationship, Weisman says, "you can then have a conversation about how this might look and what agreements you would want to have in place." Seeing other people is certainly an option, but it's best to establish ground rules, first, so that you can agree on what's OK and what isn't.
That said, an open relationship isn't something you
have to be into or even something you have to try. You're in no way obligated to stay with a partner while they try to "find themselves or start seeing other people. You have every right to figure out what works best for you, and at the end that might mean parting ways.
With that in mind, here are seven
signs your partner wants to be dating other people, according to experts.
Your Partner's Eyes Are Wandering More Often
It's human nature to notice other people. If you and your partner are sitting in a cafe, they might quickly glance at someone walking by — and hey, you'll probably do the same. Checking people out doesn't automatically mean your partner wants to open up your relationship.
It may, however, be something worth talking about if your partner checks other people out, and then seems to be looking for more. For instance, "when your partner is looking at other people more than he or she normally does, and there’s that extra beat where you see he or she is waiting for eye contact with that other person,"
April Masini, a relationship expert, tells Bustle.
That's a sign they aren't just glancing around the room, or mindlessly checking someone out, but actually trying to form a connection.
They Ask If You Find Someone Attractive
From there, your partner might test the waters by asking your opinion of strangers strolling by,
Chris Seiter, a relationship consultant, tells Bustle. "They could start asking you if you found someone attractive, or would you be interested in someone," he says, which is an attempt to open a conversation about potential possibilities.
If you aren't out and about, your partner might gauge your interest by asking if you have any crushes, Weisman says. They might also ask about your fantasies, which celebrities you find attractive, and so on. Nine times out of ten, this is just a light-hearted convo many couples choose to have, sometimes as a way of kicking off new things in the bedroom.
But it could also be a hint they're looking for something more. Your partner may ask how you feel about other people, Weisman says, "because that would make it easier for them to bring up the topic."
Your Partner Is Flirting (A Lot)
It can be tough to tell when casual flirting crosses into the realm of
wanting an open relationship. Because sometimes, people are perfectly happy having one partner, but also like to flirt and have fun conversations. They don't want to date anyone else, or even hook up; they just like attention, and can't help being chatty and sweet.
If this describes your partner, their flirting will likely feel "harmless," aka not something you need to sit down and discuss as a couple. You should talk about it, though, if your partner begins flirting with more vigor, or if they're doing it right in front of you, Seiter says. If they've stopped making an attempt to hide or tone down their flirting, don't hesitate to talk about it.
They Suddenly Care More About Their Appearance
It's perfectly fine to decide, once and for all, that you're going to wear something other than sweatpants, take good care of your health, or make the effort to comb your hair. So just because your partner starts "upping their game," it doesn't mean they want to date other people.
It could be a different story, though, if they spruce themselves up to go out more often — especially if you aren't invited. "When someone is looking to meet other people they start making an effort in themselves again," Seiter says. "So if you find that your partner is making themselves look good every time they go out then maybe they are trying to impress people."
Your Partner Is Going Out More Without You
Keep in mind dressing up and going out isn't a surefire sign your partner wants to date other people. It's great to
have your own life in a relationship, which might mean having separate friend groups, personal hobbies, or things you like to do solo — such as spending a weekend alone.
But your partner might be interested in dating other people if their solo activities include going out to bars or seeing friends, and never asking you to tag along. As Masini explains, this is often a way for a person to "test the waters" without their partner there.
Yours might be interesting in experiencing how it feels to go out alone, flirt a bit, and see if other folks are interested in them.
They Ask For Space To "Figure Themselves Out"
Unfortunately, a partner who wants to start dating other people might end up doing so without asking first,
Trisha Andrews, MS, MFT, an individual and family therapist practicing at the Amanda Atkins Counseling Group, tells Bustle. They might not hold up their end of your relational agreement, she says, whether it's by having an emotional affair, or even a physical affair.
Cheating is a big red flag something's amiss in your relationship; that there's something that needs to be figured out ASAP. But there are subtler signs under this same umbrella, such as talking about wanting to "find themselves," Andrews says or asking for space to figure out what they truly want.
Opening things up isn't a guaranteed way to make your relationship work. Sometimes it's best to part ways. But if you think dating other people would benefit you both and create the type of relationship you're looking for, give it a try.
And again, you'll want to start by defining what "open" means. As Andrews says, "Is it the freedom to have more than one sexual partner, which is the freedom to sleep with another partner(s), or more than one romantic partner(s), which would be considered polyamory?" Whatever you decide, communication will be key.
Your Partner Starts Throwing Around The Idea Of Polyamory
Has your partner started casually mentioning a
friend who is polyamorous? Are they listening to podcasts about love and open relationships? While they might not overtly ask you about dating other people — at least not right away — these are some signs they're at the very least interested.
Other signs including talking about threesomes, wanting to watch movies about swinging, and otherwise looking for ways to insert the notion of polyamory into your everyday lives. As Weisman says, "This may be their way of trying to see what you think about these ideas."
You could meet them halfway by saying something like, "What's that podcast you've been into lately? What's drawing you to it?" Go from there — but only if you really want to.
works for a lot of couples, but if it's not for you, make sure you make that loud and clear. No matter what you suspect or what eventually comes out of noticing these signs, a conversation has to follow.
"Talking together about what this might mean for the future of your relationship is an important thing to do," Weisman says. "Don't underestimate the power of direct conversation. It does wonders for any type of relationship!"
Experts: Pella Weisman, dating coach April Masini, relationship expert Chris Seiter, relationship consultant Trisha Andrews, MS, MFT, an individual and family therapist