If you're feeling like monogamy isn't totally suited for you, it can seem as if you're faced with a difficult decision between forcing yourself to be monogamous and having a completely open relationship. But there are arrangements in between, and the possibility of being with other people can be treated on a case-by-case basis. If you're sure you want to date or sleep with people outside your relationship, the first step is starting a dialogue with your partner.
"Traditional monogamy is the default option in our society, but people forget how daunting an expectation it can be, especially since we expect our partner to fulfill all our needs until death," Brianna Rader, relationship and sex educator and founder of the Juicebox Sex & Relationship App, tells Bustle.
However, ethically non-monogamous relationships pose their own challenges and should be given careful consideration before you jump into them. You and/or your partner will likely have to learn to communicate better and deal with jealousy. It can also be an opportunity for growth, though, if you're prepared for that growth.
If you've thought about it and think you'd like to be able to date or hook up with someone else, here's how to bring it up with your partner.
Test The Waters By Talking About It In The Abstract
If you read an article or see a show on polyamory or meet someone who has partners outside of their relationship, bringing that up might be a good way to gage how your partner feels about it, Cyndi Darnell, NYC based sex and relationship therapist, tells Bustle. She suggests saying "I read an article about XYZ the other day. I have never met anyone into that. Have you? Have you ever thought about it?"
Set Aside Time To Talk
If you're going to directly discuss the possibility of you being with someone else, make sure you've set aside time to discuss it thoroughly. "Choose a time where neither of you are feeling especially vulnerable, i.e. not directly after sex, nor when one person is distracted or on their way out the door to work," says Darnell. "It's important the scene is set as well as choosing the appropriate timing."
Establish General Boundaries
If you think you might end up wanting to be with other people, Rader recommends bringing that up with your partner before any opportunity comes up. That way, should the opportunity arise, you'll both have already given it some thought and established what you're comfortable with.
"It doesn't have to be said on a first date, but you can share your feelings around monogamy after a few dates or when discussing exclusivity," says Rader. "You could say, 'I've learned a lot from my past relationships and realize I'm not fulfilled by traditional monogamy. This doesn't mean I don't care a lot about you or that I don't want to pursue a relationship with you. I just want to be upfront that I will desire threesomes or an ethically monogamish relationship one day. We can discuss that together and figure out what the boundaries of the arrangement are."
Emphasize That It's Not About Them
Many people take it personally if their partner wants to be with someone else. They may feel as if you're not fulfilled in the relationship, or as if the other person will put the relationship in danger. "Share with passion and openness that you love them and want to figure out an arrangement that benefits both of you," says Rader. "Threesomes are a great way to make both parties feel involved."
Discuss The Specifics
Being with another person can mean lots of different things, obviously, so make sure you and your partner cover what is and isn't OK. For example, maybe it's OK for you to sleep with the other person but not to date them romantically, or maybe certain sexual acts are reserved for your partner. Rader suggests asking yourselves: "Do you want to only have threesomes? Do you want to only sleep with other people when your partner is out of town? How often can this happen? Do you tell your partner all the details?" You also might want to discuss boundaries around how frequently you can see the other person.
After you come up with a plan that works for you both, continue discussing and reevaluating how each of you feels about it. Whatever agreement you come to, it's OK to change your mind.