What If You Want An Open Relationship & Your Partner Doesn't?


As consensual non-monogamy becomes more and more common, many people who previously assumed relationships had to be exclusive are wondering if opening their relationship might benefit them. That means it's not uncommon to get into a monogamous relationship thinking it's what you wanted and then reevaluate it. And that's OK — we're allowed to change our minds.

If you've brought up the possibility of an open relationship with your partner despite not knowing what they might think, props to you. It might hurt some people's egos to know their partner wants to be with other people, but it's way better than going behind their back and cheating. It's also better than staying in a relationship you're unhappy in.

But just as you have the right to express your preference for non-monogamy, they have the right to state their preference for monogamy. So, what do you do if you have different preferences?

First, Clear Up Misunderstandings

Many people are afraid of non-monogamy because they don't really understand it, so the topic conjures images of cheating, Kenna Cook, sex educator and pleasure professional with O.School, tells Bustle. Plus, there are so many different ways to be polyamorous, so they might have a different idea of it in their heads than you do.

To clear up misunderstandings, explain to your partner exactly what kind of relationship you're envisioning and how you would imagine retaining commitment, respect, and communication. Point them toward resources where they can learn more about open relationships (The Ethical Slut is a great book for an introduction). They may not be able to make a decision right away, but if they're willing to have an ongoing conversation with an open mind, that's a good start.

But What If They're Still Not On Board?

It all comes down to what your motives are for opening your relationship, says Cook. First of all, if your motive is to save your relationship, it probably won't work. Non-monogamy can strengthen already strong relationships, but it won't allow a relationship between two ultimately incompatible people to last. If the problems you want to solve come down to fundamental incompatibilities, you may want to date other people without keeping your current partner along for the ride.

"If your partner is completely uncomfortable with the idea of polyamory and not willing to explore the topic in at least research and conversation, then it's time for you to reevaluate the relationship."

But there are some desires that opening your relationship might actually help fulfill. Maybe, for example, you're looking to explore a sexual kink, or maybe you want to have more sex than you're currently having. Ask yourself and your partner if there's a way to meet those needs while staying monogamous.

If there isn't, you need to decide whether your relationship is worth sacrificing the experiences you're craving. "If your partner is completely uncomfortable with the idea of polyamory and not willing to explore the topic in at least research and conversation," says Cook, "then it's time for you to reevaluate the relationship and how much autonomy you want to have in your dating life."