Asking a current partner to change the rules of the relationship can be scary. If you love your partner and want to stay in a relationship with him, shaking things up can feel incredibly fragile and remind you of what you stand to lose.
If you are thinking about an open relationship, spend 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. (For help with this self-exploration, see my earlier article, Is An Open Relationship Right For You.)
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Once you know what you want, approach your partner and discuss making changes to your relationship agreements. Here are some tips — pulled from couples I have seen in the therapy room — for those early conversations.
1. Find a time when you feel close, strong and relaxed. Thinking about opening your relationship to new partners will feel 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, 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.
2. 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 him.
Ask questions. What does he imagine an open relationship looks like? What would scare him about it? What excites him? 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.
3. Tell your partner how he is 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 him, and how you see him as being different than other partners. How will you prioritize your partner? How do you see his role in your life as special?
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4. 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 are you going to give up doing so that you have time to spend with new people? What is going to take priority? Keep reading ...
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