Bringing-up the topic of an open relationship to your partner

Opening-up a relationship won’t hurt a solid one, but it certainly won’t fix a broken one.

I answered a question over on YourTango.com recently about a woman who wanted to open-up their relationship but didn’t know how to approach her husband with the idea.  This is a common issue, or more to the point, talking about any sexual fantasies is an issue regardless of how open anyone says the line of communication is with their partner.  So I thought I’d share my answer here, though this is just the tip of the iceberg about this subject.

How do I talk to my partner about having an open relationship?

Talking about sex is always difficult with someone you care about because more often than not their first response is “What?! I’m not enough?” or “What?! I’m not good enough for you?!”.  Or they are afraid if they express their fantasies their partner will think they are weird or perverted or worse.  And it doesn’t matter what it is.   Sometimes just instructing them on a way to please you better sets off their insecurities because they now feel that they don’t please you at all.

Because partners react like this enough of the time, people tend to not really discuss sexual needs and desires with them. In my experience, even those that say they have good communication with their partner regarding their sexual needs and desires really don’t, and hold quite a bit back.

This is the reason that many people choose cheating through which to get their needs met.  In fact it’s always baffled me that people will be more honest about their sexual fantasies with complete strangers than they will with their partner.

My advice is to first, not bring this up before, during or immediately after sex. It’s best to bring it up during non-sex time when rational, non-hormone driven conversation can happen (although I know many that the idea sounds hot when they’re horny but scares the Hell out of them when they’re not).

Second, start-off by saying something along the lines of “Honey, this doesn’t mean that you are a bad lover or that you don’t satisfy me, because oh my god, you do.” and “I feel I can talk to you about this because of the incredible relationship we have and the security that you offer me in it.”

From there explain that wanting an open relationship isn’t about finding a replacement for them, it’s adding on to the wonderful relationship you already have. Because that’s what it’s all about right? Successful open relationships are adding to an already great relationship, they aren’t about fixing anything or because your current relationship is unsatisfying in any way.  In fact those that use open relationships to fix their relationship almost always end-up broken-up.  Of course they were on the path to imploding anyways, having sex with others just accelerated the process.

This is a difficult concept for many to comprehend: that desiring to have a relationship, whether sexual or emotional and sexual in nature, doesn’t mean anything is wrong with or lacking in your current relationship.

Most people will tell you that they understand this concept when it comes to friends – you can have more than one friend even if you have a “best friend”, and having other friends in no way threatens your relationship with your BFF.  You don’t have other friends because your relationship with your BFF is unsatisfying or lacking.  You have other friends because they each add something different and interesting to your life.   Not any one friend is a replacement for another.

Yet, many people just can’t wrap their brain around the same concept when applied to romantic relationships – they think that there should be just a “one and only” and nobody else.  They feel that any other romantic relationship must be a replacement for the current one.

Bringing-up an open relationship of any kind is a delicate subject, so approach it with care and concern for your partner and let them know in no uncertain terms that they are the most important thing in the world to you and that you are not unhappy or dissatisfied with them in any way.   Tell them that nobody could ever replace what they are to you and their place in your life and that you are not looking for that, either. This is adding more to both of your lives.  Then be prepared to talk and talk and talk about this.  Also, be prepared that they most likely will want the same and you’ll have to deal with their other relationships, also.

On that note though, some of the people my wife and I have met together as well as some of our individual partners have become some of our best friends as a couple. This is an added benefit of open relationships.

There are some great resources on the web and in print for both of you. Check-out Jenny Block’s book “Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage” and Tristan Taormino’s “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships” as well as Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy’s “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures”. A good Internet resource is Franklin Veaux’s site “Polyamory? What, like two girlfriends?”.  Google it and you’ll find it quick.  Even if what you’re thinking isn’t swinging, The Swingers Board has a great section dedicated to posts by others and how they brought-up the subject to their partner, “Bringing up the topic to my partner”.

Whether you are looking for romantic relationships or just sexual, all these resources will help in getting you successfully from here to there and to deal with any jealousy issues that come-up.