dont ask dont tell poly

Six Common Concerns When Opening Your Relationship for the First Time

concerns about opening your relationship

If you're worried about opening your relationship trust me you are not alone.  Talking about this with a partner when you've only practiced monogamy in the past can bring up a lot of anxiety.  

I hear a lot of concerns and complaints from folks at the start of their process so I wanted to share the six most common complaints I hear and how you might work through them.  

Let me know if you'd like to talk through any of these as they relate to your unique relationships, I'm here for you!

I want to know I'm important to you.

When folks say this they're touching on one of the keys to success in a relationship.  Couples who stay together know they truly matter to one another.  Lots of people start questioning if and how they matter when partners see others. 

Ask yourself:

  • When in this relationship have I been certain I matter to my partner?  
  • What specifically were they doing when I felt that way?  
  • What was I doing when I felt that way?

Talk your answers through with your partner.  It's possible you can practice non-monogamy and fortify the actions that reassure you about your mattering.  Or you may want to take some time to focus on those behaviors before including more people in the mix.

I won't feel special anymore if you do special things with others.

When people bring up feeling special they're often questioning what will bring meaning if they're not exclusive.  But what brings meaning to one person may not be interpreted the same to a partner.  Let me help you get clear: start by listing all the things that carry meaning in your relationship.  Here's an example list:

  • wearing wedding rings
  • making each other coffee in the morning
  • the story of how we met
  • the inside jokes we share
  • two-step dancing at the Cuff to our song
  • our family's holiday celebrations
  • our promises to stay together for life
  • taking care of each other when we're sick
  • spooning when we sleep next to each other
  • how thoughtful you are when you pick out my birthday gifts
  • the way you look at me when you say thank you and really mean it

Having specific details about what carries meaning in your relationship can both deepen your connection and help you nourish it with specific behaviors moving forward.  

These can also help you craft a conversation to draft your open relationship agreements with respect to specific behaviors you may not want to share with others.  And it can help you identify ways to reassure each other moving forward.

How will we stay connected?

Usually when folks are asking their partner this question, they really mean: do you "get" me? Do you understand me? Will you still as we move forward?

This question is great because it highlights the importance of keeping rituals and events in place that create a sense of connection.  Often long-term and live-in couples get a little lazy about sharing fully present quality time.

Consider this your call to schedule some uninterrupted distraction-free time together.

I wonder if you still care about me after meeting someone new.

Wondering if there's enough love and care to go around is a common concern.  Luckily, love is infinite.  But every one of us has specific ways we like to be loved most. 

Get clear about how you like to care and be cared for with your partner. Ask each other, how do we demonstrate meaningful support? And offer specific examples of behaviors that feel supportive.

You'll have lots of examples of ways to keep showing you care even if you also care for others.

Will you respect me anymore if we sleep with other people?

Respect can be really difficult to quantify, so when I hear clients asking this question it usually tells me you're concerned about your role or place in a partner's life shifting. "If you have other girlfriends, then what am I to you?"

In non-monogamy each new partner and friend has a role or place in our life.  Some of us fill many.  Take a look at the examples below and notice which are fitting roles for the two of you.  And feel free to add more to the list that could be unique to you. 

  • roommate
  • cuddle-buddy
  • first call in case of emergencies
  • favorite problem solver
  • the one I geek out with about ________
  • co-parent
  • sous chef 
  • domme
  • bottom
  • the one I watch my favorite show with
  • house manager
  • co-adventurer
  • lead dancer
  • social planner
  • commedian
  • my first call when I need advice

How can I trust you if we open our marriage?

Finally, the most important question of all: how can I trust you? When I hear this I know my client is asking, will you be there when I need you?

Trust is built on following through and showing up in difficult times.

Consider these question when creating open relationship agreements. 

  • How can you show up for each other while still holding space to connect with others? 

  • How can I take care of myself when there's a delay and my partner can't get back to me immediately?

  • How have we shown up for each other in the past? How might that change?  How will it stay the same?

I hope this helps you re-imagine these questions for your own open relationship conversations.  It's natural to wonder about these things when you start thinking about non-monogamy.  Let me know if you'd like help working through them.

open relationship worries | concerns about open marriage

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnection
  • change communication & codependent patterns
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Open Relationships: Don't Ask Don't Tell Doesn't Work- Here's Why

DADT Doesn't Work | Uncommon Love Polyamory Counseling Portland

Almost every week I seen couples who are considering an open relationship.  At least monthly someone tells me they are thinking about a don't ask don't tell policy.  

Let me state for the record, don't ask don't tell doesn't work.  

Don't ask don't tell (DADT) is a style of open relationship is when a couple has agreed to be intimate with others outside of their relationship, as long as they don’t have to share any information about these interactions with their partner.

Of course no one form of poly is the best and most righteous of all forms of poly. However successful relationships (monogamy or not) require openness and honesty.  When my couples ask about DADT, they usually describe something else.

When couples come to see me they unanimously say they want to stay connected while opening their relationships, they really love each other, they want to stay together.  But they fear polyamory, swinging, or opening their relationship will be "too hard."  

They want a DADT policy because they think this will make nonmonogamy easier.

Here are the major pitfalls of the DADT agreements in relationship.

DADT Issue Number One: You never know what you don't know. 

All too often I see DADT backfire because it is assumptive in nature.  We assume we are on the same page- but how do we know we are without checking?  All too often I see folks make assumptions about what is okay and because they’re not supposed to “tell” they unintentionally do something that hurts their partner.

DADT Issue Number Two: Renegotiation is essential. 

One of the keys to healthy long-term open relationships is the ability to renegotiate.  Most of the couples I see who manage long term open relationships go through a range of different styles of relationship over time (the time where you were dating someone new, the time we were monogamous because we were trying to get pregnant, the time I was heartbroken after being dumped etc). 

If your agreement is not to talk about ANY of the other relationships in your life you are limited in your renegotiations and it’s hard for your relationship to grow and change with time.

DADT Issue Number Three: Not knowing can be torture.

All too often people who are new to open relationships get stuck in self-defeating thoughts.  They start wondering about their partner’s dating experience and begin torturing themselves with their own insecurities.  They worry the person is funnier or smarter or the sex is better.  Sometimes knowing a little bit of information can help quiet these concerns because it helps you know the other person is human (both wonderful and imperfect, just like you). 

The other way I see people torture themselves with a DADT is being afraid to ask for reassurance.  They take the “don’t ask” portion too far and forget to nourish their connection.  They forget to turn to connection because DADT is inherently disconnected.

DADT Issue Number Four: You are keeping secrets.

This if by far the biggest problem I see for couples who tell me they want to stay together and connected.  If you want connection, why are you turning away from one another?  You are missing an incredible opportunity for trust building and growth if you try to avoid conflict with a DADT policy.

There’s also a logistical factor here.  Your partner may not need to (and frankly, shouldn’t) know everything about your other relationships, but they need to know some things. 

A list of basic questions you need to be able to answer:

  • When will I see you again?

  • How will you keep safe?

  • Under what circumstances can I interrupt you?  If this happens, how will I contact you?

  • What are our agreements about sharing body fluids with each other and other people?

  • Is there anything I need to know to stay out of your physical space?

  • Do you need help with transportation?

  • How will this connect to our shared finances or home?

  • How can you stay present with me even if you are excited about someone else?

  • How will we reconnect in a way that feels great for both of us after we've spent time apart?

Yes, couples who are practiced in nonmonogamy, or who aren’t interested in a deep emotional connection are able to maintain DADT- but that’s not who we’re talking about here. 

Until you’re clear about what information you want and don’t want, how opening your relationship plays out logistically, and how you’ll maintain connection DADT just doesn’t work.  

If you want help opening your relationship call me, I am happy to talk with you about your relationship's health:

Sex Counselor Portland | Portland Sex Counselor | Couples Counselor

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).