Is it about polyamory or do you just want to leave?

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So your long-term monogamous partner just told you they want to open your relationship up.  Odds are you've wondered if they really want an open relationship, or if they're looking to leave you.  

This is one of the biggest fears people face when their partner brings up open relationships.  

It's a valid question, in ten years of working with couples opening up, about 30% ultimately decide they want to break up.  Lots of folks start dreaming of non-monogamy when what they're really dreaming about is escape or change.  

But that leaves nearly 70% of the couples I've seen who do want to stay together- and somehow add other people to the mix.  I want to emphasize that the majority of folks I see want to (and ultimately do) stay together.  

But how can you determine which group you fall into?  Here's what I look for when I work with newly open relationships.

Do you still have emotional energy to invest in this relationship?

All relationships require some emotional energy and maintenance work.  One of the simplest indicators of your interest to stay in a relationship is if you are willing to invest emotional energy in the relationship.  

If you're not willing to keep improving your current relationship and learning to love each other better this can be a pretty clear message you are ready to leave.

How will you continue to cultivate connection with your original partner?

The difference between typical dating and being in an open relationship is that there is a relationship in the picture.  If none of your dreams about life post-monogamy include your relationship this could be an indicator you want to leave.  

I'm not saying you have to include threesomes or shared partners in your vision of the future.  But if you can't think of tangible ways you will work to stay connected to your original partner it might be time to leave.

Are you still open to the input of your original partner?

There's been plenty of research on successful couples showing that accepting your partner's influence is critical in long-term happiness.  Here's what that actually means:

  • Do you care how your partner feels?  
  • Are you willing to talk with them about their emotions and experiences?
  • Will you take their input into your decision-making process?
  • Are you willing to really consider their perspective?  

Many of the couples I see in that 30% group want to pursue an "open relationship" where they each "do whatever they want" without talking.  It is extremely rare for that kind of open marriage to work out because it is not essentially an open relationship, it's likely dating or solo polyamory.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to date or practice solo-poly, but moving in that direction is usually in direct opposition to having an ongoing relationship.  Think about how much input and influence you really can be open to moving forward.  

Accepting influence from a partner is one of the cornerstones differentiating consensual non-monogamy from infidelity, dating, or solo-polyamory.

Why choose a relationship with this specific partner now?

This is the big one.  Every day you are in a relationship you choose to stay in it.  You have the power to chose to leave, to chose a single life, or to choose other partners- but for some reason you've chosen this partner right now.  

It's shocking how many times I ask this question and people can't identify a specific reason why they're staying with this person.  They tell me they're sure they love this person- but when I ask why they can't give me a reason. 

Or often the reason is outdated.  Maybe they used to love something about this partner and they're hoping that something will return.  Or they've changed over time but haven't updated their reasons to stay in this relationship with that personal growth.  

If you can't look at the person you're with and list clear and specific reasons you're choosing to commit to a relationship with them today, it's a good time to invest in some relationship work.  

Successful long-term couples work to stay curious about one another.  It's not easy, but staying invested in learning about your sweetie is another well-researched critical piece of relationship health.

Notice how interested you are in getting to know your partner again.  Are you curious about them?  Are you open to learning how they have changed in time?  There are lots of great ways to strengthen your partnership and reconnect (whether you decide to open things or not). - I help a lot of folks with this.  Call me if you want assistance.

A real lack of interest in getting to know your partner more might be an indicator you're moving in different directions.  

Next Steps

I hope these questions help you get some clarity about your interest in staying together.  I made a simple reflection guide to help you dive deeper into these questions.  

Download the relationship worksheet by clicking below.

If you want more personalized attention call me for a consultation.  I'm happy to talk with you about your relationship goals.

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

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, insecurity or codependency
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns 
  • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.


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