Over the last ten years I've seen hundreds of couples through deciding when and if and how they want to open their relationships. I do believe almost anyone is capable of managing an open relationship with a little training- if they want it.
But not every relationship is ready to dive in right away. Lots of folks have co-created dynamics that need to shift to support a consensually non-monogamous relationship. Plenty of people need to work on changing perspectives and gaining or fortifying skills before an open relationship will suit them well.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to self-check your own readiness for an open relationship.
What kind of time, energy, financial, and physical resources am I willing to share?
Love is limitless, but resources (time, money, and physical energy for starters) are not. For example, I once had a client who ran two successful businesses, started full-time graduate school, was training for a marathon, and was considering starting a relationship with a third partner.
I'm not saying it's impossible to do all those things at once. But her energy for all those things was going to be compromised. And in order to practice ethically its important she is up front with her current and potential partners about just how much (or little) she has to give.
Take stock of your resources and your willingness to divide them even further.
You will hit bumps in the road if you decide to open your relationship. It's inevitable. There's just so little good information and social support in our society for folks building relationships outside cultural norms, and you're up against a heap of bad relationship advice we often take as truth.
Those bumps don't mean there's anything wrong with your relationship, but if you have little or no solid practice working through things together (without one of you feeling slighted, or someone avoiding the issues) it's going to be difficult to start when emotions are running high and you're trying something so brand new.
I recommend hiring a professional to give your relationship a little tune-up when it comes to conflict so you're better prepared for the bumps you're going to face when you start seeing more people.
How do I currently manage my emotions? What happens when I experience severe anxiety, fear, jealousy, or insecurity?
Even the most even-keeled clients have told me starting to practice non-monogamy brings out the most unpredictable and surprising reactions in them. That's totally okay.
How you handle those emotional reactions however can have huge implications for your well-being and the long-term success of your relationship. Feeling intense emotions is no excuse for being unkind or disrespectful.
Take stock of the skills that help you manage intense reactions with care. Review the self-care practices that help you stay balanced (and bolster them to help anchor you). Again, hire a professional to talk through these if needed, you won't regret using care when starting out.
Where can I find support for a polyamorous lifestyle?
When starting out in non-monogamy lots of folks feel alone because they perceive the monogamous community around them as pretty unsupportive. It can be really difficult for people to find supportive polyamorous or open community.
And going it alone with your partner creates a vacuum for the two of you to incubate unhealthy polyamorous dynamics if you've got any brewing. You need outside voices to support your learning and growth in this process.
Start looking for folks you can talk with well before you start taking action steps toward non-monogamy. You can find communities online via fetlife and facebook or support groups in your community to talk through your questions and concerns among others who get it.
This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list. I'm happy to give you a more tailored list of considerations (specific to your situation) just give me a call.
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns
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.