How do I open a relationship to try non-monogamy?

Jul 31, 2019


How do you get into non-monogamy when you are already in a monogamous relationship and you don’t want to end it?

Hi, everyone! I’m Dr. Liz. And today, we are talking about opening up relationships. Now, I personally have some issues with the terminology of opening up a relationship because when we move from monogamy to non-monogamy, we are doing more than just adding in more people. We are changing the nature of the relationship that we have in some very profound and fundamental ways.

The relationship that you have when you were monogamous in some ways has to die so that you can begin a new relationship in non-monogamy. One of the biggest things I see folks do that causes them problems when they come from a monogamous relationship and start exploring non-monogamy with that partner is they assume that there are all kinds of things they are going to be able to keep from their old relationship. They don’t examine what in an old relationship has to change other than how many people they are allowed to date or sleep with. And that runs into a lot of problems.

When you move out of the monogamous mindset, you also have to determine how you are going to start challenging mononormativity. So mononormativity is the cultural structure that privileges monogamous relationships over other kinds of relationship structures. And in particular privileges, sexual and romantic monogamous partnerships over other kinds of relationships.

We see this in a way that it makes sense if you’ve been dating someone for four months to date trans that you have with someone you’ve been friends with for five years because obviously, your partner is more important to you than your friends.

We see this in a way that a lot of events allow you a plus one, not a plus two or a plus three for however many partners you might have. Just plus one because we assume that’s going to be two people.

We see this in a way that a lot of dating sites allow for a couple’s profile that is only two people.

We see this in the ways that our culture assumes coupledom and assumes that coupledom is a normal step towards adulthood.

When you move into non-monogamy, you are doing more than just dating more folks. You are changing the way that you interact with a culture that expects you to be in a committed, romantic, and sexual partnership. And you are engaging with folks who have done some of that work maybe more than you have.

A lot of folks when they open their relationship assume that they are going to be able to keep everything else the same in their relationship. That they are going to find some way to create their rules or their agreements such as there’s no risk of their original relationship having problems. That they are going to somehow structurally prevent anything from substantially changing in their original relationship.

That’s not possible. In reality, when you move from a monogamous relationship to a polyamorous or swinger or otherwise non-monogamous relationship, you’re by definition exiting the relationship that you had and entering into a new one. And what this might mean is that the two of you don’t get along well in a non-monogamous relationship. It may mean that the kind of non-monogamous relationship that fits for one of you doesn’t fit for the other one. It might mean that for one of you, non-monogamy is something you’re willing to try but not sure that you actually want to commit to whereas for the other one of you, non-monogamy is an absolute fundamental need.

And folks find this out the hard way because when they are opening, they talk a lot about what they are going to be allowed to do with other people and talk a lot less about how they are going to handle the changes that are happening for those too.

I understand the desire to protect your existing relationship. I understand the desire to not rock the boat and to be able to have some kind of solid, safe haven when you’re beginning this journey. And I think that it creates more problems than it solves.

While it is much more scary to move boldly into non-monogamy from a position of understanding that it means the death of your old relationship and the building of an entirely new one, I think this sets you up for a much better possibility with this person moving forward.

When you’re negotiating non-monogamy with your existing partner with whom you’ve previously been monogamous, sit down and take all of your relationship out and put it on the table and see which pieces each of you wants to actually keep and which ones you don’t want to keep moving forward. A lot of folks end up in relationships where there’s stuff going on that they aren’t actually a fan of but they don’t ever really bring up, and that kind of stagnation is a problem and will get magnified as you move into non-monogamy.

In addition, if you and your partner can’t sit down and talk about your relationship and talk about how things might change and what kinds of changes you are or aren’t OK with, you’re going to struggle a lot dealing with multiple different partners who all need to have those conversations with you.

The mindset that I will recommend you take is that the transition to non-monogamy is about beginning a new non-monogamous relationship with this person. It’s not about a continuation of your old monogamous relationship but now just has like this added feature. The relationship that you have is likely going to have to change in some ways that may feel scary or intimidating. But if non-monogamy is what you want to do, it’s going to be so much more helpful for you in the long run.

If you got questions about this or you want to work on opening up your relationship, I am still taking new clients. You can find information about that at my website, which is

And if you love these videos and want to help support sex education and relationship education like this, you want to help me support spreading this great sex message to the world, you can go on over to my Patreon and become a patron. I’m excited to have backers so that I can help create high quality videos and high quality education for everybody who needs it and help fund folks who want to work with me in coaching or therapy but who may not have financial ability.

Thank you everyone for watching. I look forward to hearing your questions. And I’ll talk to you soon. Bye!

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