What do you need to consider when you’re opening up a relationship?
So if you are taking a relationship that was previously monogamous and now you are going to do nonmonogamy, there are a lot of things to think about and consider.
The first thing I will say is, if you are thinking of it as like, “We are just trying out nonmonogamy,” you can’t really try out nonmonogamy the way that you would like try out skinny jeans because what you are trying out is people.
What you are trying out is the hearts and feelings of actual real human beings who are forming real, actual connections with you.
So when you are going to take a previously monogamous relationship and do some nonmonogamy, I think it’s really important to take some time to take a very hard look at the relationship you already have and almost think about it as though you are breaking up entirely and starting a whole new relationship that is nonmonogamous.
Because a lot of times, the foundation that folks build when they are building a monogamous relationship has a lot of traits in it, assumptions, expectations that don’t work in nonmonogamy land.
And I see a lot of folks who have been previously monogamous who are doing nonmonogamy and they think that they can just add more people into the relationship they already have without making any significant changes.
And that doesn’t tend to work very well.
When we try to keep the relationship the same that it was when we were monogamous but just add more folks, monogamy assumptions include things like the partner is the most important person in your life.
The person that you go to for X, Y, and Z is this person.
So now if you have that person and somebody else, how does that work?
If your partner is entitled to your time unless otherwise agreed upon, and now you have two people, how does that work?
If your partner is someone you eventually want to live with or get married to, but now you have more than one, how does that work?
I also think that a lot of times when previously monogamous couples start doing nonmonogamy, they are often doing it after a period of time where one of them was very excited about nonmonogamy and the other was not, and that can create a lot of tension and conflict that if not resolved before nonmonogamy starts happening can lead to a lot of problems in that nonmonogamy.
If your partner was really not on board with being nonmonogamous but is giving it a shot, it’s a lot more likely that they are going to have problems with who you’re dating, how often you’re dating, those kinds of issues than if the two of you have worked through those conflicts and those problems before other people come into the picture.
I do not believe that your relationship has to be perfect before you do nonmonogamy.
I do think that if you are taking a previously monogamous relationship and trying to do nonmonogamy, you can’t just think of it as we are adding people on to this thing we have.
You have to think of it as, what relationship do we want to have with each other while we have relationships with other people?
The relationship that you have is not something that has to be set in stone.
And in fact, it is going to change significantly.
The agreements and understandings that people have in our first six months of doing nonmonogamy tend to be very significantly different than the ones they have two years in, five years in, ten years in.
What you want changes.
What works for you changes.
How you want to be changes.
And so, understand that even if you spend a lot of time figuring things out before you start dating other people, it still might change.
The relationship that you already have is not going to stay the same because you are not staying the same and your life isn’t staying the same.
I think most people don’t expect that you can just have a baby but have the rest of your life stay the same.
It’s similar to nonmonogamy.
Your partner in nonmonogamy probably doesn’t need you to give to give them 24/7 care to ensure that they don’t die.
But they’re a real person with real wants and needs who lives in the real world and you are going to change because of your connection with them.
You’re going to change anyway because none of us are static but you need to understand change happens and so whatever relationship you decide to build as you go into nonmonogamy, it needs to have space for flexibility, for reassessment, for making sure that everything still works for everybody else.
Also, if you’re opening a previously monogamous relationship, it is super important to have support.
That can be a therapist or coach.
That can be a community that you care about.
That can be some certain friends who have done it for a while.
You need support because most of the rest of the culture around you is going to tell you that you’re a bad person just for doing nonmonogamy.
They’re going to tell you that if you really love your partner, you would never do it.
That if you were really committed, you wouldn’t even want it.
That only weirdos and sluts and perverts do that.
And as a weirdo, slut, pervert, it is true that many of us are weirdos, sluts, perverts in monogamy land but that’s not a bad thing.
And if it’s your first time going against the cultural grain and being on the outside of the dominant paradigm, it’s going to be a shift for you.
It’s going to feel very different than most of the experiences you had before.
So just be ready.
Be ready for that.
Be ready for it to feel really challenging for people to be telling you that you are wrong just for being who you are.
Opening a relationship is – I think people think of it as it can be this easy thing that we just try out and if it doesn’t work, we close back up.
It’s not though.
It’s actually an Olympic level relationship task.
There is so much involved.
There is so much that changes in terms of communication, time, ideas, thoughts, beliefs. It is foundationally different.
For many of us, our ideas about love and connection and belonging are rooted very deeply in monogamy as a base assumption.
And so when that is not there, it tends to challenge a lot of those foundations.
So just understand that when you open a relationship, there are probably going to be changes you didn’t anticipate.
There is almost never a situation in which you take a previously monogamous relationship and just start dating other people and just goes easy and smoothly and nothing about the core relationship needs to change.
That just doesn’t happen.
The same way that nobody just has a baby the rest of their life stay the same.
Be prepared for change.
Be prepared for not knowing what changes you are going to need to make.
Be prepared for it to be hard at times and beautiful at times.
Just be ready.
Give yourself the space for this to be something that you work on for a long time.
And remember again, the people you are dating, they are not disposable.
They have real feelings.
They have real lives.
You’re just closing up your relationship because it’s stressful, is harming real people, it’s creating real heartbreak.
And so, just remember we can’t just play with other people.
We can’t just treat them like they are a new fashion style that we try out.
If you are going to do nonmonogamy when you’ve been previously monogamous, remember to treat the people you date with respect and kindness and caring and to honor their autonomy and their agency as humans.