What to Do if Your Partner Wants an Open Relationship

Couple having a conversation.
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There are many different types of relationships, and if you’re currently in one that’s committed and monogamous, you may have many questions and be wondering how to proceed if your partner decides that he or she wants to have an open relationship. With this in mind, if your partner is pushing for an open relationship, it’s up to you to decide if you’re open to an open relationship or if you should close the door on your time with this person.

What is an open relationship? In order to better understand your partner’s desire to have an open relationship as well as determine the best way to process and proceed with this type of information, it’s important to know what an open relationship actually entails. In the most fundamental sense, an open relationship is one in which you and your partner are free to engage in sexual and/or romantic endeavors with other people. In a word, you and your partner aren’t monogamous, and one and/or both of you are able to look outside of your relationship and have physical as well as emotional connections with others.

Should you agree to an open relationship? In order to determine if an open relationship is the right kind of relationship for you, it’s important to answer these five critical questions.

1. Why does your partner want an open relationship? If your partner wants to have an open relationship, then he or she should clearly explain the reasons why this is the case.

For example, has your partner failed at monogamy in the past and would rather be upfront and open about his or her endeavors rather than having to sneak around? Does your partner feel as though his or her needs aren’t currently being met and wants to look outside your relationship to fulfill these desires?

Once you fully understand why your partner is interested in having an open relationship in the first place, you can make a more informed decision regarding how if or how to continue.

2. Are you interested in being with other people? Upon hearing your partner’s reasons for wanting an open relationship, it’s important to ask yourself if you also feel as though you’d like to pursue other options outside of your current relationship. And if the answer is “yes,” then an open relationship may be something worth trying, especially since you and your partner can both be with other people while being totally open and honest with one another.

3. Are you okay with one-sided monogamy? If you’re not interested in being with other people, you then have to ask yourself if you’d be okay with your partner going outside of your relationship while you remain monogamous. It's important to keep in mind that there are open relationships where this is the case, and you have to be honest with yourself if this is something that you’d be able to handle. For example, if you’re someone who has a tendency to get jealous, then having to share your partner with others may not be the best choice for you.

4. What is the state of your current relationship? If your partner wants an open relationship, it’s critical that the relationship you have with one another at this very moment is strong.

In fact, many people mistakenly believe that opening up a relationship can be beneficial if they’re currently facing challenges as a couple, but a rocky relationship will likely crumble. In a word, an open relationship isn’t a quick-fix or guaranteed remedy for a relationship that’s failing, so it shouldn’t be used as a crutch for an already broken connection.  

5. Is this a deal-breaker? In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you’re okay with having an open relationship. And while you may love your partner very much and care about him or her with all of your heart, you have to think about your own wants and needs when making this important decision. Remember, you get to determine the kind of relationship that you have with a partner. And if monogamy is a requirement for you, then you should find someone else who shares this requirement as well—just as your partner should find someone who’s totally on board with an open relationship.