When Your Partner Wants an Open Relationship and You Don't

If your partner suggests you have an open relationship, you have several options. However, which one should you take? In this article, we help you to make a decision.
When Your Partner Wants an Open Relationship and You Don't

Last update: 28 September, 2021

When one partner suggests they’d like an open relationship, different feelings can arise. Whether it’s received positively or negatively will always depend upon the person, culture, and social context. However, are open relationships suitable for everyone?

In the world today, more and more relationship models have come to be accepted and normalized. However, people who are more traditional may find it difficult to accept anything other than the classic style of relationship. It’s not impossible though.

If your partner’s suggested you have an open relationship and you don’t want to, you’re perfectly within your rights to say no. In this article, we help you to both analyze this kind of situation and to give the most consistent response in accordance with your own needs and your affective style.

What are open relationships?

The first thing is to find out exactly what an open relationship is. You might think it always involves the partners being given permission to sleep with other people whenever they feel like it. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, there are many types of dating relationships, all equally valid, and monogamy is just one of them.

People in open relationships don’t consider monogamy necessary in order to maintain a healthy and stable relationship. In fact, they’re open to the possibility of maintaining relationships with third parties.

Couple holding hands

This type of relationship can range from sporadic sexual relations with other people to more or less stable romantic ties. Some of the modalities of an open relationship are as follows:

  • Mixed couples. One of the partners practices monogamy and the other maintains several relationships at the same time.
  • Swinger couples. It’s acceptable for both partners to have sex with other people. However, this only concerns sex, and they don’t get involved with others in a sentimental way.
  • Polyamory. One or both members of the couple have more than one romantic relationship, whether or not sex is involved.
  • Typical open relationship. Both partners allow each other to have sex with third parties.

Converting a traditional and monogamous relationship into one of the above implies a change in mentality and perspective on how you should carry on in your relationship, from both an emotional and sexual standpoint. Therefore, before you give an answer to your partner, you should analyze the situation in depth so you’re able to make a decision as honestly as you possibly can.

How to process that your partner wants an open relationship

The request may have hit you like a thunderbolt. However, although it may seem like a stressful event at first, take it as a way to analyze your own preferences and feelings about unconventional relationships. Here are a number of tips to help you.

Learn about open couples

As mentioned above, an open relationship has many modalities. If your partner hasn’t specified one in particular, ask them what kind they’re thinking of. That’s because some of these types of relationships may be a better fit for you and you might be able to come to an agreement with your partner.

Furthermore, soaking up information is a great help to free yourself from prejudice and practice normalization. In fact, just as monogamy isn’t something a person should be judged upon, neither are other relationships.

Establish honest communication with your partner

Put aside jealousy and establish constructive communication with your partner. They should honestly state their reasons for proposing an open relationship and you should listen to them without judgment. Otherwise, you risk getting into disagreements typical of bad communication, such as lies and misunderstandings.

Find out the reasons why your partner wants an open relationship

With the help of the previous point, it’s good to clarify the reasons for your partner’s request. The most frequent danger in these cases is that someone proposes an open relationship as a precursor to breaking up. In this way, the partner is trying to avoid any conflict that might occur if they openly express their desire to end the relationship.

Sometimes, people want to introduce a new partner into the relationship to try and improve it. Although this might work, the truth is that it usually achieves the opposite effect. Indeed, the couple, far from improving their relationship, worsen it even more by introducing strangers into the equation.

What should you do?

If, after all this analysis and deconstruction, you’re veering towards a no, it’s time to make a decision. Whether you decide to refuse or to try to give an open relationship a try, there are a number of considerations that you must always take into account.

Preferences

An open relationship only works when those who participate in it feel good about the implicit and explicit agreements that govern that relationship. People should never feel obliged to adopt this form of relationship. They must prefer it.

Therefore, don’t go down a path that you don’t want to go down simply out of commitment or fear that the relationship will end. This form of implicit sacrifice will only ultimately cause suffering.

Woman thinking

Communicate with respect

If you feel that you can’t have an open relationship and decide not to try, you should convey the fact to your partner as honestly as possible. Put aside any negative feelings such as resentment or jealousy, because what your partner’s asking you is something that’s perfectly valid and their need is real.

Similarly, if your partner decides to accept your refusal and continue with you down the monogamy route, you should make sure that they express their agreement without any reservations. Furthermore, it’s really important not to pressure your partner to stay with you.

Take the consequences

As we said, if your partner wants an open relationship and you don’t, you have the right to refuse, to express that it’s a kind of relationship that you just don’t want. However, your partner is also within their right to want to change it.

We’re all dynamic beings, and within this dynamism, changes are perfectly normal. In fact, they’re routine. Similar changes can happen in the cases of couples with open relationships if one decides they want to revert to monogamy.

The fact that your partner chooses to take a step in a direction that you don’t want and that this approach is acceptable, even understandable, doesn’t stop you from feeling bad.

As a matter of fact, discomfort in these cases is normal. You’ve come to a crossroads and have to choose which route to take. This can make you feel extremely insecure. In fact, you may prefer to break up rather than accept a new kind of relationship you simply don’t want.

Open relationships are relatively new in terms of their normalization in society. However, they’ve always existed. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, going to couples therapy could be a good option.

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  • Matsick, J. L., Conley, T. D., Ziegler, A., Moors, A. C., & Rubin, J. D. (2014). Love and sex: Polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships. Psychology & Sexuality5(4), 339-348.
  • Rubin, J. D., Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., Ziegler, A., & Conley, T. D. (2014). On the margins: Considering diversity among consensually non-monogamous relationships.