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5 Things to Consider in Open Relationships

If you're thinking about venturing into the world of polyamory or non-monogamy, here are some tips and thoughts to consider from our experienced therapists.

Open relationship

open relationship 

At Identity, we see clients in all relationship dynamics. Although monogamy is still considered the primary shape relationships take in our society and culture, we are seeing a shift in the comfort and curiosity our clients are expressing towards ENM (ethical non-monogamy) dynamics. We pride ourselves in not just learning from you, our lovely clients about what those lifestyles entail, but also from our own lived experience as queer, POC (people of color), and ENM therapists.

Below are 5 tips from our expert therapists who live and work within the queer and open relationship lifestyle.

Tip #1 - reflect and communicate

You've thought about open relationships (polyamory, swinging, triads, etc), but now what? Have you first asked yourself the bigger questions around why you are choosing this lifestyle: "What feels positive and true to myself about wanting ENM? And what is a driving factor in me choosing this lifestyle-individually or within my relationship?" Let me tell you, we've seen many clients at our office who, when asked these questions shrug their shoulders in uncertainty about why they want an open relationship. We've also encountered individuals and couples who feel obligated to engage in open relationships in an attempt to 'save' their relationship or marriage. Involving yourself and your partner in an ENM lifestyle can bring about unique challenges that monogamy often does not. ENM should be an enriching and fulfilling experience for you and your partner(s) all around. Be sure to check in with yourself and your partner(s) about the internal reasons you want and feel ready to walk this path.

Tip #2 - Consider the Arrangement

Another common pitfall we often see in clients new to ENM is a lack of understanding and communication about the type of ENM dynamic they are looking for. And believe us, there are many to choose from, and they are ever evolving! Below is a chart reflecting some of the current forms of ENM relationship varieties today (source cited on image below):

intimate relationship styles

“A world where it is safe to love is a world where it is safe to live” ― Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio

Tip #3 - Expect turbulence and jealousy

Now that you and/or your partner have figured out your relationship style and why ENM feels right to your being, it should be smooth sailing from here-right? You can read all of the books and blogs, join support groups, address common mistakes to avoid, and still find yourself in conflict with your partner. If you are opening a monogamous and long term relationship for the first time you are almost guaranteed to experience hurt feelings, intentionally or unintentionally by your partner. On the flip side, you are also opening yourself up to new expansive feelings of compassion, love, and healthy dialogue with your partner. Be gentle and patient with yourself and your partner through this process.

Tip #4 - when/how to talk to your kids?

If you are a parent venturing into an ENM dynamic, this one can be tricky. From marriage to blended families, and custody arrangements with ex's there's no right or wrong way to approach. Our advice is to consider first and foremost age appropriate sharing of information with your children, if you believe your new lifestyle or partners will eventually interact with your children, and how you feel in general about disclosing your relationship(s) to your kids. The idea of holding conversations with kids about dating or having intimate relations with someone other than their other parent or caregiver causes many to balk! Age appropriate education for your child is key as well as addressing anxieties and concerns they may feel about you dating or being with someone new.

Tip #5 - Expect Evolution

How you and your partner(s) go into ENM may not be how you both come out on the other side. As mentioned throughout this article, open relationships can be enriching but difficult. It can bring out the best and worst sides of love and insecurities. The original dynamic you agree to may also change. Remember, you are connecting to other human beings in this process who also have their own expectations and desires for what they want their relationship dynamics to look like. As an example, falling in love with someone new may change what you and your original partner want and need moving forward. You may find that one person may no longer wish to continue in ENM and choices to continue an open dynamic, close off, or stay in a monogamous relationship will be challenging. Flexibility, ongoing negotiation, and understanding are core ingredients to healthy ENM.

Love ethically and with compassion

Your journey with ENM is all your own. There's no right or wrong rule book to venturing into this lifestyle. If you or you and your partner are considering ENM for the first time, or if you are well seasoned in the lifestyle but are having new challenges arise in your relationships, reach out below or call us at 970-697-4169 schedule an appointment with our expert therapists at Identity Insights in Grand Junction, CO.

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