3 Things to Consider About Open Monogamy

Open monogamy is in the public eye now more than ever before. We have seen couples like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith talk about their flexible monogamy, and how happy they are being in love while dating other people. In addition, we have also seen the attitudes of young people evolve as they challenge what “commitment” means to them. We are experiencing a huge cultural shift in the way we look at relationships.  

For many couples, however, thinking about opening their relationship challenges all their beliefs about traditional monogamy and can seem frightening even if it sounds intriguing. If you and your partner are thinking about exploring outside of your monogamy agreement, ask yourselves some questions.

What Is Open Monogamy?

Open monogamy means you have a primary or central relationship and some type of flexible or fluid monogamy agreement. This can mean you are open-minded about discussing the monogamy gap in your relationship. The monogamy gap is the difference between you and your partner around where you want to be on the monogamy continuum. Some partners think it’s fine to fantasize about others, to talk about those fantasies, or to flirt with friends. Meanwhile, other people might want to push that boundary further into something more emotional. They want a deeper connection, or a more adventurous, sexier experience like swinging. At the far end of the monogamy continuum is an open marriage or polyamory, where loving and romantic relationships can be part of your open monogamy.

Each couple can define their own open monogamy in a way that works for them. The important thing is to talk openly, to be honest, to have transparent conversations, and to explore the benefits, and pitfalls of what might work for you.

Ask yourself “can I have an open conversation with my partner about what matters to me?” Or “how honest do I want us to be with each other?”

There’s a lot to explore.   

Is Your Relationship in a Good Place?

When you think about your current relationship, ask yourself “how are things going with us?” No relationship is perfect, but before you make big changes, you should take a hard look at any existing problems. If one or both of you has had an affair, it might not be the perfect time to open your relationship. First, take time to address the problems. For example, repair anything that is still unhealed. Don’t use this conversation as a way to continue infidelity. Looking for permission to cheat is different than opening your monogamy. Cheating can be a way to wake up your relationship to redefine your monogamy agreement, for sure. However, determine whether or not you can communicate openly about any leftover feelings before you start new potentially conflictual outside relationships.

If you’re currently single and thinking of getting involved in open monogamy relationships with others, take a good hard look at your past relationships. See what strengths and weaknesses show up in your repeated patterns of relating. What kind of partner are you? What are your strengths and your weaknesses? This kind of introspection will help you build new relationships and can help you avoid being attracted to problematic complications.

What Do You Want from Open Monogamy?

Not every romantic relationship needs to be sexual. You can have sexual encounters with friends. Additionally, you can have sexual relationships without emotional involvement. We have a tendency to escalate outside relationships. As a result, they reflect our current partnership. It is almost as if we want to create a parallel marriage. This isn’t necessary. You can have any type of outside relationship, without it threatening your primary partnership.

Open monogamy agreements give you room to explore the spectrum of interpersonal connections. Moving beyond traditional ideas of relationships can create some freedom for both of you. In time, you may begin to get creative in your understanding of relationships, and the ways that they can expand your love for each other, instead of seeing them as a threat to your relationship. There is a myriad of ways to connect with people that may fulfill your needs without giving up the lives you have made together.  

Ask yourself, “what is my due north in this current relationship?” Is it “this person always comes first?” Or maybe, “we will always be honest with each other, no matter what?” Or, “for better or worse, our love for each other is our priority.” Consequently, once you have found your due north, you will have a shared value that will keep you coming back to one another, over and over, no matter what happens in your exploration of open monogamy.

If you have trouble or find yourself in a rocky situation, find a therapist that can help you understand this territory and can guide you without judgment. Email me at tammy@drtammynelson.com for more info.

Would you like to learn more about open monogamy? My new book, Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement is available now from Sounds True Publishing.

Are you a therapist looking for more training on the relationship spectrum? Join me for my course, Modern Monogamy, Open Marriage, and Polyamory, part of the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium March 10-13.

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