I’m glad that my first wife Rachel was honest with me. It was a huge act of trust on her part to let me know that she was bisexual and wanted to have relationships with other women. That kind of information could have derailed us. Specifically because of how early on in the relationship we were—and not to mention my religious background.
If you’re thinking of asking your spouse or significant other to have an open relationship, the best thing to do is to be honest with yourself first. Ask yourself the following:
- Is having sexual variety something that you really want?
- What kind of variety do you want?
- How often?
- For how long?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, to what degree is this an uncontrollable desire of yours? 10 being that you’ve already cheated on your partner?
- Is it something you’re willing to stop once started?
- Are you willing to risk potentially hurting your partner just by bringing up the topic?
- Are you willing to engage with the pain you might feel when you receive an unexpected or unfavorable response?
As you take stock of your willingness to be honest and receive honesty in return, here are three commitments that you should make in anticipation of opening up the subject with your partner:
This will likely be a long conversation once you and your partner begin. And this is rightly so. Think of it the way you would think about having kids, taking on a mortgage, finishing a university degree, having a baby, writing a book, or starting a new business—all of which regularly tear intimate relationships apart. These and most other worthwhile, fulfilling things require hundreds of hours of commitment. These experiences in your life can be the most meaningful, and the most dangerous.
Starting an open relationship requires several conversations so you can reach a strong level of understanding and shared expectations with each other. It will require a large investment of time. Prepare yourself for at least a couple of hundred hours of discussion.
Be willing to hear a firm “No”
I said “no” to Rachel for a decade. As a bisexual, she waited to experience her first encounter with a woman until she was in her thirties. She did that for my sake, and I’m grateful for it. I’m also grateful that she was willing to hear my “no” while keeping the conversation flowing for as long as she did. She didn’t withdraw or shut down. And she never ran dry of patience with me. I felt so valued and honored by the way she waited for me to be ready, without despairing in the process.
Your partner may not be as ready for this conversation as you are. Prepare yourself to hear a firm “no” or something to do with you being absolutely crazy. More likely, though, you’ll hear some kind of fear or threat-based response like: “Why? Am I not enough for you?” or “If this is what you want then I’m ending things!” or “Does this mean you don’t love me anymore?” And this is because most people don’t think about the distinction between love and sex unless they’re invited to.