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How Do I Tell My Long Term Girlfriend I Want Us To Have An Open Relationship?

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Q: How Do I Tell My Long Term Girlfriend I Want Us To Have An Open Relationship? 

Dear KitschMix,

So here’s the deal. I am in a loving and committed relationship and have been for three years. We fulfil one and other as companions, sharing intimacy as much as I could dream. I really love her, but there is still this urge I get to explore seeing other people. It doesn’t mean I love her less than before, as any poly person would tell you (I talked to a poly couple at length), I just feel like things could be even better.

However, I am uncertain as to how to proceed now. We have danced around the subject before, and I’m not sure how she feels. What language would others with more experience advise me to use? I don’t want it to come out negative, or for her to feel criticized or that I am unhappy with her. It’s such a difficult talk to consider, and a big step if we choose to pursue it. Any advice or anecdote would help.

I am not poly myself, but I have had a lot of poly friends in the past, and have also been the “other woman” in a poly relationship before. It works for some people, and it doesn’t work for others – and you’ll really never know until you ask her.

I understand your hesitation with bringing it up. It can be a tough situation to come across, because the opinions on the matter lie across the board. However, you said you’ve talked about it vaguely before. If she didn’t seem like she was offended by the idea, it may be safe to move forward.

I’d recommend bringing it up in a way that tells her that you’re genuinely interested in her opinion of the subject. Maybe start with something along the lines of “Have you ever thought about having an open relationship?” Don’t share your thoughts right away; if she’s completely unreceptive to the idea, you’ll need to decide whether it’s worth pressing forward or not. It is entirely possible that she won’t like the idea. Poly relationships are definitely not right for everyone.

If she admits that she has thought about an open relationship before, you can begin to present the reasons why you’re interested. Make sure you reassure her that it has nothing to do with you not wanting her – this is one of the biggest fears with poly relationships. Some people cite a difference in sex drive for the thing causing them to want to pursue others – if this is the reason, make sure you let her know.

It’s necessary that you two be comfortable discussing the specifics of your arrangement should it arise – there are no set-in-stone rules when it comes to open relationships, so you’ll need to work out every detail yourselves. You might decide that you’ll go no further than second base with your “others”, and keep all sexual activity between the two of you – you may decide that you’ll only have sex with the others, and keep all other forms of intimacy between the two of you.

It’s entirely up to you two, but these things typically work out best if all of the partners are given the same permissions. After all, it’s not really fair if one is allowed to do more than the others, right? Be fair to each other, and keep everyone’s needs in consideration.

Keep in mind, also, that not everyone is comfortable with participating in a poly relationship, either. You must understand and respect that, and always be honest with whatever “others” you may have. Even if your loyalties lie with your partner, honesty is key for everyone.


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