marriage advice

ASK ME ANYTHING: IS IT TOO SOON TO OPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP?

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a retired couples therapist turned couples retreat leader who offers online support for non-traditional relationships of all sorts.  

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.  Or Read more Ask Me Anything here.

 

This week's question: Do we need to be together longer before we open our relationship?

Here's the full question: I feel excited and terrified at the thought of opening up my relationship. I've been with my partner for 3.5 months and the topic came up a few times. Before meeting him I was curious about open relationships but when he brought it up, I was totally freaked out and felt very insecure.  Two weekends ago he had a panic attack and it ended with him breaking up with me.  Soon after I connected with another man. Two days later my partner came back.  We talked things through and decided to be together.

My questions are: is it a good idea to establish our relationship more, get to know and trust each other better, and again, before exploring an open relationship? Or better to have the early foundation of our relationship be that of an open one? 

I found you through your don't ask don't tell article. I don't know if I'm ready to kiss and connect with others (our agreement is that when we aren't together we can kiss others). I don't know how to talk to him about kissing someone else, I don't want to hurt or lose him, and I don't like the idea of hearing about him kissing someone else... But ultimately I'd love to feel good sharing things and being open, honest and happy for each other. Is it just too soon?

Are we not ready or is this just something we have to force ourselves to go through so we can learn from it and get to a place where we can be open and share experiences?

 

I'm so glad you wrote me!  I know it's a hard place to be in, but I'm hoping it helps to hear you are far from alone.  The tension you describe between being curious and terrified at the same time is all too common among people who are first starting to think about openness.  I meet with lots of couples who say trying to open their relationships felt like a wild emotional roller coaster ride (articulated in your panic attack/break up example).  

There are a couple phrases you used in your message that I want to point out to help respond.  You asked "is it too soon for us" in a number of different ways.  I find a lot of people get stuck on that question  because their individual truth is "this is too soon for me."  Check in with yourself- does that resonate?  Is it too soon for you?  

There is no exact right or wrong time to start negotiating openness in a relationship for the first time.  There are plenty of reasons it can be a struggle when you're just beginning with a new partner and I've seen lots of people struggle to open previously monogamous relationships as well.  

But a couple things you said made me think you might want to put on the brakes a bit for now.  First, hearing that the conversation about openness lead to panic attacks and break ups tells me you might want to ease in more gently and have stronger resiliency support around you both.  You also want to commit to working together instead of threatening break ups.  I would recommend sorting out those things for now, so your conversations about openness can feel less dramatic.  

Finally, your word choice "is this something we just have to force ourselves..." is really telling to me.  I often tell clients "you can't force anything good" and ask people I support to reconsider the "have tos" in their lives.  Relationships function better with want tos instead of have tos.  This more than anything tells me it's time for you to slow down.  

Please understand by slow down I am not saying you should stay monogamous now or forever- you can (and should) revisit this conversation often and with each new partner you build relationship with.  I'm saying it sounds like things have progressed more quickly than either of you may have anticipated and it's time to pause for more reflection before taking more action.  

It's not about how long you've been together, it's about the way you're being together dear one.



Gina Senarighi Oregon Couples Retreat Polyamorous Couples Retreat

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependecy
  • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns 

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Can You Help My Fiance and I Decide About Polyamory?

polyamory advice

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column run by Gina Senarighi, a former therapist turned sex educator and sexuality counsellor who offers online support for non-traditional couples.  

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.  OR Read more Ask Me Anything here.

 

This Weeks Relationship Advice Question:

My fiance wants to do a poly and we have talked about and I've said maybe but honestly I'm scared and I feel he doesn't understand me. Is this something you'd be able to help with?

Simplest answer, YUP.  I've worked with hundreds of couples who are considering non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging, or other kinds of open relationships for the first time.

It's not uncommon for them to come to me with one partner who wants to try polyamory and another who is hesitant.  And I don't believe polyamory is for everyone, (neither is monogamy) so it often works well for us to talk through lots of options to help you decide if polyamory if right for you right now, and if so, what kind of boundaries and communications skills need to be in place for you to succeed.

It's also not unusual to feel some fear when thinking about non-monogamy for the first time.  Lots of people experience insecurity, jealousy, and fear related to relationship change.  Whether you two do choose nonmonogamy or not, you might want support just to work through the kinds of intense feelings that show up when people start this conversation.  I can support you in that or am happy to give you a referral to another provider.

I'm curious about why your partner is thinking about this now and I'm curious about your fears.  If you want to set up a consultation to talk more about working together or so I can send you specific resources for your situation please set up a free call here.

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

Read more ask me anything here.


polyamory therapist in portland

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.