Just in case you're reading this blog for the first time, let me clarify I'm writing "what to do when your husband/wife has a date" about ethical or consensual nonmonogamy.
I know there are a lot of you discovering your spouse is dating and dealing with the betrayal of trust there. That pain is real. Check out my info on affairs if that's you because this blog is talking about something else.
That said, even if you're in a consensual open marriage surprising emotions and reactions can arise when your spouse actually starts dating. Here are a couple ideas to help you navigate those first most-challenging times.
Make Your Own Plans
There's almost nothing worse than sitting home in a pile of laundry and dirty dishes while someone you want to be hanging out with is out having the exact good time you wish you were having with someone else.
So make your own plans. Plan something you can get excited about. Call a good friend, make a self-care date, see a movie you wouldn't normally see with your spouse, hit the gym for that one class you never seem to make it to.
But get out instead of stewing in potential resentment and martyrdom.
Often things feel just great until you're alone and tired. That's when insecurity and jealousy like to take hold. While these emotions are totally natural, you can create bookend rituals with your partner to bolster your connection through date nights.
Think ahead and plan something to help you connect sometime not far before their date night. Maybe you two need a brunch date, or sending sweet texts, or writing a love letter that waits at home with you while they're out.
Consider an option that feels reassuring in your relationship without interrupting your spouse's individual plans. It's likely a little forethought will go a long way.
On the other end of the date think about how you'd like to reconnect. What kind of reconnection ritual will feel meaningful to both you and your spouse after either of you goes out with someone else?
Sometimes it can be difficult to anticipate exactly what you might want when you reconnect. I recommend coming up with three alternative connection plans at varying levels of interaction so you have some ideas to draw from when you share space again.
For example, Donna and LeShawn created three options including:
- Return home and go directly to the shower. I will meet you in the shower in a few minutes.
- Return home, shower on your own, and then sit next to me watching Netflix for two episodes of Parks and Rec. Then we can check in or go to bed.
- Return home and shower. Wave to me with a smile as you go to the guest room. We'll have breakfast in the morning.
In all three they choose to reconnect when they return to the same space- but each allows for more space to adjust and manage emotions if needed. Even if one of you is returning after the other is in bed, you can create options and ways to communicate them if you think ahead.
Intentionality and proactive care is the goal here.
Be Careful With Curiosity
It's really easy to get curious when your spouse starts having more individual adventures specially if you're used to doing most things together. I've seen folks manage this in a couple ineffective ways:
When your honey is out it's natural to be curious about what they're experiencing, but sharing information about dates with others can prove tenuous in the early stages of openness. I recommend using extra caution at the start- you can always add more information later.
Before you start grilling your partner, or really, before you ask anything about their dating experience with other people I urge you to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this something I would want someone asking me?
- How will this information bring me closer to my partner?
- How will this information help me?
- Why do I want to know?
If you aren't certain the questions you want to ask will help you or will move you closer, wait. You can always get clearer and ask later- there's no reason to rush. If you sit with your curiousity it might start telling you something. For example:
"Is she prettier than me?" Might mean I want more reassurance about my own appearance/attractiveness. Or it might tell me I want to invest more energy in feeling attractive on my own.
Sometimes when curiosity and insecurity take over I've seen clients become what I call the Sneaky Detective. This means they bypass sharing curiosity with their partner and try to get answers on their own. Here are some things the sneaky detective might do:
- facebook stalk
- read their partners' emails
- open mail
- listen in on conversations
- read through texts or messages
Unfortunately in addition to breaking trust right when it's needed most the sneaky detective avoids really important conversations that need to happen directly with a partner and therefore misses critical opportunities to connect. AND creates more possibility for misunderstanding and hurt feelings usually when things need care instead.
Dealing With Jealousy
Obviously, jealousy is one of the top issues folks worry about when starting out in consensual non-monogamy and it's most likely to rear it's head when your spouse is out with someone else. When there's a blank space with little information our insecurities like to try to fill it in.
I have a whole curriculum's worth of tools we can throw at jealousy so I'm going to give just one of my favorites today (call me if you want more help with this- I love dealing with jealousy). I like it because it's a beautiful way to process jealousy independently with self-compassion.
Byron Katie developed a four-question critical thinking exercise called "The Work" meant to help people change thinking patterns that were causing suffering (and what is jealousy but a suffering-filled thinking pattern, AmIright?).
Her process starts with self-compassion, or allowing the thought and collecting them. I like using blank paper and giving myself space to free write all the thoughts that flow through my head until I feel complete (yes, this can take a while and no, you're not going to share it with anyone else).
Doing this with self compassion means not beating yourself up with judgment (why am I thinking this- what's wrong with me?). Just notice what thoughts are going through your mind.
Once you feel complete read through and notice any patterns. Then follow her four questions for each thought (or for the themes).
- Is this thought true?
- Can I know with certainty this thought is true?
- How do I feel when I choose to think this thought?
- Who would I be without this thought?
Notice what shifts when you allow your thoughts space, and you hold them lightly with criticism instead of believing they are all completely true. Most my clients experience real freedom when we walk through The Work together (if you want to deepen this work she has many worksheets and videos for free on her site to help you walk through the process).
Hi! I'm glad you're reading. Let me know if I can help you:
- reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
- rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
- move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity
- manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
- resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
- change communication & codependent patterns
- open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).
Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.
Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.