What To Do When He Wants An Open Relationship But You Don’t

So, your boyfriend said he wants an open relationship. This is somewhat of a tricky topic to really dive into since each relationship is different. For some couples, opening up the relationship to other sexual partners helps the connection stay strong. For others, sex is deeply tied into love and it can be hard to share. If your boyfriend told you that he wants an open relationship and you’re taken aback, here’s what you need to consider.

  1. Has the relationship run its course? This happens. Even if you deeply love your partner, maybe you’re starting to resent him a little. Or, perhaps the relationship has gone stale. That may be one of the reasons why he’s trying to open the relationship up. But boredom is something that can be cured. If he jumps into the idea of an open relationship before the topic of going on more fun dates or booking a vacation, you may be in trouble. That’s a sign that he might already have a crush on someone else but is afraid to lose you in the process.
  2. He also might be freaking out at the level of commitment he’s facing. If you’ve been together for a long time, there’s a chance the two of you haven’t had sex with many other people. If you met early on and have been in a committed relationship for years, he might see a fork in the road ahead. Either the two of you get married or break up to explore other options. By opening the relationship, he’s probably figuring he can have it both ways.
  3. Think about whether or not he’s been mentioning any new coworkers or friends recently. Immature guys will suggest an open relationship if they have a crush they want to sleep with without penalty. Mature guys will suggest an open relationship if they separate sex and love, and realize that they would really like more experience before marriage. Open relationships shouldn’t give anyone permission to sleep with one other person. That’s called cheating. It’s normal to have crushes on occasion, but sabotaging otherwise healthy relationships while crushing means that maybe it’s time to part ways.
  4. It’s okay to not be on board with this. If you’re feeling upset at the fact that he suggested it, don’t feel like you’re in the wrong. Open relationships aren’t for everyone. But while he had a right to mention it, you have a right to see him a little differently. Suggesting an open relationship might make you question his general happiness with you, and it can be hard to come back from that. If you felt like you had a good sex life prior to, now you may be worrying about whether or not you’re enough.
  5. But, it’s important to communicate with him about why he thinks this is a good idea. He has a right to want an open relationship. Even though the news may be disheartening, listening to his views and giving him the floor to speak is very important. If you immediately shut him down without hearing him out, he’ll feel as if he’s not being heard. It’s a hard conversation to have if you’re completely not on board. But you owe it to each other to talk, discuss, and listen. In that discussion, it’s possible you’ll be able to figure out why this idea came to mind.
  6. Couples counseling can help. Couples counseling is nothing to be ashamed of. Many couples go. It can be a great way to learn more about the way you and your partner communicate with each other. It’s possible your boyfriend is unhappy with something in the relationship but doesn’t know how to tell you. Having a third party help decode can strengthen your relationship.
  7. Give yourself permission to break up over this. It’s hard if he was marriage material and you were blindsided by this request. But in the long run, it’s a healthy choice. If he really wants this, he’ll be unhappy in a marriage — and might possibly even cheat to try and get the experience he had hoped to get earlier. It’s best that you learn now before you’re legally tied to him. It may hurt, but it’s the only way for the two of you to get what you want.
  8. It’s possible that separation may make him think hard about your relationship. It’s possible that he thinks that he wants to play the field, but doesn’t realize his unhappiness without you by his side. Again, every situation will be a little different. But oftentimes, the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is dead on. Let him be free to pursue the relationships he wants to have. In the long run, he might realize that he’s not finding happiness with flings and hookups the way he thought he would.
Karen Belz is a New Jersey native who is currently living in Maryland. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication with a focus in Broadcasting and Print Media Studies from Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Since graduating, she has written for sites like LittleThings, HelloGiggles, and Scary Mommy and is currently an e-commerce editor at Bustle.

When she's not writing, she enjoys making her phone run out of memory after taking too many photos of her dog. You can find her on Twitter @karenebelz or on Instagram @karenbelz.