3 Practices to Prepare for Opening Your Relationship

Practice these three skills before opening your relationship.

3 Practices to Prepare for Opening Your Relationship
Don't wind up like this guy. Do your due diligence and practice some skills!

If you are in a monogamous relationship and working toward opening up in some kind of way (there are MANY different approaches...come to my workshop tomorrow to learn more - registration below), I encourage you to practice these three skills before you creating your online dating profile:

  1. Start a shared calendar and schedule intentional time apart.

    Many folks in monogamous relationships are enmeshed, meaning that their identity blends into their partner's. They share friend groups, activities, and meals together. It can be a shock to the system when one partner all of the sudden begins to develop relationships outside of the monogamous pair.

    So, before you even think about dating anyone else, begin scheduling your time intentionally. Intentional scheduling has a number of benefits for both parties:

    First, it will help you understand the complexities of life that need to be managed in order to have an independent schedule. Someone needs to take care of the kids/pets/other obligations. Work inevitably gets in the way. Oh no! How do you handle it if there is some kind of emergency? Learning how to navigate life separately from your partner is a key skill that many people do not know how to do. So practice.

    Another benefit is to find out what FOMO feels like. If you are used to seeing all the newest movies with your partner, and they go out with a friend to see one instead, how will you navigate this? Many people ban their partner's from doing those things with others. Banning activities is simply not sustainable. By practicing the experience of seeing your partner do things you want to do with them with other people, it will feel like less of a shock if they do other things with a *gasp date in the future.

    A final benefit (there are many more than these three, but I am trying to be brief), is that you have the opportunity to spend time with people you love without your significant other to build your community. Yes, community is important. Yes, relationships outside of romantic ones are important. Go make friends and spend time with them!
  2. Plan time to talk specifically about your relationship, regularly.

    I encourage folks to take time once a week to communicate about the relationship. Here is what it would look like:

    Every other Saturday at 10am, after eating breakfast and having coffee and going to the bathroom, allocate 45 minutes. In this conversation, each person should have 15 minutes to talk, with five minutes of responding. Then, the last five minutes are a summary. Do something nice together after - something as a simple as a three minute hug or a date.

    I know this sounds formal. It might even sound rehearsed and uncomfortable. That's fine - lean into it and practice anyway. Open relationships require hard conversations about feelings, boundaries, and sometimes things you know will cause your partner some pain. It can be SO HARD to bring this up casually, and the last thing you will want to do is open those conversations on a date night or before bed.

    By setting time aside to talk, you will always know you will have the time to do it. Everyone is prepared. And you have a good way to connect after. Trust me, practice this before you open your relationship.
  3. Practice being uncomfortable and self-soothing.

    Monogamous relationships often train us to lean on our partners to make things better or soothe us. For some, these qualities are expected or the relationship is "toxic."

    In reality, you partner is not a soothing machine, nor is it their job to make you comfortable. They can definitely help sometimes, but this should not be a requirement of being in a romantic relationship.

    Learn to be with your hard emotions, and learn what you need to take care of yourself. This is a life skill, not just a relationship skill.

If you begin practicing these three skills, you will start to lay the groundwork for strong interdependence, good communication, and effective emotion regulation. Even if you ultimately decide you do not want to pursue consensual non-monogamy, these are helpful skills in any relationship.