Open relationships can expand your horizons.

How to Tell a Spouse You Want an Open Relationship

by Lauren Vork

An open relationship is a non-traditional form of long-term, committed romance where a couple agrees that it's okay to have secondary relationships. For individuals who struggle with monogamy, an open relationship can mean both variety and stability. Asking your spouse to make your relationship open, however, can raise unpleasant feelings and lots of questions and concerns. Handle this request delicately for the sake of preserving what you have and what you hope to have.

Introduce the Topic

It's a good idea to introduce your spouse to the topic of open relationships before you reveal that this is something you want for your marriage. It will likely be easier for him to think about open relationships from a neutral point of view when he's not placed on the spot. Look for opportunities to discuss open relationships as a curiosity and learn about examples of couples who are happy in open relationships. If you're lucky, your spouse will come to the same conclusion you have about the possibility of openness in your marriage. At any rate, you'll be able to judge his reaction to the idea and know how gently and carefully you'll need to proceed with telling him.

Drop the Bomb

As much as possible, use “us” statements, such as, “I believe this could work out really well for us.” Lay out your reasons for wanting an open relationship and describe the thought process that led you to become comfortable with the idea of a non-traditional relationship model. If your spouse shows signs of shock or discomfort at what you're saying, empathize with this feeling.

Mutual Benefits

Stress the potential benefits to your spouse as much as you talk about the benefits you hope to gain from an open relationship. Remind her that openness goes both ways and that you enjoy the idea the she might find fulfillment in secondary relationships. Point out the benefits of your relationship and the things you could learn and ways you could grow from closeness with others, making you a better primary partner.

Craft the Terms

Explain to your spouse that an open relationship is a relationship with rules for faithfulness to one another. With open relationships, you and your spouse decide where to place the boundaries in terms of how you share your time with other partners, how intense those relationships are and what physical activities are available or off limits. Stress that it is very important to you to respect your partner's comfort zone.

Reassurance and Revisiting

If your spouse is not open to the idea of a non-monogamous relationship, it may be difficult for him to feel comfortable with the fact that you've brought up the idea at all. Provided that an open relationship is not a requirement for you to stay in the marriage, you need to find a way to both be comfortable with this major and potentially unsettling disagreement. Ask your spouse if you can revisit the issue in, say, six or twelve months and agree not to talk about it until then. Reassure your spouse that your interest in openness is not due to a lack of interest in him or in the relationship and that you wish for him to remain central to you in terms of importance.


  • "Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships"; Tristan Taormino

About the Author

Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.

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