Education, Health, and Safety

Is it OK to ask for a short-term open relationship before getting married?

“I'm with the man I know I want to spend the rest of my life with. He's kind, funny, and loves me to death. The only problem is that we met when he was 21 and I was just 17. We've been together six years and he wants to get married but I have reservations,” the woman said.

“My main issue is that he's my only serious relationship and one of only two men I've ever had sex with. I would like to have six months where we both see and sleep with other people before we get married. 

“Do you think that's a fair thing to ask of him? And how should I approach the conversation?”

Responding to the woman's predicament, sex and relationship therapist McKimmie advised the discussion will not be an easy one – and opening their seemingly secure relationship could be a risky move.

“I do understand your dilemma and your curiosity to experience being with other people. I've seen a number of clients who had similar reservations to you, but went through with their marriage anyhow,” McKimmie said.

“Years into their marriage they continued to wonder what it would be like to be with someone else. Some even felt like their relationship would have been improved by being able to explore and have different experiences first.

“While there's no research that I'm aware of that shows dating other people first improves a marriage, deciding to open a relationship is a valid choice.”

McKimmie urged the woman to consider the risks before opening up the dialogue – and the relationship – warning that it's impossible to guarantee there won't be negative consequences.

“Feelings of hurt, jealousy and betrayal can (and do) arise, but there are steps you can take before you open your relationships to reduce the chance of negative consequences.”

She advised the woman to be clear with her partner about the reasoning behind her desire and what she believes the outcome of the ‘open period' will be. If he agrees, McKimmie also encouraged her to ensure a strong line of communication regarding their needs and expectations is maintained throughout.

“You need to make clear agreements about what your ‘rules' will be,” McKimmie said. She noted that both partners need to be on the same page about whether sex and intimacy is on or off the table, what contraception will be used, and whether or not each partner wants to know the ins-and-outs of their significant other's affairs.

Establishing if certain people are off-limits is key, she added, as well as discussing how they plan to proceed with their relationship after the six months is up – and what they will do if negative emotions arise.

“If this is starting to feel like a lot, it is. Be aware that even voicing your desire for this could impact your relationship. Take some time to make sure this is really what you want before discussing it,” McKimmie said. 

“If I were your therapist, I would however be advising you to move very cautiously with this decision.”

In 2018, a US couple who had been together for almost a decade spoke to Popsugar about the realities of an open relationship – a decision they believed was the secret to long-term happiness.

Also in 2018, research revealed more than a quarter of New Zealanders had cheated on their partner and one in seven had admitted to a long-term affair.

Read the original article here

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