You might then try a more challenging boundary—maybe asking a not-so-close friend not to text you after 10. Finally, you can raise the stakes further still by telling your partner what you are and aren’t comfortable with when it comes to an open relationship. “It’s an ongoing practice that eventually will feel easier with time and repetition,” Dr. Pitagora says. They also note that if you have a hard time expressing your needs and boundaries in relationships, individual therapy can be extremely beneficial.
5. How do you deal with jealousy?
Whether you’re monogamous or nonmonogamous, jealousy is one of those very human emotions that can creep up even when you don’t necessarily expect it. If you’re opening up your relationship, however, you’ll have to be willing to dissect the heck out of those feelings and contemplate the ways your jealousy might be a problem.
For instance, do you lash out with aggression, or become insular and unwilling to discuss your feelings? Or maybe you ignore those feelings entirely and pretend everything is okay while they eat you up inside? All of these reactions are signs that your jealousy could get in the way of the healthy communication required for a successful open relationship.
“Jealousy, like all emotions, contains valuable information about something we need to heal from or some need that’s not being met,” Dr. Pitagora explains. The reality of a newly open relationship is that it might bring jealousy to the forefront, but ultimately this can give partners an opportunity to reflect. Slowing down, contemplating your feelings, and collaborating with your partner is a healthy approach to jealousy, and you can also practice it in advance of opening up a relationship, they add.
For example, maybe the thought of multiple partners makes you feel insecure about the strength of your primary partnership, and dedicated couple time might help ease that discomfort. Or perhaps you realize that you’re feeling undervalued, and a more even distribution of household chores would help you feel more appreciated before you consider an open arrangement.
6. Do you rely on other people to validate your worth?
Self-acceptance is being marketed to us left and right these days and there’s a lot of noise out there about how you need to love yourself before you can love somebody else (or multiple somebody elses, in this case). But that journey isn’t typically linear, and you don’t necessarily have to “love yourself fully” (whatever that means) before you welcome other types of love into your life.
“Humans need other humans to live, and feeling validated through love from others is healthy, regardless of one’s level of security,” Dr. Pitagora explains. In fact, feeling loved or validated by others can ultimately increase personal feelings of self-worth, they say, in a psychological phenomenon known as positive “reflected appraisals”—when people perceive someone else’s appraisal of them as positive, their self-perception can become more positive, too.
That said, “if someone is completely reliant on someone else’s love and validation for a feeling of self-worth, that can be problematic, in that they may not be able to function if that other person is no longer available to provide love and validation,” Dr. Pitagora says. “And if working on self-compassion feels really uncomfortable to someone, I would say it’s likely they fall into that category.”
Basically, you shouldn’t necessarily rely on someone else (or multiple partners) for your entire sense of self-worth or fulfillment, but there’s no shame in craving more love and validation from others. And if that love and validation come in the form of an open relationship that feels good to all parties involved, then ethical nonmonogamy might be your happily ever after.
As Dr. Pitagora puts it, if both partners feel that an open relationship could help satisfy some of their unmet emotional and/or physical needs and “a couple has good communication practices in place, a foundation of trust, and a willingness to put in the hard work that usually takes place in the beginning of a nonmonogamous learning curve, then I say go for it.”