Help! My Open Relationship Is Falling Apart!

If you’re in an open relationship, you know that there can be challenges to making this work. Open relationship styles fall apart for specific reasons. Jealousy issues, communication problems, and confusing boundaries can turn an open relationship into a messy situation. Polyamorous, monogamish, swinging, and open-relationships can work. However, they’re not for everyone. And even if any of these relationship styles are for you, you can still fall victim to one of these traps. If you’re in a more open relationship style, and it’s struggling, don’t make these mistakes.

  1. Know what you want. Relationships shouldn’t be “sort of” open. They also shouldn’t be open at random times. It might not be easy, but you have to be clear on what you are and are not OK with. If you’re not, you might not be ready to be in a relationship at all.
  2. Talk. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy. You have to know what you should and shouldn’t talk about. It’s even more difficult to feel secure in talking about sexual or romantic relationships with other people.
  3. Don’t write unwritten contracts. Some people will “give” by allowing their partner have a relationship or sex with other people. However, this giving is not without serious expectations. When this unwritten contract doesn’t work out, it destroys trust and commitment. Don’t fall into this trap.
  4. If you’re struggling with self-esteem, work on yourself. Many will stumble into open relationships to cover up their own struggles with self-esteem. You have to work on yourself first. Then you’ll be better able to establish and maintain your boundaries.
  5. Own your fears. Don’t set up an incongruence in yourself by putting up a facade that you’re feeling secure, when you’re feeling fearful. Get vulnerable and share these with your partner. This will help you to discuss the source of this, and determine the best ways of dealing with your fear. This will help you feel together, rather than apart.
  6. Discuss your issues, before you meet up. Many will wait until they are about to meet up with others outside of their primary relationship, without dealing with issues, fears, and insecurities. This will often make these problem boil over. Pay attention to these and work them through before sexually connecting with others.
  7. Don’t play games. It can be very difficult to be open and communicate exactly about what you want, what you’re scared about, or what makes you feel jealous. Don’t fall into a trap of using passive-aggressiveness to get your point across. This will only lead to distrust. And trust is a primary pillar in any relationship.
  8. Make time for each other. Whether you’re in a primary coupled relationship, or you’re in several romantic or sexual relationships, you have to be able to make time for them. Each relationship needs it’s own specific kind of attention. This is an agreement that you make with that person. Be sure to know what the expectations are, and work on negotiating these. Don’t get involved in relationships that you simply don’t have time to foster.

Open relationships can work. But they can also be complicated as well. If you’re in an open relationship, you have to own your own issues with it. If you don’t, you’re likely going to blame your partner for the problems that you’re struggling with, while building expectations of change that aren’t realistic.

  1. Great advice and wonderfully non judgemental as it should be. As a therapist this is a breath of fresh air for the profession and those of us that are in open relationships.

    • Phil,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. As therapists, I agree that I think we need to focus on letting people live their own lives, and make decisions that are best for them.

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