Is An Open Relationship Right For You?

Slow_Down_Sex_Life_slideIllustrated by Ly Ngo.
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I love my fiancé but our sex life has slowed down a lot in the past year. At first I thought it was me, because I gained some weight and have been depressed, but I went out the other night, met someone, and cheated. As bad as I feel, it was a real awakening: It wasn’t that my sex drive was gone, it was that our sexual spark was. I’ve been with my fiancé for six years, I love the person that he is, still find him attractive, and I know he'll be an amazing, loving husband but I don’t seem to have that fire for him like I used to. I don’t want to lose a good thing by choosing lust over love, so I’ve been thinking about suggesting an open relationship. I don’t know how he’ll take it, so how can I say this without sounding selfish?

Alexis Auleta, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Asking your fiancé if he’s “open” to the idea of an open relationship isn’t a terrible thing. The arrangement works for plenty of folks as long as everyone is fully on board and committed to moving through the complexities that come with them. But, before going in for the pitch, I would encourage you to really explore your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations about what all this would mean. For example, is this something you’ve always had a curiosity about and are simply taking advantage of a lull in your sex life to give it a go? Or, is it a new idea connected to the idea that this is the only way to bring back that sexual spark? How much of a role do you believe your emotional connection (or disconnection) plays in all of this? What avenues have you tried up until now to rev up your sexual selves up until now? Once you feel you’re clear on what this all means for you and what you’d like to do, it’s then time to put this out there with your partner and be prepared for a host of questions. Likely, he’ll want to know more about how you’ve come to the idea and why as well as what it all means moving forward.

There’s nothing wrong about bringing this up with your fiancé. You are a sexual being feeling sexually stuck and asking for some help to get unstuck. Just be prepared for the possibility he may not be keen to the idea and that in any case a conversation has to happen about what both of you would like to do about bringing back that spark all on your own.

Jennifer Gatti, Licensed Master Social Worker
Okay, time for some harsh truths. You’re definitely not terrible and I guarantee you many people have had this exact same thought before, but I want you to keep thinking it through because this might be more of a stopgap than a solution. Open relationships are not as easy as they sound and take very specific personality traits in order to work. You need to be able to compartmentalize your head from your heart and — to use your words — your lust from your love, and you need to know if he can, too. Because your relationship is about to be taken to the next level of commitment, you need to make sure you have the right level of trust to sustain the marriage, which means you need to come clean as soon as possible before making any sexual suggestions.

Though difficult, this talk is long overdue because it sounds like things in your relationship have been slipping for quite some time and neither of you have spoken up about it. But, just because you’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s gone unnoticed by him, and I’m sure he has his assumptions. Cheating is almost always a symptom of something wrong within the relationship, and before you get married, you need to figure out what that is. You can’t fix what you won’t face, and as hard as it might be to admit, you may have entered the friend zone with your fiancé. It’s been a long relationship and love changes form, so this is natural. But, adding people to the equation won’t fill the hole that’s already there. He may be good husband material, but if you just don’t think you can rekindle that fire and you're already making major decisions without him, then the fact of the matter is you already have one foot out of the door. So, don't think of your needs alone — be a friend and take the next necessary steps to do the right thing.

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