My open relationship is making him happier but I’m miserable. What do I do?


Help! My long-term partner and I opened up our relationship a few months ago to explore ethical non-monogamy. It’s made him happier but I’m miserable. What shall I do?

I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling like that. I can only imagine how tough it is to have your partner relishing the company of new sexual partners, perhaps trotting around with a perky, post-coital skip in his step, while you’re feeling alone in your misery. It’s a tricky situation, but one that I assure you is rectifiable. Firstly: do not stew in your misery for too long, or waste time regretting your decision. You have learnt a lot about yourself — and each other — from the experience, which is positive. So, what next?

Well, I imagine that at one point you and your partner had a conversation in which you together decided that ethical non-monogamy (ENM) was something you wanted to explore. In that vein, I think you now need an honest conversation about how you’re both finding this new dimension to your relationship, and why. Good communication is the cornerstone to every healthy partnership, after all, and never more so than when you’re exploring non-monogamy, which necessitates setting clear boundaries and expectations.

Just as monogamy doesn’t suit everyone, nor does non-monogamy

It is important here for you to both identify and communicate why you initially wanted to explore ENM and subsequently what you’re enjoying and/or not enjoying about it now. What has this time shown you about what you want from a relationship and each other?

The question then is whether there are changes you want to make to how you practise ENM that might make you happier. Are there boundaries you want to set? Limitations on who or when each of you can be with another person? Or has this period shown you that you in fact want a monogamous relationship? And if so, how does your partner feel about that? Just as monogamy doesn’t suit everyone, nor does non-monogamy. The important thing is for you to ascertain whether you are on the same page as your partner. Perhaps what this experience has revealed is that you do have different desires and expectations. If the future each of you is imagining looks entirely different, it is better to know now.

So, be open, honest and clear with how you feel and what you want from this relationship going forwards, and ask that your partner does the same. Good luck!

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