I have worked with individuals and couples who were in open relationships and the reality is that each person and relationship is unique and much like clothes, relationships are not "one size fits all."  I have come up with 4 questions to ask before starting an open relationship to help people decide if it is a good choice for them.


  1.  Do I think that being in an open relationship means more sex?  If you are looking for more sex an open relationship is something to consider but keep in mind that adding another person(s) to the mix will also add more needs for communication and respect.  Expect that with more sex, you will also be adding additional needs for attention.


  1.  If you are currently in a relationship, are you thinking about opening it up b/c your emotional needs are not being met?  I have found that a common mistake that stressed couples make when they open up their relationship is that adding another person can reduce the emotional burden on their current relationship. Typically the opposite is true.  Adding another person will not only add the new person's needs, it will reduce the time and energy you have to give to one another.


  1.  Do you see an open relationship as a way to side step commitment?  Anyone who is married can tell you that marriage is not a magic pill or a solution to any problems.  We are lucky to live in a time where the definition of family is expanding and can look very different today than it did 50 years ago.  That said, relationships are about connection.  To be really at peace in a relationship, people often find themselves longing for a commitment of some type.


  1.  What if you don't like it?  If you are currently in a relationship and you are considering opening it, do you and your current partner have an agreement on how to handle things if it doesn't suite both of you?  It is really important to talk about what could happen to the relationship opening it up doesn't work.  It can be really constructive to set a day about 6 months out to sit together with no distractions and really explore together if opening up the relationship has benefited you both.  Then decide together weather or not to keep going.


It's important to remember that you can choose what kind of relationship you wish to be in.  It is equally important to remember that your partner or partners may not have the same needs and wants as you.  If someone is unable or unwilling to meet your needs, it is always your job to take care of yourself by being open and honest about what you want and need.

In grad school, I had a professor that gave us an assignment that required us to put ourselves in situations in which we are the minority and we were not allowed to tell people it was a school assignment. While I dreaded the task, I also appreciated the challenge. I am a white, heterosexual with no disabilities. I am not often the minority.

I went to an AA meeting and attended a Baptist Zion Church on the east side of Austin. When I got over my initial nerves, I noticed that even though people could tell how uncomfortable I was they were very kind to me.   They may have been more kind, in fact, because they could tell I was uncomfortable.

Doubtful 3D man with a question mark - isolated on white

Recently, I attended a training about the GLBTQ community and their increased risk of chemical dependence. The speaker, Saro Helpinstill, LPC, LMFT did a great job of pointing out that while gays may have the right to marry, they are still very much the minority and are often not at all made to feel welcome. She reminded me that I’ve never had to want for relatable characters in movies, never had to think twice about holding a boyfriend’s hand in public, never had to wonder if holding his hand would result in being ridiculed, or worse, assaulted. I’ve never had to ‘come out’ as heterosexual to loved ones, friends or colleagues and I have certainly never had to worry that being heterosexual would cost me one of those relationships or a job.

I attended the training because I understand that I have a limited view of what it is like to be in the GLBTQ community and wanted to expand my ability to be respectful, aware and kind. If you are a heterosexual, I would challenge you to think about all the things that you have not had to think twice about and have perhaps been able to take for granted, things that someone in the GLBTQ community may face multiple times per day.

scared-Lego-2-17232-largeClick here to read an article I contributed to on stopping your panic attack in his tracks.

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