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Top Signs Your Partner Wants an Open Relationship

Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey
A young couple in bed, the man on busy his phone and the woman laying down faced away from him, with an empty expression on her face.
There are many signs that suggest a partner may want to change a monogamous relationship to a non-monogamous or open one. People may find it very difficult to raise the possibility of opening their relationship to a partner, particularly if they have been monogamous from the beginning. Let's take a look at these signs and how to bring them up to your partner to gain clarity.

You and your partner have been together for a while, and the relationship has always been close. But recently, things have shifted, and you believe your partner is leaving something unsaid. Opening up a relationship is tricky if you have been monogamous from the beginning, especially since there are many misconceptions surrounding polyamory.

Before you end up back on a dating site like EliteSingles or OurTime to find a new match, here are a few signs he wants an open relationship and tips on talking to him about them.

1. He Is Interested in Who You Are Attracted To

Your partner may notice you looking at someone in public or characters in a movie or TV show and ask if you think they're attractive.

Dig a little deeper by answering him and observing his response. Is he pleased when you admit your attractions and tell him what is attractive to you? A lack of jealousy can signify compersion - feeling joy at your partner’s pleasure - and an indication of interest in non-monogamy.

2. He Reads/Watches Everything About Open Relationships

If you notice a sudden interest in everything polyamorous, it could show his serious interest in the topic. Your partner might be consuming podcasts, reality TV, or pornography related to open relationships.

The best way to check what’s happening is to ask your partner about it. Talk honestly about his media intake and what bothers you or interests you, and you may learn something new.

3. He Flirts With Everyone

Does your partner flirt more than usual, especially with others? Does he make fewer efforts to hide or conceal interactions with other people? He might even ask the person he is flirting with if they find you attractive or flirt openly with you and others.

Interactions like these can stir up a bunch of confusing feelings. The best thing is to ask your boyfriend or husband about this behavior in the privacy of your home.

4. He Talks About Adding Partners To Your Sex Life

Notice your partner talking about bringing another person into your sexual relationship? He might mention a specific person you both know, a celebrity, or someone you saw together.

Talking about others could excite him, or more partners could only be his fantasy. We all have fantasies, but not all of them are ones we necessarily want to enact. Be bold in asking if he wants to try this and see where his response takes you.

5. He Wants to Go to Sexy Places Together

Your partner may suggest attending sexy places like strip clubs or burlesque shows together.

If he suggests a swingers club or sex party, this obviously isn't a hidden sign. However, the others may indicate a desire to experiment or explore non-monogamous relationships. Ask him what excites him and listen actively to his answers. Pay attention to your partner's thoughts, feelings, and concerns and make an effort to understand their perspective.

6. He Talks About Others in Open Relationships

If he makes a point of telling you about other open relationships, he likely wants you to ask questions and hopes you will be interested in learning more. If interested, don’t hesitate to discuss your mutual wants.

7. He Has Previous Experience With Open Relationships

Many are non-monogamous by nature but are uncomfortable owning that by starting non-monogamous relationships. Family and cultural pressure to find "the one" and "settle down" leads to people suppressing these desires.

The desire for non-monogamy often asserts itself, leaving them in a challenging position. How does one tell a partner who agreed to a monogamous relationship that they are actually not monogamous?

Discuss this in detail if you discover your partner has previous experience in open relationships. Ask him for the truth: Does he identify as non-monogamous or open? Were his past experiences fleeting or longer-term? Were they positive or negative, and how did they affect his other relationships?

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8. His Grooming Improves

People tend to get more relaxed about their grooming and style once they're in a more committed relationship stage. A sudden improvement in grooming can signify that your partner may be trying to make a good impression on new, potential partners. Get over the elephant in the room, tell your partner you noticed the new grooming products or clothes, and ask what has prompted the changes.

9. He Jokes About Group Sex

When you're out in public, almost to catch you off guard, he may joke about having a threesome, foursome, or moresome with others. If you ask if he is serious, he may laugh it off. This could really mean that he is concerned about your response. If he detects rejection or upset in your voice, it may be difficult for him to own his sexual preferences.

Ask if there is any truth to these jokes. Make sure he knows his wants are important too.

Open Relationships Aren't for Everyone

Open relationships work well for some people and not for others. They require excellent communication skills and only work well when both consent and are clear about what they want. If it turns out your other half wants an open relationship, don't panic. The best way to handle this bombshell is to start an open, honest conversation. Ask sensitive questions and listen to the answers without making assumptions (especially about cheating).

At the end of the day, it's best to speak to a therapist or coach with experience working with couples considering alternative relationship styles. Many resources are available to make the transition from monogamy to non-monogamy easier.

Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey
Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey, a GSRD therapist, psychologist, and expert contributor to Top10.com, specializes in sexuality, gender, and relationship diversity understanding. She guides individuals and couples toward fulfilling intimate relationships, drawing from her trauma-healing expertise since 1987. As a relationship therapist on "Open House: The Great Sex Experiment" and host of "The A To Z Of Sex®" podcast, she fosters open dialogue about intimacy and self-expression.