When Do I Tell a New Partner I Want an Open Relationship?

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Dear Em & Lo,

I’m a single guy and I’m fairly active on the dating scene. When I eventually get into a long-term relationship, I’d like it to be an open relationship, but I don’t know when and how to bring this up with new partners. I don’t want to scare a woman off by mentioning it too soon, but I don’t want to be accused of leading her on, either. When’s the right time to mention that long-term monogamy isn’t really my thing?

— Free Willy

What’s your advice for Free Willy? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.



  1. Well, at some point in any new relationship, it has to take that step, from acquaintance/friend to partner. This is when you should do it. I would say before you have sex, but some people are a little more casual and to them, you’d want to tell them right when you start hanging out and being around more often. These kinds of desicions cannot really be pinpointed by just anyone(me/posters), its relative to you and your situation. If you feel them starting to get emotionally closer to you make sure and tell them, you don’t want to hurt them!
    My experience has been an odd one for this subject. My last guy I told him a couple weeks into it and it didn’t work out well. He was young and didn’t understand my mindset and the reasons why I wanted it to be open, but I didn’t know. I thought he understood. He sure acted like he did. All he heard was that I was going away and he didnt want me sleeping around so we were monogomous(I was head over heels-didn’t seem like a big sacrafice). Well, by the time we were in the same state again, his young confused mind had decided that I was doing what I wanted and he assumed I was sleeping around. He had cheated on me. Lame. So be true to yourself on this and dont change your standards for someone especially if they are inexperienced and may not understand the open relationship concept. Plus people that want an open relationship all have different ideas of what it means to them, make sure the person knows what it means to you and why it is that you need/prefer it that way.

  2. This is something I’ve had to deal with a couple of times (actually am in the process right now). Sooner is better than later. Disclaimer: I’m a straight cis woman, so the whole dynamic is probably very different.

    The first time, I brought this up as soon as the guy I was seeing mentioned exclusivity. I think that timing was right. However, what I did wrong was cave and say I would be monogamous when I knew that wasn’t going to work for me. We broke up about a year later because of fundamental incompatibilities, not limited to our views on monogamy. (I never cheated, I just white-knuckled through the whole thing).

    I avoided traditional relationships and dating for a few years after that. Now I’m back in the “regular” dating scene, and have met someone I really like. We’ve been out a few times. I’ve discussed my general views on monogamy, and so far, we seem to have similar views. I’ve got a few things to unpack for him, so I’ve been struggling with how/and when is best to do that. Otherwise, I probably would have it clear pretty early on that monogamy is not for me.

    A caveat – I wouldn’t tell her you value a partner who’s “not jealous.” Pretty much everyone gets jealous. What matters is how you handle jealousy. Jealousy is really just insecurity turned outward, so often it has more to do with you than your partner.

  3. Step one is to avoid putting off monogamous boyfriend vibes. Don’t rush into a relationship. Limit your phone/text/internet communication with her. Limit the amount of time you spend with her. Continue to date other women.

    Step two is to wait for her to bring it up, and then tell her that you love the idea of forming a strong connecting with one woman, but you can’t imagine yourself being strictly sexually faithful forever and ever – in other words, say what most people would say if they were honest with themselves and with their partners. Tell her you really value a partner who’s not jealous and feels the same way.

    Step three is to stay strong when she pitches a fit or dumps you for it. You MIGHT get lucky and hear, “hey, that’s exactly what I want too!” But I wouldn’t count on it. In my experience most women will put up at least some resistance to this. But if your frame is strong, most of them will come around.

  4. I don’t know from personal experience but i would say before you sleep with her. If you wait til after, there is a good chance she’ll feel lead on and/ or duped.

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