Get grounded before going through the questions and pause if anyone gets dysregulated.
Practice nonviolent communication (share: observations + feelings + needs + requests).
Go through the questions together in order.
Star the questions where you get stuck, then take that to a counselor.
50 Questions to Answer Before Opening a Relationship
1. What kind of helping professional would we like to see to guide us through these discussions? If we can’t afford a therapist currently, what books or resources could be used as a guide? Is there a community we could join online or in person? Can we select some resources to read together and discuss?
2. What lead up to us considering opening our relationship? Are we on the same page about where we are? How would we each describe our relationship currently?
3. What does “open relationship” mean to each of us? What does it NOT mean?
4. What are our beliefs about open/poly/nonmonog relationships? What are our beliefs about monogamy? How did we come to hold these beliefs?
5. Do we know anyone in open/poly/nonmonog relationships who we could talk to about what it was like opening up? Were we inspired by seeing another open relationship?
6. What does integrity mean to us in the context of relationships? What does commitment mean to us? What does loyalty mean to us? What are our relational values as a partnership?
7. How solid is our relationship currently? Are we emotionally attuning and feeling connected? Or are we growing distant and losing passion?
8. How deeply do we trust each other? Are there any times in the past when we felt alone and/or like our partner might not be there for us when we needed them? Have we made repairs around those past experiences to the best of our ability?
9. How do we feel about our sex and intimacy? Would we possibly be opening up to try to meet a sexual need that feels unmet/lacking in our relationship? What else have we already tried to meet that unmet need/s? What would be a way/s to meet the need before/while opening up?
10. Why might we open our relationship? What are we longing to experience?
11. Are we wanting to open up to engage in sexual experiences with others and/or do we think we are/might be polyamorous? Are we hoping to find romantic love with other people? What kinds of connection and experiences are we seeking?
12. If anyone identifies as bisexual, queer, fluid, etc., does the ‘gender’ of an outside partner impact the kind of connection/energy felt/desired? (e.g., “I only fall in love with women but I like to hook up with men,” or “I only sub for men, but I like to top women.”)
13. Do both of us want to open up? Is one person wanting it more than the other? How would we make sure that this is a mutual decision? What are our boundaries—what are each of our core needs, and what are we willing to flex on?
14. If one person decides they really don’t want to open up after all, how will we proceed? If only one of us wants to date other people, are we okay with that as a relationship structure? What would we do if we started out with just one of us dating other people, but then the other decided they would also like to date someone else?
15. Is opening up a big enough deal for one of us that if only one of us wanted to do it, we’d need to start talking about a possible breakup/divorce? Is it a dealbreaker?
16. What would be some potential benefits of opening up our relationship?
17. What would be some potential risks of opening up our relationship?
18. Do we sense that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks? Are there ways that any of the risks can be reduced/minimized?
19. What would our ideal/dream scenario look like? What are each of our dreams here?
20. How would our family and community feel knowing we opened our relationship? Would we let them know or would we keep it private? How do each of our cultural backgrounds impact this experience and decision?
21. If someone who didn’t know we had an open relationship randomly happened to see one or both of us out in public with other partners, how would we like to proceed? If we are out with a shared partner and are asked about our relationship status, what would our responses be?
22. If we have kids, would we need to tell them about us, if anything? Are they at an age where they’ll notice and ask questions? What questions might they ask and how would we answer them?
23. What concerns and fears do we have? If anyone has a catastrophic fear, what is it? What do we need to sense/feel when the fears get stirred up? How can we reassure each other? (e.g., hug, hold hands, hear specific words like, “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” or simply “I love you”—be specific about what’s needed/wanted)
24. How will we know that we’re ready to open up?
25. What will be our process for creating co-agreements and defining expectations?
26. How will we compromise if we get stuck or gridlocked on a disagreement when we are trying to create our co-agreements? How does power show up in our relationship?
27. What is our repair process? How do we reconnect after conflict? How will we let each other know when a repair is needed?
28. What soothes and reassures each of us when we are feeling our enduring vulnerabilities stirred up? (e.g., feeling “I’m not good enough,” “They’re going to leave me,” “I’m not getting it right.”) What are our main enduring vulnerabilities? What will we kind of always feel sensitive about?
29. What relational structure would be ideal for us? Are we swingers? Do we want to be in a triad or a quad? Are we looking for a leather family? How many partners would we ideally like to see? How would that structure look? Is there a limit on how many partners each of us should relate with?
30. Who is okay as a potential new partner? Who would be out of the question? (e.g., people you meet online, co-workers, friends, friends of friends, people you meet in bars)
31. If we created a social/dating profile, how would we describe ourselves and who/what we’re seeking? How would we describe what we’re into?
32. How would we meet potential new partners? How would we let each other know when we think we’ve connected with or encountered a potential new partner? What qualities are we looking for in potential new partners?
33. How will each of us initiate communication with potential new partners? Will both of us be reading/engaging in pre-meetup conversations? If we aren’t both seeing digital/text communication between one partner and potential new partners, how would we like to be updated about progress/status? Would we want to hear about partner’s dates afterward?
34. Will we have veto power over each other’s outside relationships? What do we do if we aren’t fond of a partner’s partner?
35. What are acceptable activities with non-primary partners? Dating? Sex? What kinds of sex acts? Romantic love feelings? Kink play? Saying “I love you”?
36. If sex with other partners is on the table, how will we practice safer sex? What do we know about consent and safer sex? What is our process for asking about potential partners’ sexual health status? If one of our partners also hooks up with other people, how will we trust that we stay safe? How can we reduce risk for harm?
37. What boundaries are important for us to have (individually and for the relationship)? What would feel out of line for one of us to do? “I would be devastated if _____ happened.”
38. What happens if one of us falls in love with another partner?
39. If one of us has an outside partner who practices parallel poly and we may never meet their nesting partner, how do we feel about that? Would we want to meet/engage with the primary partners of people we date/play with?
40. How much time in a week is acceptable for each of us to spend with non-primary partners? If either of us feels like we’re not getting enough time or like we’re not our primary partner’s priority, what will we do?
41. If we don’t have veto power, but we don’t like one of our partner’s partners or a conflict arises between us and our primary partner’s lover, what will we do?
42. What do we know about ourselves and how we experience jealousy individually? What will we do if either of us feels jealousy?
43. What do we know about ‘new relationship energy (NRE)?’ How would we soothe and reassure each other if NRE stirred up some feelings of jealousy or sadness/anger in a partner?
44. How will we know if we need to go in to couples counseling for a check-in?
45. What if we try to open up and like it for a while but then one or both of us changes their mind? What would be our process for bringing something like that up? How would we ideally handle a situation like that?
46. Are there things that feel really special with our primary partner that we’d request that our partner refrain from doing with other partners? (e.g., going to “our restaurant,” engaging in a particular role in sex play, using a special pet nickname) How would we repair if one or both of us ever got the sense that we weren’t as important to our partner as a non-primary partner?
47. If we’re kinky, what feels acceptable and encouraged to do with other partners? If someone is usually submissive, how would we feel if they were dominant with another person? If someone is a top, how do we feel about another top topping their bottom? What are the limits?
48. What process will we have if one or both of us wishes to change an agreement that we have made? Will we do monthly or quarterly check-ins to make sure we’re still on the same page?
49. What do we love and treasure about each other? What do we admire? What do we adore? What do we appreciate? What do we affirm about our relationship together?
50. Do we believe opening up is the right choice for our relationship?