It seems like open relationships are becoming increasingly common as more couples explore whether a non-monogamous lifestyle suits them.
According to research, around 4-5 percent of heterosexual couples have decided to be non-exclusive.
I was one of them…until I changed my mind.
After agreeing to and then trying out an open relationship with my partner I found it just wasn’t for me.
So I set about discovering how I could end my open relationship and get back to normal. Here’s how I did it.
How my open relationship began
For years I’ve had intriguing and interesting conversations about the benefits of open relationships.
I’ve always considered myself an open-minded and rational person so I was happy to at least talk with partners about the potential pluses of giving it a try.
I could see how, in theory, it might bring freedom, new exciting experiences, and even take the pressure of expecting to have all your needs met by one person alone.
I wasn’t naive either, and so I guessed it wouldn’t all be plain sailing, which was most likely why I’d always ultimately decided against it.
But when my current partner and I started to drift apart, it came up again as a potential solution.
After 4 years together, that “spark” had faded and it felt like we didn’t have chemistry anymore.
Our sex drives had become out of sync. We were worried that if we didn’t make some changes, we were going to lose the relationship for good.
So we set ground rules and decided to give an open relationship a try.
Why I decided to end my open relationship
In the beginning, I actually thought that maybe an open relationship was going to work out for us.
I felt as though I’d been given back a bit of the single life but still with the security of knowing I had a SO.
I enjoyed the confidence boost that I got from my newfound attention from other men.
The knock-on effect was more confidence, excitement, and sexiness was brought back into my own relationship. We seemed a bit happier and more attracted to each other.
But after a few months, cracks started to appear as some avoidable realities crept in. After the initial high, I learned that just because I could, it didn’t mean I wanted to be intimate with other people.
Whilst my interest in looking around at other men started to wane, my jealousy at the thought of my partner on dates with other women grew.
Some people might say that’s selfish of me, or if I truly loved my other half I wouldn’t mind because I would want him to be happy.
In an ideal world, maybe that’s true, but we live in the real world.
Ultimately, I couldn’t help how I felt. And how I felt was shortchanged, jealous and insecure.
I’d given it a go, but now I wanted out of my open relationship and for us to become monogamous again.
After doing some research on the best way to go about things, this is how I ended my open relationship…
The best way to finish an open relationship
1) Be brutally honest with yourself
The first hurdle I had in ending my open relationship was admitting to myself that it just wasn’t working for me.
For several weeks I tried to convince myself that I was being too sensitive or that I was struggling to adjust and just needed to give it more time.
But as I denied my true feelings about the situation, I became more and more unhappy.
I found myself trying to put on a brave face and keep these emotions from my partner.
That’s despite us promising that communication would be key in allowing an open relationship to work out.
I realized that before I spoke to my boyfriend about exactly how shitty I was feeling, I had to first admit it to myself.
I felt guilty about what I saw as changing my mind. I felt irrational for not being able to control my emotions and be ok with non-monogamy.
There came a point when I knew I had no choice but to be brutally honest with myself. Whatever the reasons, I didn’t want an open relationship.
2) Be vulnerable, open with your partner, and don’t stop talking
I’m not going to lie, I felt scared as hell when I sat down with my partner to tell him what was going on in my head.
In all relationships, good communication is essential, but when you are trying something less conventional like an open relationship it becomes even more so.
That’s because it’s totally new ground for many of us. After all, most people grow up in cultures and environments where monogamy is the “norm”.
So exploring anything new in a relationship means you have to be able to talk about things — even when it’s uncomfortable.
I wanted to let my partner know how I was feeling, without laying any blame at his door.
It definitely involved a lot of vulnerability as I was afraid of how he would react and whether he would be able or willing to return to monogamy.
But I knew deep down that talking was going to be the biggest solution for finding our way through all of this to the other side.
3) Agree to review the situation
I guess this step is less about reviewing the situation in the sense that you may change your mind again, and more a reminder to check in on your relationship after you make any decisions that affect your future together.
People change, relationships change, feelings change.
My partner and I agreed that we would put a stop to our open relationship and return to monogamy, but that we would set a date for a month’s time to talk about it again.
Although I felt confident I wasn’t going to have a change of heart, this was a good opportunity for us both to air how we were feeling after some time had passed.
But ultimately it was also to encourage the dialogue between us to stay open (even if the relationship was closing again).
4) Don’t sell yourself short
More than once I wondered if I should explain how I was feeling to my partner but agree to continue with the open relationship for a little bit longer if I knew he was keener on it.
I thought that perhaps that would be “fairer” on him rather than springing things on him.
But ultimately I knew I had to be honest about my own needs and wants.
If you agree to be in an open relationship, it’s got to be what you really want and you are allowed to change your mind.
Don’t be bullied or manipulated to continue an arrangement that doesn’t work for you.
Trying to put the needs of your partner over your own for fear of losing them won’t work in the long run.
It’s unsustainable and the pressure will become too much and ruin what you have anyway.
Be prepared to tell your whole truth, rather than a diluted version that you think might be more palatable.
5) Work on your relationship together
In my case, my partner and I had decided to give an open relationship a try to inject a bit more excitement into a connection that had started to feel flat.
Whilst it did seem to “solve” some of our issues, it also created others for us.
Even though we decided to return to monogamy, neither of us wanted to return to exactly the way things were before. We wanted it to be better.
That meant committing to work on improving our relationship.
You might want to see a couples therapist if you need some help navigating this.
Without new people creating excitement in the relationship, we agreed that we would try and create other scenarios together to help do this.
And not just in the bedroom, but in life in general too.
We agreed to go on more dates together, try and take more trips, explore new interests or hobbies and just generally get out of the house more.
We realized that things probably became a little boring because we had stopped making any real effort with one another.
6) Be prepared to walk away if you can’t agree
Relationships are undoubtedly about compromise. But the reality is that there are certain things it’s impossible to compromise on.
If one of you wants an open relationship and the other doesn’t, there isn’t really a middle ground. One of you will always lose.
Sharing the same values, and heading in the same direction as one another is important to keep a relationship cemented.
If you cannot agree on the fundamentals of what you think a relationship should be, your life plans together aren’t going to have much of a chance.
That’s why after you have honestly talked about everything, any agreement you reach has to be one that you both are happy with.
If it isn’t, you might need to be prepared to walk away and give yourself the chance to find someone you are more compatible with.
Can you return to normal after an open relationship?
After hearing that my other half didn’t want to lose me, and agreeing to end our open relationship, I definitely felt a huge initial relief.
But it wasn’t long before I started to dwell on questions over what’s next?
The reality was that we had altered the dynamics in our relationship and that did bring with it a few consequences that we had to navigate.
Of course, no relationship is perfect, whether it’s open or exclusive. But there were certain challenges that we experienced when transitioning back into monogamy again.
1) Some of the excitement was gone
Rather unsurprisingly, having the open attention of other people made both me and my partner feel more desirable.
Anyone who has been in a relationship long enough knows that those fireworks don’t last forever and the fiery spark you have in the beginning begins to fade.
Apparently, this honeymoon phase is known as limerence and is fuelled by hormones in your body that eventually die down.
Being in an open relationship gave us a little boost back of that spark. I’m not saying it was a totally constructive way for us to get that passion back though.
After all, some couples constantly break up and makeup to keep that adrenaline alive, and that’s not particularly healthy.
Nevertheless, adapting back to monogamy meant we couldn’t rely on this excitement to fuel our relationship and had to create it ourselves.
As I’ve mentioned, we tried to do this by exploring our own sexuality together and committing to spend more quality time having fun with one another.
2) I worry my partner will resent me
In the back of my mind, because I was the one who ultimately called time on our open relationship, I do worry my guy will end up resenting me.
He says he doesn’t and that our relationship is more important to him.
I do believe him, but I also realize that making sure you both are happy with your choice is important.
3) There’s some lingering jealousy
The truth is that we all know our partner finds other people attractive.
It’s not like as soon as you fall in love you walk around with blinkers on and are incapable of noticing good-looking people.
You may even indulge in a few fantasies about other people.
But in many monogamous relationships, we also sign up to this unwritten rule that we don’t usually talk about it.
I never considered myself the jealous type, but sharing my partner in this new way — both sexually and emotionally with other women — brought out attachment in a way I’d not experienced before.
Even though that subsided a lot once we returned to an exclusive relationship, we had opened a can of worms that weren’t so easy to put back.
Jealousy and comparison are still something I have to work on to feel fully secure again.
4) I worry we’ll get bored of each other
It does play on my mind still that now things are back to just the two of us, we will become bored again in the relationship.
I have to accept that it is a possibility.
But what I’ve come to realize is that even if it does happen, it doesn’t spell the end of the relationship.
I believe that relationships go through cycles. Things can’t always be a roller coaster ride.
But even when it’s not, certain things still remain — like the love we feel, the trust we have built and being able to depend on one another.
I think that those firm foundations can ride out a bit of boredom from time to time.
Can an open relationship become exclusive?
In my situation, my partner and I were originally in an exclusive relationship. But what about it you have never been exclusive but wish you were?
A lot of the same points still apply.
If you’re dating someone who you know is seeing other people when you want to be exclusive, you need to start by having a truthful conversation about how you feel.
Because of how tricky all relationships can be to navigate, whether they’re monogamous or poly, I’d never recommended putting up with something you don’t really want in the hopes things will change further down the line.
For that reason, if someone says they don’t want to be exclusive with you, believe them. Falling for someone in an open relationship is likely to leave you heartbroken.
Secretly harboring a wish that one day they will commit to you is a dangerous strategy.
Can an open relationship be one-sided?
Nothing in life is perfectly balanced but I certainly started to feel like the situation was working better for my partner than me.
Some couples choose to have a one-sided open relationship, where whilst one partner remains monogamous, the other doesn’t.
Part of me questioned whether the “have your cake and eat it” setup suited my man more than me simply because he was a guy. But funnily enough, that’s not what the evidence shows.
In fact, after the New York Times interviewed 25 couples who were in non-monogamous marriages they discovered most were initiated by the women.
Whatsmore, the women in the relationships had more luck in attracting other partners.
According to behavioral economists, this could be as men overestimate their value in the dating world after being off the market for a while.
This is highlighted by some woeful tales posted on Reddit.
One from a guy who convinced his girlfriend of two years to enter an open relationship, only for it to backfire spectacularly when he realized she was highly desirable, whilst he didn’t manage to hook up with anyone.
Another man took to the forum seeking advice on how he could end an open relationship he started after he was “overcome with jealousy” learning his girlfriend had sex with another man.
Bottom line: Ending an open relationship
All relationships have their ups and downs. Maybe I should never have entered into an open relationship, but even though it didn’t ultimately work for me I don’t 100% regret it.
It wasn’t easy to end my open relationship but with strong communication, patience, and love I managed to.
Right now, I do feel like my partner and I will be able to get back to a successful monogamous relationship again.