No-Nonsense Non-Monogamy: Long-term couples need to be careful when opening things up


Long-Term Partners Need to Be Careful When Opening Their Relationships 


I’ve noticed that couples who started dating when they were teens, tend to have more ownership mindset over their partner as adults.

In ENM (ethical non-monogamy), this can show up as more severe or restrictive forms of hierarchy and unexamined couple’s privilege.


Dating the same person as you transition into adulthood can be a great way to learn about relationships!

On the downside, those early partnerships aren’t established with the same maturity and experience. This isn’t the couple’s fault, but something to be aware of.

Teens tend to jump on the relationship escalator, have co-dependent tendencies, and often have inequitable power dynamics. Without other dating experiences, these patterns can go completely unnoticed. Teens that stay together have to contend with those issues as adults.

Naturally, many folks who’ve only dated one person their entire lives become interested in ENM to gain other experiences. Unfortunately, the opening process can be more difficult since they’ve never dated as adults, haven’t experienced significant breakups, etc.

Dating new people for the first time as adults can illuminate some pretty complex structural issues in their primary relationships that have been left unaddressed for years, if not decades.
As a result, new partners can be seen as a threat to the established couple’s security.

It’s easy to understand why a couple who’ve only been together might feel an increased sense of loyalty towards the relationship. If you only know one partner and have built your entire adult self/life with this person, it can be hard to tolerate change. Opening up can feel hard.


I work with loads of people who’ve been with one pal since they were teens. One of the biggest struggles is finding ways to self-differentiate and make space for new pals within their established life together.

Many couples don’t spend much if any, free time apart! For these couples, there’s a huge step before fully opening their relationship, where each person needs to untangle themselves.

Couples must learn to be apart, to refrain from inputting or controlling each other’s behavior, and to be free as individuals as well as partners! The process of self-differentiation can be incredibly rocky since people will inevitably learn who they are separate from their partner, which can feel unstable to the relationship.

Embracing curiosity about you and your pal’s discoveries is useful before opening up. Being together since you were a teen doesn’t mean you can’t open your relationship as an adult. However, particular conditions need to be addressed if you want to maintain the connection you had while growing as autonomous individuals too!


It’s possible.


Get more from Sam by following the Shrimp Teeth Instagram.

Sam is a sex educator and artist who explores queerness, polyamory, and sexuality through their work. She’s passionate about exploring ways to broaden relationship structures to foster more connections between people. They use art and illustration as part of their education process.


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