When they got together over a decade ago, Mary had told Jim* that she was bisexual and may want to explore this at some time in the future.
Jim had been open to the idea but happy to be monogamous for the time being and see how things panned out.
Fast forward many years, and this had become a topic for discussion from time to time.
Jim was okay with it in theory, but it really pushed some buttons for him when he thought about what it might look like in practice.
When they came to me, Mary had realised an attraction to another man, and the urge to be with women was also getting stronger.
She wanted to negotiate the possibility of exploring an open relationship with the view to possible polyamory further down the track.
This was a big jump for Jim, but he could see the growing attraction between Mary and this other man.
It was time to look at what might this actually be like, with trepidation from Jim and excitement from Mary.
While it had led to fights in the past, they were both open to having a respectful conversation and considering the future.
This was a positive start for a couple who loved each other very much, wanted to be the best versions of themselves, and were unsure how they could make it work with so much unknown.
COVID-19 has certainly made us all look at the way we connect with other people.
For me as a sexologist, I have seen many more couples in the past six weeks, looking at renegotiating their relationships.
Some have been opening their relationships, some moving into polyamorous relationships, and some realising that their relationship is now untenable – much more time together has helped them see that what they thought were little cracks, easily ignored, were actually gaping holes with no fix.
So, what does renegotiating your relationship look like?
First, it’s about everyone involved really understanding the difference between their needs and wants, their boundaries and what is not negotiable.
It’s about taking time to self-reflect, using that time and space to be introspective.
I often ask people to look at their values, what is most important to them.
Then I ask them to do a traffic light activity to look at what they need in a relationship: their must-haves (green), what they absolutely don’t want and will not accept (red), and things that are negotiable (yellow).
This then helps them to discuss their needs with their partner, in a respectful, open, non-judgemental manner (how to do that is a whole other article).
Negotiation follows, giving each person the space to be heard and understood.
This is not a quick process, usually involving some very tough conversations, but it can be done successfully.
*Not their real names.