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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SL Letter of the Day: Call the Open Question

Posted by Dan Savage on Tue, Jul 8, 2014 at 10:28 AM

I am a 25-year-old bisexual guy in a relationship with a wonderful straight girl. We have been together for over four years, and we just moved into an apartment together. Our relationship is great and we love each other very much. However, for a long time, I have really wanted to open our relationship up to outside sexual partners. I didn't come to terms with the fact of my bisexuality until after we started dating, so I've never really had the chance try sex with guys. I think often about exploring the other side of my sexuality, but I would never do so without her knowledge and permission. I'm the sort of person who can separate sex from emotional attachment, and my ideal relationship would be one in which both of us are free to explore our sexuality as much as we want as long as we're being safe. Although I've wanted an open relationship for a long time, I never mentioned it because I was positive she would have no interest.

Well, a few days ago, she brought up her own desire to have sex with other people. She voiced concerns about her ability to handle knowing that I was having sex with others, but she seemed to have been thinking about it for a while and to really want the freedom to explore. We spent the past couple of days talking about potential rules and boundaries for this new arrangement, with her periodically mentioning that it was "just a possibility" and that we should think on it "for a few days." Meanwhile, I was excited beyond belief to get a chance to try all of the things that had been relegated to fantasy for over four years. Then, yesterday, she said that she thinks she doesn't want to have an open relationship now, mentioning vaguely that "maybe now isn't the best time." I said that I would only want to do it if she wanted it was comfortable with it, and we left it at that for now.

But now I can't stop thinking about it! It was already something that was on my mind, but now that she brought it up and I spent a few days thinking it would be a reality, I can't get sex with other people out of my head. Now, don't get me wrong—I still love sex with her, but I also want so much more: threesomes, hooking up with other couples, being able to go fuck other guys and girls, and all that fun stuff. Somehow, thinking I was going to have all that and then having it snatched away has made everything more difficult.

So, what should I do, Dan? I know it would be stupid to pressure her into an open relationship when she doesn't want one or isn't ready yet, because that would just lead to jealousy, fights, and a possible breakup. I love her and definitely don't want that. But is there a good way to keep the conversation going? Any advice for what I should do now?

Craving Open Relationship

My response after the jump...

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The answer seems pretty obvious to me.

You, COR, are not gonna be happy in a closed relationship. You've come to know that about yourself, and your letter makes that clear. Your girlfriend, on the other hand, might be happy in an open relationship. She gave openness some serious thought—she wouldn't have initiated that two-day convo if she hadn't—and at some point she pictured the two of you in a healthy, happy, functional, and longterm open relationship.

So drop the "I only want to do this if you want to do it" sensitive bi boyfriend schtick and tell your girlfriend that being with you means being in an open relationship. Not right now, of course, as you're not going to impose openness on her unilaterally. But you are unilaterally reopening the conversation about opening your relationship because your ideal relationship—and these are your words, COR—is one in which both parties are free to explore safely and within a mutually agreed to set of rules. And if that's not the kind of relationship she wants, well, then you two aren't right for each other.

Would you be issuing an ultimatum? Yes, COR, you would. But you're not married, you don't have kids, and you've only just moved in together. If your girlfriend doesn't wanna be in an open relationship—not with you, not with anyone—you're at a stage in your relationship where she can easily walk away. Your ultimatum ("a statement of terms") would be a simple, straightforward, and fair, COR, not an unfair act of emotional, parental, or economic blackmail.

Finally, COR, it was your girlfriend who first raised the subject of openness. So, again, at some point she was able to picture herself in an open relationship with you. Maybe you said something over the two days the subject was open for discussion that gave her cold feet. If so, COR, find out what that was, unpack it together at length, and walk it back if there was a misunderstanding. (Maybe she wasn't ready to contemplate threesomes, hooking up with couples, and all that fun stuff? Your idea of openness sounds like a bacchanal; her idea of openness may be more limited and controlled. If she can compromise on openness generally, COR, you should be ready to compromise on frequency and circumstances.)

But it's just as likely that her cold feet had nothing to do with anything you said. She may have concluded that openness presented an unacceptable risk to your relationship—because all open relationships fail, right?—so better to play it safe and keep your relationship closed. But you don't wanna be in a monogamous relationship and sooner or later you will end or sabotage this relationship because it's monogamous. Once she understands that openness isn't a risk to this relationship, COR, but the only way to save it, she may be willing to give it a try.

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