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Bonny Albo

He Wants an Open Relationship Dating Question

By April 30, 2014

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Lindsay asks, "My guy and I have been dating over a year. We've had our rocky times and our good ones, but all in all its been pretty amazing. Recently however I found out he was meeting other women on dating sites and even kissed one of them. When I asked him what was going on, he said that he felt he wasn't wired for monogamy. He didn't want to hurt me, so he was relieved that it was all out in the open. He asked if I would consider an open relationship, where we both date other people, and still stay together. He says he cares for me very much, and how he feels isn't a reflection on me. He also said he doesn't want to lose me, but he was scared I'd reject him for who he is.

I'm hurt that he lied to me, and I'm confused about my role. Isn't this moving backwards to a casual relationship? I really care about this man, but I'm so confused. Help?"

Well Lindsay, there are two ways to look at your situation. You can either consider your guy's request for an open relationship (learning more about what it means, and whether or not its something you can do) or you can say its not something for you and go your separate ways. Of course, that's easier said than done after a year or more of dating.

Let me first say that an open relationship is very different than polyamory. I realize that you haven't mentioned this in your question, but bear with me for a second. Polyamory is the concept that we can love more than one person romantically, and at the same time. In my experience, most polyamorous relationships are open and everyone is aware of the other loves or partners, and there is a feeling of inclusiveness. Open relationships on the other hand can be polyamorous, but I find the term usually refers to more of a 'don't ask, don't tell' sort of policy, where both parties date other people with the other's knowledge. Open relationships are just that - open - so each person can really do as they please without having to answer to anyone else.

Now, that's just my interpretation. Surely other readers will chime in and share their thoughts. But what I will say is that in my experience, polyamory is focused on love and affection, whereas open relationships are more come-what-may type experiences. I've also found that folks in poly relationships seem to communicate at a much higher level with their partners (out of necessity) whereas people in open relationships don't seem to share as much with regards to the status of where things are with other folks.

The reason why I'm sharing this information with you is because I want you to know you have more than just two choices: leave or stay. You can also negotiate with your partner to redefine what you have so that the relationship works for both of you. I can't tell if you're open to this type of situation, and frankly, it's a difficult road for even the most stable of relationships. But it is an option, and one worth discussing when things have cooled down a bit.

For now, I'd suggest thinking about whether or not your guy's actions are something you can forgive - or at the very least understand. I'm not condoning his behavior, because I don't believe that lying is ever an answer. Still, I do believe that his actions have opened up a level of communication and honesty that the two of you probably haven't shared before, and it might be an opportunity for growth for all involved. And since you wouldn't be asking the question if you weren't considering (even a little bit) his proposal, I have to assume you're willing to negotiate. So with that in mind, I'd recommend first discussing with him the dishonesty aspect, and seeing if it's a long-term issue or a one-off event. Then I'd move into what you both see an open relationship as, what you need out of it, what can be negotiated and what are deal breakers.

I'd also recommend that you speak with a counselor about your feelings, independently of your partner, and take some time to look at what you need from a romantic relationship, and whether or not your guy can, or is willing to give that to you. Finally, I'd take some time to nurture and be gentle with yourself, and give yourself some space and time to think without too much pressure from anyone.

April 25, 2010 at 7:33 pm
(1) Ian says:

Good answer. When I saw the title I figured you were going to come down on open relationships, like so many columnist do. You are right, the biggest issue is that he broke trust with his partner and he should have been open with his partner well before a year. If it’s something new, he should have discussed it with her before he started doing something. The only area I disagree it your view of what open vs polyamory. For me polyamory is just one type of open relationship. Which is think is the view that Tristan Taormino uses in her book “opening up”. It’s up to both partners to define their needs and negotiate.

April 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm
(2) AS says:

With the risk of sounding judgemental it sounds like this guy wants his cake and to eat it. Trust builds the foundation of healthy relationships and once someone breaks this trust, it can be difficult to get the relationship back on an even keel. Lindsay, my advice to you is that do you really want to be in a relationship with a man, whom you have to share with others? Would you be able to cope with the thought of this? Will this make you happy?

April 28, 2010 at 3:50 pm
(3) John says:

I am interested to know whether exclusivity was ever discussed between the two partners. It is easy to assume that the length of your relationship dictates a hard-and-fast romantic role, but oftentimes a man will continue in their habit until their role is explicitly altered.

Instead of viewing this as an unfortunate circumstance, you could use this as an opportunity to meet some people and maybe have a little bit of fun trying something new.

May 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm
(4) JimiBoy says:

I don’t think that an ‘open relationship’ is the right way to go. I understand that everyone is different, and certain people feel differently about relationships. Even so, I don’t think that means they want an open relationship, I interpret that as they are looking elsewhere. This reminds me of a site that I came upon recently, cheatconfession.com. People go on there and share stories about having cheated, and being cheated on. I think its bogus. If you’re getting with other people than you’re boyfriend/girlfriend, then you’re cheating. That is my opinion. Maybe I’m old school.

October 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm
(5) portia says:

i totally agree with you Jimiboy. its either you in or out.for me open relationship means you still testing water ou there so you not sure about the person you with. if you with me at the moment, you shouldnt even be thinking about someone else unless if you want to cheat

October 31, 2010 at 11:37 pm
(6) Joshua says:

Speaking as someone who is in an open relationship with his wife, I can tell you that what your partner did was pretty crappy. It goes against everything open relationships and polyamorous relationships are meant to be. He should have been honest with you from the beginning and it sounds more or less like he’s using the open relationship thing as a way to get away with cheating, more than as a way to enter into an honest open relationship with you. People like him give people like me a bad name.

I honestly don’t feel wired for monogamy either, but until my wife gave me the go ahead to start dating other girls (we discussed it for a while) I did not try dating other girls. Out of respect for her, and because I would have considered it cheating, I kept myself and my urges in check.

Don’t allow him to use “open relationships” as a way to get away with being dishonest and sneaking around behind your back. If he wanted an open relationship, he should have discussed it with you BEFORE cheating on you, not after he got caught.

The thing to remember about open relationships is that it is still possible to cheat. When you are not honest with your partner about who you are seeing, or what is going on with you, or you break the rules either of you have set up, that is cheating. Your partner is guilty of cheating and you should treat him like cheaters are treated. Dump his ass.

October 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm
(7) samehere says:

I’m faced with the same situation. I really feel that I cannot have an open relationship, and have expressed my feelings to my boyfriend. He’s unhappy that he can’t just sleep with any girl he sees, but I had to go the ultimatum route. Either monogamy or nothing. If you feel strongly enough, you’ll know what to do.

April 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm
(8) Paula Horowitz says:

I’ve had both since my second husband love of my life, soul mate passed away in 2000. Trust me, either don’t work. One is married and I seemed to favor married men because they are more caring, but in the long run it hurts when they take vacations with their wives and don’t ever take a vacation with you. Holkdays are also a bitch and what about not feeling well? There are heartbreaks ahead. I even wrote a song Don’t Fall in Love with a married man or one in another relationship that says they’re just roommates and sleep in the same bed! Also had an open marriage when i FOUND THE FIRST husband of l4 years cheating.I should’ve never married him but I agreed to try it and it didn’t work.. It’s for the man’s benefit. I wasted time and begged for a divorce. i MET MY TRUE LOVE PAUL A YEAR LATER, WHEN i WAS DIVORCED. He was separated and moved in with me three weeks later and never left. We married seven months later, spent 22 years together until he died from cancer in bed next to me. We were both attractive, intellligent people with plenty of opportunities and yet were never tempted to cheat on each other.

April 20, 2013 at 2:15 am
(9) Jonathon says:


I’m a guy but I am very sceptical of anyone who wants an open relationship. I mean how much do you really love someone if you would rather spend your time with other women instead of them?

April 24, 2013 at 2:30 am
(10) Rob says:

I just got in the same boat, I was just told tonight that my other half wants to try a open said “I have always wanted to try it way before I ment you”, but is just now bringing it up?, told me that I would still be #1 but that I was not gonna know who he had seen but that it had happened and “I already know people I could call but I wont do anything in the house unless I know them, it would most likely be just sex not dating but IDK, the sex would mostly likely be just oral and foreplay but if it goes past that then it does” and “if you wanted to you could do play as well just not in the house I promise you no one will get hurt and we will not break up, I just want to try this I may not like it either”

I have no idea what to think do or say, its something only I can make mind up on in the end, but its nice to alteast vent it

May 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm
(11) Peter says:

this is a very difficult situation for anybody, but to me such relationship moves from being an actual relationship to a kind of “friends with benefit” relationship. you have a choice to make girl. stay or quit

May 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm
(12) jana says:

Just make sure you are really emotionally ready for such a relationship. Open relationships can be a recipe for disaster. DO NOT DO ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO. It is better to walk away from this..I know from experience…If you do not have the personality for open relationships, it will not work for you…make sure you investigate, do a lot of research and ask yourself..”will I be able to respect myself afterwards.” and please make sure you have protections against STD and other fetal diseases.

June 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm
(13) Matt says:

I’ve been interested in open releationships for about a year now, still haven’t told my girlfriend, but I haven’t acted upon my curiousity yet. If I want to try it, I will tell her so.

Anyway, my reason for why I want to try open relationships are: I love to give people love. I also love deep conversations. What I would like is for me to share my love with others, but also get additional love from others, be it just verbally (like regular friends) or to cuddle (I love cuddling, which sadly my girlfriend doesn’t), even kissing and sex. But that’s depending on what the other person agrees with (and of course what me and my girlfriend agrees upon). It’s not about the sex it’s more primitive than that, just to be close, feel a deep connection with another being.

This is just my reason. So to you, try to figure out what you boyfriend’s reason is, if he doesn’t have one you can both discuss it together, just be open to any possibility. Afterwards you both can set the rules :)

September 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm
(14) Lilly says:

I would like to tell my similar story .I desperately need an advice …please help

I live with my Bfriend for 4 yrs now .We met 5 ears ago.

I was going out of relationship when we met so i was quite pushy…which was wrong …but I realized only 2 years ago…

However n the first year we had a few fights as I wanted him nly for me then he said he wanted an open relationship which i refused…he never mentioned in until 2 days ago after we had a fight …

We are 2 Capricorns both of us very strongly trying to put our opinion in front of the others..

I love him ,I know he has filling for me but he never said ”I love you”.He said that sometime he feels like leaving me as he wants to be able to sleep with other women but on the other sie he sai that sometimes he feels like he wants to have kids with me .I am 31 he is 42..

I fee like he has 2 personalities not sure what to do….

September 9, 2013 at 3:38 pm
(15) Lily says:

Everything is more complicated but i am not sure if to say it all…

October 17, 2013 at 1:11 am
(16) Kathy says:

Hi, I have know my man since 1995 and we became friends first for he was just out of a divorce. We saw each other time to time while he saw others but always made me feel special. After 10 yrs of dating long distance he asked me to move in and 6 years later after I know he has stepped out at least 4 times maybe even more.. he wants a open relationship. We are so good together but he says it’s cooled off in the bed room because we are both retired at 53.. that he just wants to act on the : what if I could just meet, kiss have sex: we tried playing a couple times with others but to watch him have sex in front of me HURT, I can’t see how he could think about sex with another when he should put that towards me…. I’m lost and scared that he will walk if I don’t but I know I will just want to die if he doesn’t come home but do I want him next to me after he was with another? Any advice is welcome, PLEASE!! I feel like I am loosing my mind, best friend and love of my life.

December 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm
(17) Nick says:

I’m a gay man in a relationship now for seven months. My partner wants an open relationship, and I know it’s because he’s not satisfied with me sexually. I’ve loved him very deeply from the moment I first saw him, but now it seems like I’m losing him, and I feel like it’s because I’m not good enough.

I’m a twin, so I’m extremely comfortable just being with one person. He grew up basically living as an only child, so I’m sure he craves multiple interactions to a degree I just don’t understand.

I feel so lost, and for the first time in this relationship I feel so alone. I’ve read into polyamory, watched documentaries, and had a discussion with some friends of my partner’s who seem to at least function in such a relationship, but whenever I think of trying it, I feel so empty.

I don’t know if I should give it a try; I mean, I don’t feel emotionally ready for such a relationship at all, but I also love my partner so very much, and want him to be happy, but I don’t think I can deal with the pain. The thought is already driving me to sorrow.

I feel like if I ended the relationship, at least he would be able to pursue all the men he wants, and he could truly be happy. As for me, I’ve never been very sociable, so I suppose I could make it alone…

March 17, 2014 at 11:01 am
(18) Marina says:

First of all you are in a dilema because you are still in shock.
You don’t sound like you truly want an open relationship with this guy. If you give it a go you will only achieve to get hurt. This relationship will end soon. The most important thing is that the trust is broken. Either option you chose it won’t last long so save yourself some heartache and move on.
For an open relationship to start it has to have more friend love than partner love. Even then there is lots of jealousy involved for the party that feels stronger. I have tried open relationships and they started from friendships. I wouldn’t start an open relationship with a man that I have strong feelings for because I know it won’t end anywhere nice.
Don’t try to get into an open relationship to please someone else. Do whatever feels best for you.

April 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm
(19) nur says:

I´m with my boyfriend for 6 years, and at the beginning he cheated, causing a huge crisis. he said he was really trying not to do it because he didnt want to hurt me, but it was hard. i urged not to hide it, and he promised. He tried to restrain himself, but that made me feel bad. Then he did it again, but he told me, so i indulged. That went on for few years, happening eventually. he always said i was free to do the same. One day I had a sex out, I told him and he said it was ok. I could not ask him not to have sex with others anymore, so I kept doing it. he never showed disgust, even when I fell in love with another. That was not really a relationship but I was really hooked up for two years. it ended badly, and I realized I had made a mess of my relationship. My boyfriend kept supporting me and my feelings for that person, but our relationship had gone bad. I felt it did not make any sense for me, despite we both loved each other. then we got physically separated (not voluntarily) and had time to think. he said he was considering to stop any open relationship, but was not definitive. now, he said he had sex with another lately, and he´s on a crisis so needed this as part of it. i don´t feel he was unfaithful, but i´m devastated and i have reached a point where i can take it anymore. in the past, i tried to split, so he would have time to find his own way, as i dont want him to feel restrained or incomplete, and i needed peace. but he never agreed. its about experience and self realization, and not just sex. he never cut my freedom and it would be a betrayal to him if i would do. but its making me so unhappy. i asked again to cut the openness or cut the relationship. should i wait to see if he can finally get his things solved? i have the intuition he still needs just some more time and this is going to end up well, without creating a psychological burden for him. but who knows, maybe not and i will be trapped again in the whole process from the beginning.

April 1, 2014 at 5:28 pm
(20) nur says:

and, just as a remark: there is trust, fully, there is love, fully, there is respect, fully. there is also selfishness, i guess, but it comes from the desire to fulfill your own life, and i don´t believe you can take away that from anyone if you want him or her truly by your side. and i prefer him not to be with me otherwise.
the problem is we want and need different things and i dont want to force him to want and need the same i do, i know because its very clear for me i should not have force myself into that, which he never forced me into btw.
besides that, the thing is i really believe in this relationship, that we should be together nevertheless. he also thinks so and that´s why he refuses to separate. and i know this is causing him a lot of pain as well, because i´m in pain, first, and because he indirectly provoked me getting engaged in another relationship who harmed ours. but if he promise not to do something which is against his belief and wish… what can i do?? what a mess…

May 16, 2014 at 11:10 am
(21) Needa says:

So i was in the same situation..i was out one night met this guy..thought he was amazing..a month later we go on our first trip and right there he tells me he talks to other women..i just blurted out so you sleep with ither women and he said yes…see the problem was i had fallen for him..so naturally i couldn’t quit cold turkey..at some point yoy have to realize who you are and what you want..you deserve the world and a half. Yes you have been with him for a year but is this truly worth it..the same stuff he says to you and how you make him feel is most likely the same he says to the others..i walked because i realized i was sacrificing myself for someone who just like the idea of me..hope that helps.

May 16, 2014 at 11:13 am
(22) hana says:

At the end of the day it’s all about sex..what else is he looking for..to make friends..swap shopping stories..no..trust me i was in an open relationship..not willingly and it sucks but at the end of the day like i said its about sex…

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