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Am I in a Healthy Open Relationship?

Hi Yana –

I’m in a happy, long-distance monogamish relationship with the human of my dreams. Really; things are so good. This is my first time having an open relationship, and I think we talk through things really well and effectively. He has several partners (all of which I’ve met and adore) and I can say really genuinely that I’m happy that he has these other sexual relationships in his life.

The thing is, even though I was the person to suggest an open relationship, I’ve had yet to “take advantage” of our arrangement, if you know what I mean.

There are a few reasons for this. I have a lot on my plate; between school and work and volunteering, there are no days off in my schedule and limited “free” time. It feels like a lot to prioritize my friendships, let alone go through the work of introducing a new romantic/sexual partner into my social circle.

The few people I had periodical, casual sex with prior to starting this relationship are not comfortable continuing sexual relationships with me after I’ve started this relationship (a decision I understand and respect). And honestly, I think I harbor a little bit of lovesickness for my partner, and therefore I don’t want to put myself (and truthfully, another person) in a situation where I can’t be fully present in our sexual encounter because I’m wishing I was with my partner and not them, you know?

On some level, I know this is okay. But I can’t help but ask myself, am I doing “monogamish” right? Is it okay that for now, I like having the option to sleep with other people even if I don’t readily take advantage of it?

Sincerely,

Lovesick Monogamish

 

Dear Lovesick,

Leaving the proverbial door open even just a tiny crack on any and all tethers to one particular place, person, or thing makes a world of difference in my commitment to that place, person, or thing. It’s not that I want to flake on my responsibilities or relationships: it’s more that if it’s my choice to be here I will be here more and better than ever. On the flip side, if I perceive no breathing room or exit, you bet I’m going to spend my time clamoring to find and utilize one.

Maybe you just find comfort in knowing that if you want to experience sex with someone other than your long-distance love, you can. But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to. Just because you’re surrounded by delicious cupcakes doesn’t mean you have to eat them all or even swipe your finger through the frosting. But put you in a room full of desserts and tell you not to touch any of them and you might start feeling extra sweet in the tooth and/or resentful of whoever slapped that rule on you.

So much of what you’re saying here in regards to protecting other partners from your lovesickness, keeping strong boundaries around your friend/school/volunteer time, and being extra comfortable with his other partners all sounds like you’ve got a really healthy relationship-self balance going on here. Whether monogamous or not this is quite a feat in itself so pat yourself on the back!

Many folks who practice this style of non-monogamy, where their partner sees a lot of other people but they don’t, come up against extra skepticism from friends, family, and acquaintances. People can easier accept the novelty of “having your cake and eating it too” as long as it’s “fair” even though non-monogamous relationships that rely on tit-for-tat scorekeeping often crash and burn; faux fairness is often masking some deep-rooted not okay-ness with relationship agreements.

I would imagine that you get a little extra of this skepticism due to your perceived gender imbalance of him “being able to sleep around” and you “just letting it happen”. But it sounds like you know and feel much better than that. If it’s my stamp of approval that’ll tip the scales in favor of you internalizing the belief that if it works for you, him, and the rest of the crew then it’s A-OK then yes! You seem happy! Stamp! You’ve got it!