Dear Annie, I’ve been living with Jerry for six months. He just told me that he wants to open up our relationship so we can have sex with others. I’m deeply hurt. Although I was aware that he had been in polyamorous relationships in the past, he told me that he was fine with our relationship being one hundred percent monogamous.
Now he insists that it is unnatural and unrealistic for men and women to be sexually monogamous. He says he loves me and needs me to be his primary emotional relationship, but that he craves sex with other women or he doesn’t feel like a whole man.
He tells me that I’m being selfish, disloyal and unreasonable because I don’t want to step out of the bounds of our monogamous relationship.
I love him. But, it doesn’t feel as if this feeling is truly mutual. His desire for intimacy with others leaves me feeling terribly insecure.
I told him that I don’t think I can stay in our relationship if he starts sleeping with other women. He says that I am being unreasonable and I have no reason to feel jealous. I still don’t feel comfortable about it.
We are at an impasse. What do I do? Lucille
I can see why you feel betrayed. You entered into a relationship under one set of agreements and assumptions and suddenly your partner is demanding that you do something that he knows is unacceptable to you.
It sounds like Jerry made you a promise that he couldn’t keep. Although he previously enjoyed being in open relationships, he thought that he could forsake them because he wanted to be with you. Unfortunately, he revisited his priorities after the two of you established a household together. This leaves you with two difficult options.
Option one is to draw a line in the sand and walk away without looking back. You have to be firm and unwavering. It’s not about playing a game of pretending to leave, and hoping that he will change his mind.
Tell him that you must break up because cannot tolerate being in an open relationship. If he tells you that you’re being unreasonable, let him know that it is about honoring your values and that this is something about which you are unable to compromise.
Give him notice, and start packing your boxes and looking for a new place to live.
Option two is to be open to researching the different types of open relationships and exploring the possibility that there may be a way to allow other sexual partners into your relationship in a way that would also allow you to feel safe.
In that case, you and Jerry should to set firm parameters around how that relationship would work and negotiate an agreement that is mutually acceptable to both of you.
If you did so, both of you would need to agree on the following:
- Timing: When, for how long and how often can each of you go on a “date.”
- Duration: You may want to restrict the amount of dates that each of you can have with another person in order to minimize the possibility of becoming emotionally involved.
- Activity: You can limit the type of sexual activity that happens between your partner and someone else.
- Conditions: You could only allow it under certain circumstances, such as when he’s on a business trip.
Sex columnist Dan Savage has many more suggestions for how to negotiate an open relationship.
However, if being in an open relationship leaves you feeling as if it will make you miserable or drain the life out of you, just say no and leave.
The most fundamental problem you’re facing isn’t simply whether you can accept a form of open relationship. The bottom line is that you’ve discovered that you can’t rely on Jerry to be true to his word.