Dear Richard: A Not-So-Open Relationship
After two years of monogamy, my boyfriend and I decided to have an open relationship. This was something I knew would happen eventually, so when he suggested it I went along. I thought I was cool with it.
Last weekend he fooled around with someone else for the first time, and I was surprised when he told me. Now I am really upset. I know I shouldn’t be, but I can’t get it out of my mind.
How can I accept the terms of our new relationship?
Technically you already did accept the terms of your new relationship. The problem is that it looks like you weren't ready for it. So in the event that others are considering this move for themselves, he's going to offer them some thoughts before getting to your needs.
Open relationships are very serious. They require a lot of emotional maturity, trust and self-knowledge. And you don't just jump into one.
A lot of young homos have this assumption that all gay male relationships eventually open up in some way—either by experiencing a three-way, during "out of town" trips, at occasional parties, full-on "we might as well be roommates because we're more about sleeping with other guys than each other," etc.. This is not the case. Every relationship is different. You need to know what you really want and what you can really handle, and what your boyfriend or partner really wants and what he can really handle. Those elements don't always go together.
For example, you may think you really want to hook up with that hottie from the gym, but can you handle the emotional baggage that can creep up between you, your partner, and the gym boy? If gym boy ends up being more into your partner than you (and there's usually a bias one way or another when bringing in someone else) can you handle the potential insecurity? What if the gym boy falls in love with one of you and you've now got his emotional baggage hanging around? And what if gym boy starts making moves on you or your man? Is your primary relationship strong enough to send him on his way?
There's a lot to think about and consider when dealing with one man, but involving a second sexual partner compounds every issue. Communication is key.
If you're going to enter into this kind of relationship, you and your boyfriend need to make solid rules for how things will work and stick to them. That includes how you'll handle any jealousy, and how you'll communicate when either of you sees an issue arising. You can't have any double standards; if the rule applies to him, it applies to you, otherwise one of you will grow resentful. This will maintain the trust you both have built up over your time together.
Now back to you, Jealous. It sounds as though you guys agreed to something without really considering the depth of what it would entail, and now you're discovering that you're not up for it. That means you have to make sure right now—and not a moment later—that your boyfriend is ready to either define the rules, change them, or go back to traditional sexual monogamy. It’s not too late.
Approach him by being honest. Tell him you didn't think an open relationship would bother you but it did, and since he's important to you, you want to find a way to work it out. If he's as into you as you are into him, he'll agree to find a solution. If not, then it may be time to move on to a new man.
Dear Richard is neither a medical doctor nor a licensed psychiatrist. He is not a counselor, a reverend, or a rabbi. He has not been evaluated by the FDA, the CDC, or the BBC, and his words are not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. He does, however, love to answer your questions. Leave a comment or send him an e-mail.