My boyfriend wants an open relationship

I know it's fairly common in my demographic, but I don't think I'm ready to share.

Published August 15, 2006 11:07AM (EDT)

Dearest Cary,

I have been with my boyfriend for three years and an open relationship is a hot topic that we've been skirting around for a little while now.

We're both ambitious young people (24 years old) and both want to make things of ourselves. I know that our relationship will probably not last forever, but for the meantime, it's still working and we value the love and friendship that we are able to give each other.

I should probably also say that we are both men, and we have agreed to have a monogamous relationship. We have been happy with this arrangement, but we've both mentioned that an open relationship is probably the next step and will eventually happen.

The thing is, I am open to the idea but am struggling very hard with the reality of it. I would probably agree to an open relationship if what I have with him hadn't been a long-term and solid monogamous one. In other words, if we initially agreed to an open relationship the path we now tread would be a very different one and I would be fine with it. As it stands, my feelings for him are very strong, and I am really challenged and frightened by what an open relationship could bring to us.

This is a large point of conflict, as I believe he wants it more than I do -- and we will need to make a decision on it in the near future. I really don't feel that I am up for it, and we have been on the verge of breaking up because of the issue -- and yet have both been very scared of the prospect of not having each other in our lives.

I think I am willing to try it but do not feel secure enough with him and our future together that I see our relationship surviving a challenge like this. Should I pull the plug now, give in or continue to be anxious about an uncertain future?

Wanting to Stay Closed

Dear Wanting,

It seems like the logical thing to do is try it. Breaking up without trying it doesn't make much sense, given that it will be painful either way. That would be somewhat like saying that you'd like to go to Europe with your boyfriend, but you're afraid that if you do, you might have a fight and break up, and in fact, you think inevitably you're going to Europe anyway, so you might as well break up now. If you went to Europe, well, at least you would have gone to Europe.

If you break up after trying an open relationship, at least you will have tried it, and you may acquire some new intimate partners who will provide you with some degree of intimate satisfaction as you go through the difficult stages of breaking up and letting go.

And who knows? It might work. If you can discuss what is happening as you have other partners, it might make your relationship richer. It's not inconceivable.

So that's what I would suggest: Learn as much as you can about what the pitfalls of open relationships are, and then give it a try. The worst that could happen is you break up. No? Well, actually, I suppose it could get complicated. Worse things could happen, emotionally anyway. But whatever happens, you will learn a lot. And you might find that it works for you and you're happy; your life might become even richer and more interesting than it is already.

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