Question: You’re probably going to read this and think that it’s a terrible idea because having an affair is bad. But this married woman and I have been friends for a couple of years, and she recently told me that she and her husband have an open relationship, and that she would be open to starting something with me. This is crazy, right? People who are married don’t just get to be with other people and have it be cool, right? This feels totally weird and crazy, but on the other hand, I like her; so maybe I should just get over myself and go for it. I don’t know. What do you think?
Dr. ZZ: Open relationships are real although somewhat taboo. As many as 15% of committed couples reportedly engage in them and make them work for both their own personal needs and for the health of the relationships. If you decide that an open relationship is not for you, and you can’t be involved with someone “cheating” on their spouse (it’s not cheating), then by all means, do not push against your own instincts. Different strokes for different folks!
The fact is, however, that no successful open relationship is 100% open. That would be relationship anarchy and would result in self-destruction. All open relationships have “rules” (probably not the most accurate descriptor of the guidelines shared by the primary partners, but every open relationship has them.) Since almost all open relationships are slightly different from one another, you may want to know a bit about the rules involved before you decide to play.
For starters, neither person is usually allowed to “fall in love” with someone else they date. If one partner sleeps with another person, it is generally supposed to be a temporary fling without emotional attachment. If it were me, I would most likely want to meet the husband as well. This isn’t always possible as some couples have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule about their non-monagamous dalliances, a rule that feels like a contradiction in terms in an “open” relationship. For the sake of honesty and integrity, however, I would, want to make sure that everyone involved is in on the loop of who’s doing what with whom.
Moreover, in any relationship, it’s your responsibility – and an extremely important one – to insure your own and your partners’ sexual health. So you can get to be with other people and have it be cool in an open relationship, but “having it be cool” comes with its own set of caveats. Even if there’s only one rule, it has to be safe sex. Get over yourself if you care to, and be sure to take care of yourself.
Question: I’m in my late 20s and I’m dating a woman who is amazing. We are compatible in so many ways – except for one. She’s remarkably busy. Part of this comes from the fact that she’s involved in a lot of after-work activities (sports, clubs, etc.) and she’s also been somewhat ill (with the schedule of all her activities seeming to run her into the ground). While at the start of the relationship we were seeing each other 2-3 times a week, lately it’s dwindled down to once every other week. Although we stay in pretty close contact through constant texting, emailing and the Internet, the person-to-person time just hasn’t been there.
I really like this woman, but I’m at a loss for what to do or say to her at this point. We’re 4 months into being exclusive, and some of her activities pre-date our relationship, but she’s added others on top as well. I don’t consider myself to be generally needy in relationships, but given the amount of time we’re actually physically together, I’m struggling with whether I’m in a relationship at all – or just a weird digital friendship. Any advice or you may be able to offer is appreciated.
Dr. ZZ: The least controlling way to go about changing someone’s behavior is to approach them with honesty. You need to have a talk, to ask her a few questions, and to offer some specific, concrete suggestions for how the two of you can spend more time together. For instance: Is her schedule always like this, or did you just happened to meet at an unusually busy time? Is she happy with how often you hang out, and with how packed her schedule is?
Perhaps she would be willing to set aside one day a week just for the two of you to spend time together. But you have to put it out there, to risk appearing needy, and to get down to business (“Listen, I really like you, and I want you to be happy and engaged in stuff you love to do, but I want to see more of you. Can we work something out?”)
Say all that, then listen carefully to her response. You’re not crazy, wrong or too needy for wanting to see her more and for expressing it. Your lust and affection are viable. She may in fact be a bit over-scheduled and trying to figure out how to balance everything while also working you into the schedule. Or she may be totally okay with your current level of contact, in which case, you probably need a new girlfriend. Get in there, and talk to each other about it; so that you can find out now, before another 4 months get lost in the whirlwind. If your needs aren’t being met, and if it doesn’t appear as if she is willing to meet them at this time, then bail before you get more invested.
Dr. ZZ has a Ph.D. in Counseling and a doctorate in Natural Healing. Drawing on a background of over thirty years as a professional therapist, she offers self-help in the areas health, relationship and personal growth. All queries are answered by email and, if they appear in print, are subject to editing. Please email your questions : <firstname.lastname@example.org> All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
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