Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Jealous of My Girlfriend’s New Partner”

Lesbian

I’ve been in an open (lesbian) relationship for just over a year now and for the most part it’s fine. But I think my girlfriend likes the attention from guys, and so do I, which is why we keep our relationship open. Sometimes we go months and months without sleeping with anyone else, and then, when we do, some feelings of resentment arise; it’s easy to feel threatened by a man I don’t know who’s having sex with my girl. I know she gets the same feelings because there was a time early on in our relationship where she would give me restrictions on who I could and couldn’t sleep with, but we talked that out and I explained how unfair that actually was.

Recently, she’s had some family hardships so I’ve had to be a big support to her emotionally — and that’s been hard. I have a high sex drive, and with all the stuff she’s been going through she hasn’t felt up to having sex. I didn’t want to bring any more issues to the table to deal with, nor did I have any spare time apart from her, so we basically had a closed relationship for a while by default. We even discussed maybe making it a closed relationship officially, which was her idea, not mine, because she didn’t want to sleep with anybody else. I denied her a closed relationship though because I know she’s fickle and that she would change her mind, which she did.

She’s been sleeping with this guy whom I don’t even know, as of about a week ago. I’m not as OK with it as I want to be and we did almost split up over it. This is mostly because I do long for a more “normal” relationship since it’s been presented to me. I haven’t had many sexual partners — I’ve only been with three people — and it is something I would like to explore more. Also, I’m a chick and our brains are more confusing than I can ever begin to explain; neither of us knows what we want, but we’re trying to understand each other and be happy together.

I’m considering sleeping with one of my friends, but he is somebody that my girlfriend previously banned me from sleeping with, so I haven’t done anything with this guy in over a year. I still really like him, and I wouldn’t mind the company of another person when I know my girlfriend has somebody over at her place — a distraction, I suppose. He’d be my safest option because he’s already seen me naked. With how inexperienced I am, being naked in front of a new person is still quite daunting…

I’m not sure what I want to do about my situation. — To Open or to Close

So, both you and your girlfriend feel threatened when the other is sleeping with someone else, yet, when your girlfriend suggested closing your relationship, you said no. And you did that not because you necessarily wanted to keep it open, but because you thought she’d change her mind and want to sleep with someone else after all. And now that she has changed her mind and is, again, sleeping with someone other than you, you are considering sleeping with one of your friends. Again, not necessarily because you want to sleep with him; you just want company — a distraction while your girlfriend is with her side-piece. This isn’t healthy. And this isn’t the way a successful open relationship works. I may not know a ton about how a successful open relationship works — read “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships” if you want to read about how to make them work — but I do know that this isn’t it.

You say that women are complicated and that neither of you really knows what you want, and obviously that’s a problem. You can’t very well make each other happy if neither of you actually knows what will make yourselves happy. Probably being in an open relationship is not it. Maybe neither of you should be in a relationship right now at all. Maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship with each other. And maybe for one or both of you, being in a relationship with a man makes you happier than being with a woman. It is curious that when each of you sleeps with someone outside the relationship, you both choose men. And you say you both like the attention of men. And you find women — or at least each other — complicated — maybe too complicated to be with. Is it possible that you simply aren’t interested in being romantically involved with women — or not in committed relationships with them, anyway?

You have some thinking to do. And talking. Both of you need to start being honest with yourselves — and each other — about what your needs and desires truly are and whether the other can meet them, or if you even want the other to meet them. What’s the point in being in a relationship at all if you have to sleep with someone else as a distraction from your loneliness? That sounds… well, lonely. And pretty awful.

I get that you’re scared — scared of losing your girlfriend’s place in your life, and scared of being intimate and vulnerable with someone new. But that’s not enough reason to stay in a relationship that’s as unfulfilling as yours sounds. And it’s certainly not enough of a reason to keep your relationship open so that you can have your girlfriend as a safety net while you gingerly explore your sexuality with other people. Open your relationship if/when you feel solid and secure with what you have and want to supplement a strong relationship with something else; don’t open it because something in your relationship is lacking. That’s a sure path to misery if you ask me.
***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

85 comments… add one
  • avatar

    bethany June 18, 2013, 9:28 am

    Sounds to me like you guys shouldn’t really be in a relationship with each other. My advice would be to date around. Why is everyone in such a rush to be in a relationship?

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle June 18, 2013, 9:29 am

    LW, nooo, this isn’t an “open relationship”, it’s a fucking clusterfuck. Open relationships only work when there’s a strong foundation, good communication, & lack of jealousy. You don’t have ANY of these things. In the first paragraph alone, you’re dropping words like “resentment”, “threatened”, “unfair”—I mean, what about this arrangement is fulfilling you? Literally nothing. Plus, I mean, do you REALLY like attention from guys? or is that just your girlfriend? Because I’m getting the impression it’s more ~her~ than you? You seem somewhat curious about exploring your sexuality more, yeah, but I’m getting the sense you’re actually more inclined towards monogamy.

    Which is fine! I don’t understand why you told your girlfriend “no” when she asked to close the relationship? I mean, it’s kind insulting to her that you presume to know her mind better than she does (not to mention, later in your letter, when you insult ALL women, including yourself, by writing them off as “confusing” & “not knowing what [we] want”). I feel like you’re afraid to get cheated on or lied to, so your solution is to keep thing “open” while stewing in jealousy. Like Wendy said—not healthy!

    Oh, and speaking of, what is your question? Whether or not you should sleep with this friend (only because you feel comfortable being naked around him, by the way??), in order to distract yourself while your girlfriend is getting it on with her dude? GURL. This is seriously a “re-read your own letter” situation.

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    • avatar

      6napkinburger June 18, 2013, 9:58 am

      To be fair, women are confusing. (As are men, but I do think there is some basis of fact in the fact that guys tend to be(more often and generally) more straightforward (in what they want and what they mean) than women are.) But I agree that “I’m a chick and our brains are more confusing than I can ever begin to explain” was weird — its like she was telling all of us (mostly ladies) that we couldn’t possibly understand how complicated women are. (even though she says “I”, it comes off like she’s telling us something we have no experience with).

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 10:17 am

        Definitely weird. I mean, lesbian relationships generally involve a lot of explicit communication about things that might be assumed in straight couples (see: the Atlantic’s cover article in April about gay marriage), but like, women aren’t mystical creatures. You just communicate more. (My sample size: 1)

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      • avatar

        MsMisery June 18, 2013, 12:42 pm

        Speak for yourself. I am having my horn buffed tonight, after my talon-mani/pedi.

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      • Lindsay

        Lindsay June 18, 2013, 12:52 pm

        True, but the LW appeared to also be talking about herself. You can’t claim that you can’t figure yourself out because you’re a complicated woman.

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      • meadowphoenix

        meadowphoenix June 18, 2013, 7:28 pm

        As are men, but I do think there is some basis of fact in the fact that guys tend to be(more often and generally) more straightforward (in what they want and what they mean) than women are.

        I don’t think there’s any basis of fact for this, and I don’t think it’s true. I don’t even think the stereotypes of men and women find a basis in fact for this.

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    • avatar

      BreezyAM June 18, 2013, 6:14 pm

      Actually, I did this to MrAM once. We were open and he tried to tell me he wanted it closed and I was like “fuck right sure you do.” Because he’d shown repeatedly he *wanted* to be the kind of guy who was able to be monogamous, but at that time it wasn’t reality. He’d promise monogamy and then within days have some new conquest so no I wasn’t entertaining any of his nonsense about closed relationships when he just wanted to project that nice normal image and not deal with the reality openly. I’m not the only person who has dealt with a partner like that in straight or LGB relationships, so maybe this LW did too.

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  • avatar

    TECH June 18, 2013, 9:34 am

    At the risk of sounding totally ignorant, how can you and your girlfriend call yourselves lesbians when you are both interested in and actively pursuing sex with men?

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle June 18, 2013, 9:37 am

      Well, to be fair, she says “lesbian relationship”—at no point does she label herself (or her girlfriend) as “lesbians”. (Although I’d still say she’s completely within her rights to label herself however she wants.)

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 9:43 am

        Good point, Fab–people can label themselves whatever they want, even if it doesn’t adhere to other people’s rules for those labels.

        That’s why in surveys about sexual health, for instance, they ask about your sexual actions, not the label of your sexual orientation. They’ll talk about MSM, or men who have sex with men, instead of gay men, for instance.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray June 18, 2013, 10:17 am

        im a supermodel.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 10:19 am

        Love this. There aren’t vocabulary police in this world!

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      • avatar

        SasLinna June 18, 2013, 9:46 am

        Exactly, you can have a lesbian relationship where one or both of the partners isn’t lesbian. For example, a relationship between two bisexual women. Sounds like that’s the case for them.

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    • avatar

      Christy June 18, 2013, 9:39 am

      Ooh, I have an answer! The relationship is a lesbian relationship because it is between two women. The women might not be lesbians, but the relationship is a lesbian relationship.

      I have this issue of description too, because my gf is bi, and I don’t want to try to deny that by labeling ours a lesbian relationship. There’s just not a better term for it, as far as I know.

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      • avatar

        Thunder_Power June 18, 2013, 10:12 am

        I just use the blanket term: “same-sex” or “same-gendered” relationship”

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      • avatar

        6napkinburger June 18, 2013, 10:21 am

        “I’m 29, I’m an aries and I’m in a ‘same-gendered’ relationship.” That just rolls off the tongue.

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 10:27 am

        LOL, gotta say I agree, 6napkin. It’s a little clinical for everyday use. (But I’ve given up on the alphabet soup and just use queer as my substitute for LGBTQQIA, so I’m probably just lazy.)

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 10:28 am

        QIA?

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 10:47 am

        lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual.

        And there are a plethora of options for trans*. The asterisk is included in the term, and it allows for all the different variations. Plus there’s so many things that aren’t mentioned, like genderqueer, or pansexual. So… I go with queer. Because that shit cray.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 10:53 am

        I’ve never heard the QIA added. I agree, just queer is easier!

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      • avatar

        6napkinburger June 18, 2013, 10:54 am

        While we are on this terminology kick, can someone explain Cis ?

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle June 18, 2013, 11:05 am

        “cis” just means that your gender identity matches your birth sex, I think?

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 11:09 am

        I remember reading an article about a kindergartner whose parents were saying she identified as a boy. I’m so curious about this stuff, and if you really can feel it that early on. To be honest, I doubted it, which I why I really should read up about it more. I just can’t imagine how a 5 year old would even know what it means to have gender identity issues, or how you could tell that a little girl isn’t just say, a tomboy, or whatever.

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      • avatar

        6napkinburger June 18, 2013, 11:14 am

        Really LBH? Little girls know they are little girls and little boys know that they are little boys. (the He-man women haters club, anyone?) So doesn’t it make sense that a previously-considered female child can “know” that he is a “little boy” (regardless of his vagina). He doesn’t need to understand gender identity issues to “know” that he is a boy.

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 11:16 am

        LBH, don’t you think you felt like a girl in kindergarten? Like, don’t you think you were in your body and were like “yeah, this is me.” From my understanding, trans* kids feel like their bodies don’t fit them. A lot of time, they’ll say that they’re really just a boy and their girl body is wrong. It’s different from liking boy things or being a tomboy.

        Oof, I hope that was useful/helpful.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 11:17 am

        Its just surprising to me, I guess. I’m admittedly ignorant to this kinda stuff, which is why I’m saying I should read up more about it, because I’m not only ignorant, but fascinated by it.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 11:19 am

        That’s a really good way of putting it, Christy. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Yea, I knew I was a girl, but I guess I just knew that because I literally was a girl. Obviously, I totally can’t relate to feeling like another sex since I never have. Your explanation was totally helpful, thanks!

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 12:24 pm

        Thanks, Mandy! I’m reading the Times article now, and its beyond heartbreaking. Its interesting the mom actually said what I alluded to-that it became clear it wasn’t just about liking pink/feminine things.
        I’m curious how you feel about the bathroom issue. While I feel heartbroken for this kid’s troubles, I can also somewhat understand why parents would have an issue with a girl who has boy parts using the girls bathroom. I personally think the better to way to have handled this would’ve been making those parents understand, rather than make this child feel even worse.
        What do you think is the best way to handle that?
        Can you at all understand where those parents are coming from? I feel like the easiest solution, as a parent, would be to explain to my kid what that child is dealing with and why she needs to use the girls’ bathroom. Never too soon to teach kids about this and about acceptance.

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      • sobriquet

        sobriquet June 18, 2013, 12:55 pm

        @LBH: I read that children have their gender identified by the age of 3

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      • avatar

        Mandy June 18, 2013, 12:11 pm

        Totally – it’s about gender identity matching your birth sex. LBH, PrettyQueer.com has some good resources, as do Julie Blair, Red Durkin, and Tom Leger, if you’re looking for trans people whose work to follow. There’s a lot of great stuff out there that really helps illuminate the realities as well as the struggles (for instance, trans people are more likely to be targets of violence than just about any minority community ever- the whole “being attacked in bathrooms” thing is pretty common for trans folk, unfortunately). And you can find the usual community activism/anger over things like MichFest and the privileged status of present-day “feminism”/”feminists.” There’s a lot of good writing out there about it. And, yes, people can know they’re trans at a very young age.

        Some other good stories out there:

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      • Miel

        Miel June 18, 2013, 1:25 pm

        @LBH: we also need to remember that kids feel many more things that what their vocabulary allows them to express. Trans kids very probably feel that “something is wrong” but many of them won’t be able to put a word on it, or even express what is wrong, before they grow much older. In some families, the trans issue is so taboo that trans kids won’t be able to put a word on what they feel until their teens/adulthood.

        But kids are very aware of their emotions and their body. They just lack the language to tell us about it.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 1:32 pm

        So, so true Miel. Great point, thanks.

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      • avatar

        Doodles June 18, 2013, 3:46 pm

        LBH, I know the story you are talking about, but the problem with what the parents claim is that a doctor told them this is what the child was feeling at 18 months old. IMO, that is way to young for a child to know about sexual orientation.

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 11:14 am

        Cis means not trans*. That’s the simplest way to describe it. Fab’s right too, though.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle June 18, 2013, 11:16 am

        Yeah, my most basic understanding of “cis” is simply “not trans*” because that’s usually when I see it being used.

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      • avatar

        Mr. Cellophane June 18, 2013, 1:09 pm

        I remember “cis” and “trans” from organic chemistry way back in the day. They have something to do with two different structural configurations of the same molecule. That is all I remember. Has it really been 30 years?

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      • avatar

        Shannon June 18, 2013, 11:57 am

        A cis person is someone who self-identifies as the gender that matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 18, 2013, 11:11 am

        You forgot 2S. In Canada especially, aboriginal people refer to certain people as “Two-spirited.” It’s less rigidly defined than “bi,” but basically implies that this person might go either way on a given occasion or in a given mood.

        We’ve gotta make sure we do out utmost to subdivide all people into appropriate categories. Otherwise, we won’t know what name to call them. we’d be stuck with just “people.” For the record, I’m a WASMMSW(W): white anglo-saxon married man who has sex with (a) woman (his wife). I’m sure you’ll all sleep better now that I’m fully defined.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna June 18, 2013, 9:37 am

    I think the discussion about having an open or closed relationship is distracting from the real issues here. You have some conflicts with your gf, you don’t sound happy and I think you’re feeling some resentment right now. Keeping the relationship open won’t solve that, but neither will closing the relationship solve everything. I would think really hard how happy you are in this relationship because if there’s no substance to a relationship you can try to structure it any way you want, it will still dissolve into thin air.

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  • avatar

    Christy June 18, 2013, 9:48 am

    Oh, and LW, the most positive way you describe your relationship is “fine,” and you’re hoping for a “more ‘normal'” relationship. Dude, most people who want to stay in shitty relationships who write into advice columnists at least TRY to describe their relationships as happy, or say that they’re in love. You’re not even trying to say that.

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  • avatar

    Christy June 18, 2013, 9:51 am

    Oh and dude, get more in touch with your body. If you’re looking to get naked with new people, be more comfortable with being naked in general. Start by practicing at home, if you can. Because seriously, “he’s already seen me naked” is a really shitty reason to sleep with someone.

    Sorry, I have lots of thoughts and feelings. This letter hits like all my buttons.

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    • avatar

      kerrycontrary June 18, 2013, 9:56 am

      yeh it makes me sad that someone can feel so poorly about themselves that they a) aren’t comfortable being naked and b) want to sleep with someone as some sort of pseudo-revenge in their open relationship and c) chose that person because well, at least they’ve seen them naked before! Be comfortable with your body, everyone! Life is amazing that way.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle June 18, 2013, 9:57 am

      Yeah, that part made me sad.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray June 18, 2013, 9:59 am

      I think “I’ve already slept with him” is the worst reason I personally have slept with someone again. I think that’s worse than “I was drunk”. … “My number won’t change so….” – I think I’ve actively thought that before. I don’t know why I’m thinking about all the dumb reasons I’ve given myself for choosing to sleep with someone. Those are pretty bad. “He’s already seen me naked?” Never used that one.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle June 18, 2013, 10:28 am

        Oof, now that you mention it, I’ve definitely used the “I’ve already slept with this person, so it doesn’t count!” reason before. That was back in college when I was worried about my “number”, & therefore using a technique I dubbed as “recycling” (It was dumb concept, obviously, since it was based on numbers & I was kind of slut-shaming myself, buuuut I will say, it worked. haha. My roommate & I shared our “numbers” with each other later in the year, & she was all, “How did yours not go up??” …;) )

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 10:16 am

      That comment really made me think that she might only be with this woman because she’s comfortable with her. Its easier that way. She won’t have to be vulnerable to others seeing her naked and not liking her body/sex.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray June 18, 2013, 9:53 am

    I’m jealous at how easy it seems to be for people to start sleeping with others. Is it really that easy? Where do people find all these options? “I’m considering sleeping with one of my friends….” Seems so easy! … See, watch: I’m actively thinking LONG AND HARD about sleeping with my coworker right now – poof! Nothing happened. Really, all you people having affairs and opening up relationships for others – it’s not fair, save some people for us (me).

    That’s all I got.

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  • avatar

    cdobbs June 18, 2013, 9:58 am

    LW….this is my take….your girlfriend wanted a closed relationship, but you turned her down and that is the reason she is with that guy right now….you need to tell her you made a mistake and that you want to be in a relationship with her now….the longer you wait to tell her this, the greater the chance you will lose her to this other person….i say take a chance and tell her your honest feelings….give it one shot and then if you find you can’t be in a closed relationship then maybe you should move on to someone who can give you what you want and need

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  • katie

    katie June 18, 2013, 10:06 am

    yea, WWS and WEES. this is not healthy and fulfilling for you. that doesnt mean, i dont think, that you *couldnt* have a healthy and fulfilling relationship (open or not) with your girlfriend, but this aint it. its not cutting it, obviously. there are so many freaking issues, both with you and her individually, and with the relationship itself, that its no wonder its failing.

    maybe you guys should take a break, try to evaluate/think/feel, and then come back together and figure out if this is even something you want to pursue, and if you guys do want to, how to structure it so that you will 1. be able to work on your individual issues, and 2. have a successful, open or not, relationship.

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  • avatar

    Boosker June 18, 2013, 9:12 am

    I don’t think you’re problem is that “women are complicated.” I think the problem is that you’ve created the most complicated relationship scenario possibility to avoid dealing with the fact that this partnership isn’t working. If you are having to restructure the parameters of your relationship a bunch of times and still aren’t feeling fulfilled, you know you have a problem. The solution is not to restructure yet again. The solution is to find a new relationship (whether that’s an open/closed relationship with a man/woman) that doesn’t require this much work. And maybe some time alone to figure out exactly what you want from that new relationship might be a good idea.

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    • avatar

      Christy June 18, 2013, 9:24 am

      I think you’re so right! LW is complicating everything to avoid facing the idea that the relationship isn’t working. It’s not working open, and it wouldn’t work closed, either.

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  • avatar

    6napkinburger June 18, 2013, 10:16 am

    As a disclaimer, I fully support adults engaging in whatever type of relationship or sexual practices they want to, as long as there is always consent and mutual enjoyment (and of course that all legitimate laws are followed). (Example of a legitimate law: no sex with children. Example of a non-legitimate law: vibrators are illegal).

    And I get open relationships in some situations. I get open long distance relationships. I get open long-term relationships (either as a way for the partners to get closer or as a way for one partner to get certain needs filled without breaking down the whole relationship). I get “open” nacent relationships that are in their infancy, so exclusiveness hasn’t been worked out yet. And I even kinda get relationships where “stepping out” isn’t a a capital offense (kind of like the area code rule) which mainly revolves around the unavailability of a partner combined with don’t ask don’t tell.

    I do not understand an open relationship in this situation. It doesn’t seem long term enough to justify being “bored” or short term enough to justify “taking things slow”; it doesn’t seem like a kink that they enjoy together or that one person needs but the other isn’t willing to fulfill. It doesn’t seem like one person’s sex drive is so overwhelmingly larger than the other’s. LW, why did you guys decide to have an open relationship? Was it just because you guys enjoy being with men sometimes?

    If it really is about being with a man, is there a way you could enjoy that together? Perhaps being there would be easier for each of you and seeing that the man is just fulfilling a physical need rather than an emotional need.

    BTW, it is totally fair for one partner in an open relationship to not want their partner to have sex with a particular person. It isn’t “fair” for one person to have carte blanche while the other has massive rules in place, but it also isn’t “fair” for one person to have to adjust the toilet seat every time other time they go, while the other never adjusts the toilet seat — the “rules” of a relationship aren’t always applied completely “fairly” and that’s ok as long as everyone is ok with them. Were you not ok with her rules because it wasn’t “fair” or because you had an issue with the “rule”? It is very unclear which of you wants what, and that isn’t (just) because you are women. I know she is going through shit right now, but you guys need to sit down and talk about your relationship — what you see long term, what you want, and listen when she talks about what she wants. Do you want an exclusive relationship with her? Do you love her? Can you guys separate sex and love? It kind of doesn’t sound like you can.

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    • avatar

      GatorGirl June 18, 2013, 12:56 pm

      Wait vibrators are illegal?

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      • avatar

        Christy June 18, 2013, 1:21 pm

        It’s illegal to purchase vibrators in Alabama.

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl June 18, 2013, 1:38 pm

        Well there is another reason to never live in Alabama.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle June 18, 2013, 2:02 pm

        WHAT

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      • Diablo

        Diablo June 18, 2013, 3:37 pm

        What if you get caught with a vibrator that you brought from another state? What if you are still basking in the glow of an orgasm you gave yourself with a vibrator that is not technically in your possession anymore at that moment?

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest June 18, 2013, 10:18 am

    The worst reason to be with someone is to be with them only because you are comfortable with them.

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  • avatar

    Christy June 18, 2013, 9:22 am

    Sugarbutch has done a series of interviews with people in open relationships. Reading through that might give you some insight into how they can work successfully and what can cause them to fail. (Link is NSFW because of the explicit ads on the right side of the page and the graphic language; otherwise you’re safe:

    Honestly, (and this could totally be me projecting) it must suck to feel like your girlfriend doesn’t have the energy to have sex with you but she does have the energy to have sex with some dude you don’t know.

    And it’s totally fair to have restrictions on your open relationship. You just have to both be on board with those restrictions. You could have a rule to only have sex with strangers, or to always use protection (highly recommended, btw, especially with the risk of pregnancy from straight sex), or to have your girlfriend meet your new sexual partner first, or whatever you want. You just have to both be on board with all the rules.

    And I’m kind of getting a hint of you telling your girlfriend how things are, rather than taking her opinion into the full consideration. I’m specifically referring to two things in your letter: “I know she gets the same feelings because there was a time early on in our relationship where she would give me restrictions on who I could and couldn’t sleep with, but we talked that out and I explained how unfair that actually was.” and “I denied her a closed relationship though because I know she’s fickle and that she would change her mind, which she did.” I’m not sure what’s happening in those two sentences, but they don’t sound great.

    Why are the two of you together anyway? It doesn’t sound like you’re being fulfilled in the relationship. Specifically, it sounds like the openness of your relationship is driving you crazy (because she’s sleeping with other people), but you don’t want to close your relationship either (because you want to sleep with other people). I think Wendy’s right: you’re using your girlfriend as a safety net. But you’re not even flying! You’re just sitting in the net, thinking about all the flying you still want to do.

    Advice: break up, each be single for a while, sleep around, decide on a relationship style that works for you, and then try another relationship.

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      oldie June 18, 2013, 11:08 am

      I think the restrictions in the relationship are a problem. I also was struck, as was Wendy, by the fact that both you and your gf choose only men for your outside relationships. I assumed that this meant that you are both bi-sexual and out of loyalty each other have promised that you will be the only women in each other’s lives, so that you have promised each other a closed relationship with regard to other women. This suggests that each of you has a stronger attraction to women than men, as you fear that an attachment to another woman is what would possibly break up your relationship with each other, whereas you don’t think the other could form that strong an attachment to a man. But then I read about the jealousies and the need to decide which men the other may have sex with. It is as if you are willing to give each other permission to have meaningless sex with random men, but that a man whom you feel comfortable with and might possibly develop feelings for is off limits. This doesn’t seem workable. The heterosexual couples I know who have open relationships are basically not just having random sex. They are having sex outside their marriage with persons for whom they have feelings and a bit of commitment, although not as much as to their spouse. The spouses are all comfortable with this, for the most part, although I have witnessed spats caused by jealousy aimed at a particular outside party. My point is that neither you nor your gf seems comfortable with a truly open relationship and yet you yourself don’t seem comfortable with a fwb outside relationship, which is required to be light on the f part.

      I think both you and your gf sense that you are not a great permanent match and are structuring complex rules to try to prevent either of you from find someone you like better. You can’t have a closed relationship, because you are not into each other to that extent, yet you are afraid to let go of what you’ve got, so you can’t have a truly open relationship either.

      Time to consider other women (and men). First, time to decide whether you are at the stage of your life when you want one partner or more. If you want more than one partner, then you really owe it to your gf to allow her to have other partners of her own choosing.

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        Christy June 18, 2013, 11:12 am

        IDK, I think you’re assuming a lot about their existing relationship. Like, everything you’re saying about their relationship in the first paragraph is an assumption that is not necessarily true. I don’t think assumptions like this are useful when there are so many different relationship possibilities.

        I do agree with your last paragraph, though.

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        oldie June 18, 2013, 12:36 pm

        Doesn’t seem that stretched to me. The person she has been in the core relationship is another woman, so unless she is deluding herself about her own sexuality, she leans more heavily toward women than men. So, why no outside contacts with other women in this outside relationship? WHy the same for her partner. I don’t think it at all a stretch to conclude that this is because by agreement they have made their relationship open to outside encounters with men, but not with other women. What other reasonable explanation is there, which is less of a stretch. They also seem to want a great deal of control in who the outside men are, for two women who say their relationship is open. I can understand restrictions like ‘none of my male friends, relatives, or guys I work with’ but as LW describes the situation, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Her gf rejects her male partner of choice, seemingly merely because she feels too comfortable with him. Hence my referring to it as each of these women accepting that the other may have FWB, provided the F is small to the point of being nearly absent. In any case, there is a lot of jealousy from each of them for partners who believe an open relationship is what they really want. Since LW talks about problems in her relationshp with her partner, I think it not unreasonable to conclude that each of them senses that their relationship is slowly failing.

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      • Miel

        Miel June 18, 2013, 1:16 pm

        You say “What other reasonable explanation is there ?”

        Like… many others ? Maybe they are pansexual ? Maybe they are bisexual and the fact that they slept with other men is just because they are also attracted to men ? Maybe they fell in love for each other without gender being an issue, but otherwise, they are almost 99% heterosexual ?

        People can fall anywhere on the spectrum between “100% cis gender hetero” and “100% cis gender homo” and other people don’t even fall on the “cis gender” spectrum ! All we know is that those two (apparently) cis women are in a relationship together, and both of them also like to have sex with men (or at least, they did it, and I hope they enjoyed it).

        It’s very inappropriate to label other people’s sexuality.

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        oldie June 18, 2013, 3:38 pm

        I said bi-sexual and that covers the whole 1 – 99% range. I’m not buying the 99% heterosexual and just loves this particular woman. Nothing in her letter suggests that she loves or all that much likes this particular woman. There is a lot of hope that she will in the future, but she says very little positive about the present.

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      • Miel

        Miel June 18, 2013, 3:44 pm

        Well, we just disagree on the fact that bisexual covers the 1-99% range. And we should still not try to define and label someone else sexuality.

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        Christy June 18, 2013, 1:16 pm

        It could happen to be that each of them considers themselves more attracted to men, but they each happened to fall in love with this one woman, so they’re in this relationship, but neither wants to see women outside of this relationship. That’s actually a really plausible explanation. The point is, we don’t know, so conjecturing like that isn’t helpful.

        And people in open relationships can make up whatever rules they want for their relationships. So long as the rules are mutually agreed upon, it doesn’t matter. They could want to approve each individual partner, or to never meet them. All that matters is that they agree on the rules. They don’t seem to agree on the structure of their open relationship, which is a major problem.

        I would agree with your last point that each of them senses that their relationship is slowly failing. But I don’t agree with your other points, because I think you’re assuming too much. I think what you’re saying is possibly, but not definitely, true.

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    Older and (hopefully) wiser June 18, 2013, 10:42 am

    I’m a “chick” too (if older women can be chicks) and my brain isn’t confused at all. I know exactly what I want.Maybe it’s not about your gender, but about your age. Or maybe you just don’t know yourself very well yet.

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    • Lindsay

      Lindsay June 18, 2013, 11:32 am

      I’d say it’s not even about her age, and just about her as an individual.

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    TheTruth June 18, 2013, 10:43 am

    Threesome?

    Seriously, we all know that there is zero help for this situation, but throwing in a threesome can’t screw it up anymore than it already is.

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    Lily in NYC June 18, 2013, 10:52 am

    I don’t get the feeling you really want an open relationship. Maybe get some more experience before you make these sorts of huge decisions – I don’t think you are experienced enough to realize that this isn’t working out for you. Boy, have I been there, accepting whatever crumbs my boyfriend gave me because I was too young and inexperienced to realize there was so much better out there and that a broken relationship isn’t a “failure.” Most relationships fail, and it’s ok to move on. Or if you want to make this work: communicate, communicate, communicate! Don’t be scared to say what you really want. I used to be that way because I thought if I was demanding about my needs I would lose the person I was dating. I kick myself for not realizing that all I was doing was prolonging a relationship that I shouldn’t have been in. Nor was I giving my partner a chance to meet my needs because I wasn’t telling him what I really wanted.

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    temperance June 18, 2013, 10:53 am

    If you are both having sex with dudes, you are not lesbians.

    If you want to avoid the drama, close this relationship or find a new one. Your gf is using you for emotional support while banging dudes on the side. That sucks for you, and you deserve better.

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      TheTruth June 18, 2013, 11:04 am

      Does she deserve better? Does she?

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  • othy

    othy June 18, 2013, 10:56 am

    If she’s too tired to sleep with you, but is actively sleeping with someone else, how healthy can the relationship be?

    In an open relationship, shouldn’t one prioritize sleeping with their significant other first, before turning to the company outside of the relationship? It’s one thing if their significant other can’t sleep with them (for whatever reason), but if they are ready and willing, it hardly seems right to have sex with others but not with your partner.

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay June 18, 2013, 11:36 am

    This makes my brain hurt. What are you getting out of this relationship? You say you’re resentful, you two don’t have sex, you want a closed relationship but keep it open because you think you’re girlfriend is fickle, you feel the need to sleep with guys solely to distract yourself and choose them based on whether they’ve seen you naked or not. I’m not sure you mentioned anything good about the relationship, so why are you in it?

    I think you need to get out and then before jumping in with someone else, decide what you want. Women aren’t that complicated. That’s what sitcom husbands say after they piss their wives off. Figure out what you want, find someone who knows what they want, and then be willing to communicate with that person. Speculating on what they might do in the future and telling them the opposite of what you think you want doesn’t count.

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    csp June 18, 2013, 12:29 pm

    So wait. Is this really a relationship or is this hooking up with your friend when you have nothing better going on. Do you both see this situation the same? also, why was this one guy singled out as a no? so much detail and you leave that out? These are the things that drive me crazy.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark June 18, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Frankly, you are right to be concerned. Of all the lesbians I knew in college… Only one of seven is STILL a lesbian. I suppose my example could be a anomaly… But the fact that she likes sleeping with men so much would give me pause…

    PS… Why not call yourselves Bi, by the way. None of my gay lovers have enjoyed the attentions of the ladies… Not a one. Only the bisexuals did. Newsflash, they both married women… Though one drunkenly facebooks me with laments of the life we COULD have had… Complete with blowjobs… Sigh… Isn’t it romantic?

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      csp June 18, 2013, 12:56 pm

      We called them the “college Lesbian”. I know two that have married Girls and 7 that married men.

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      Christy June 18, 2013, 1:24 pm

      1. She never says they’re lesbians, only that they’re in a lesbian relationship.
      2. I have SO MANY friends from (all-girls, Catholic) high school who were gay or bi. Some are still bi, but only my friend and I (neither of whom was out in HS) is still a lesbian.

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    bcamber June 18, 2013, 12:52 pm

    This is so complicated. I am grateful for my two person relationship, and glad that both myself and my partner wouldn’t have it any other way.

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    AKchic June 18, 2013, 1:05 pm

    You are NOT in a healthy “open” relationship. She only wants a closed relationship when she’s feeling vulnerable and sentimental, otherwise, she loves banging as many guys as she can get under her, and attempts to put restrictions on your half of the open relationship.

    She is selfish in this regard, and is not ready for commitment. Don’t waste your time. You have two options:
    1. Ask for a closed, monogamous relationship. Expect her to say “no”.
    2. Leave the relationship and find something healthy.

    You knew that she couldn’t handle a closed relationship before, so I really don’t think she’ll be interested in one now.
    I know that it can be scary to leave a relationship, but honestly, it will be better to leave than to be miserable in your relationship until she breaks up with you. Be strong. Be assertive. You don’t need to be the third wheel in your own relationship.

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    MMcG June 18, 2013, 1:19 pm

    So your relationship is barely a year old, yet “Sometimes we go months and months without sleeping with anyone else, and then, when we do, some feelings of resentment arise”

    I don’t understand the math or timeline, if this has happened more than once it seems like your entire relationship has been on a pendulum. And it seems like the open part of the relationship has caused feelings of resentment every time?? WTF… I know little about open relationships, but I don’t think you are supposed to feel resentful of your partner every time they enjoy the openness that has been agreed upon.

    Something is fishy LW… was this ever a real relationship or did y’all go from experimenting to FWB or something?

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    Lucy June 18, 2013, 1:33 pm

    LW, you are doing an open relationship for all the wrong reasons. Open relationships only work if they come from a place of strength and solidity in your primary relationship. You don’t have that. You have to fix your primary relationship, if possible, before you start bringing other people into it. Frankly, based on your letter, it doesn’t sound to me like you have either the mindset or the maturity to be in an open relationship.

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      Liquid Luck June 18, 2013, 4:50 pm

      Yes! LW, this is exactly right. You don’t have a stable relationship with your girlfriend, so every time you try to build another one on top of it it gets shakier and shakier. That’s why you need a good, solid foundation to even attempt an open relationship. Do you really consider your relationship with your girlfriend to be healthy and stable? Because it’s definitely not.

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    Liquid Luck June 18, 2013, 4:46 pm

    This is not a healthy open relationship. It doesn’t sound like the two of you have agreed on any guidelines or even know how to communicate with one another on this topic. I’m concerned by your comment that you denied your partner’s request to have restrictions because wouldn’t be “fair” to have since there were none on her instead of using that as an opening point to discuss what you would need from her in return to make you more comfortable with the arrangement. Open relationships ARE about being fair, but they are not always about being equal, and you seem to think those things are the same. It would be fair for you each to set your own boundaries for each other to whatever you’re comfortable with. For instance, in my last open relationship, I preferred to know when my partner was sleeping with someone else, but he didn’t want to hear about my external partners. He put restrictions on who I could sleep with, while it didn’t matter to me as long as he gave me a heads up if it was someone I ever socialized with. Those rules weren’t equal, but they were fair because we were both comfortable with the arrangement and were taking each other’s needs into consideration. You could have asked your partner to follow some of your own rules and agreed to some of hers, but instead you told her you weren’t even willing to consider the idea.

    Open relationships are based on communication and trust. You clearly don’t communicate your needs well, don’t trust your partner to choose appropriate partners, and don’t believe your partner when she makes requests, because she’s “fickle”. Those are all huge reasons to leave any relationship. I think you both need to move on, because this relationship is already dead.

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