“He Wants to See Other Women. Can This Work?”

I have been dating a man for about nine months now. We met on Match, had instant chemistry and have been thoroughly enjoying each other. He is demonstrative, affectionate and intelligent, and he has been effusive with his expressions of love. He says/texts/calls regularly with “I love you’s” and has made sweet, heartfelt gestures since the beginning. I have met his family, and he has met mine; he has invited to me to his office to meet his colleagues, we have traveled together, we have taken care of each other when we have been sick. He makes me laugh, and he lets me cry in his arms…

He was married twice before, the first marriage ending in divorce by his ex, with whom he has five children, mostly all grown. He takes care of them all financially and is a good father. The divorce was very hard for him; however, he is in contact with his ex — she works for him — and they have a good friendship. He married again, and his second wife died from breast cancer about two years ago. They had a horrible relationship as she was controlling and was degrading to him, and he felt hopelessly trapped in the relationship until she died. Her death was a relief to him, and he gained his “freedom” at that time. He was//is a caretaker so he stuck with her throughout the illness, and he was glad to have his home and life back after an essentially miserable ten-year marriage.

Then I entered the picture. I am the polar opposite of both wives. I am independent, have an excellent career, and am non-controlling, kind, open and supportive to him and his family. We are in love with each other, deeply, and he says this is the greatest love he has experienced. Our blissful new relationship energy has sustained for nearly nine months, and I do not want to be with anyone else romantically or sexually.

The problem is that he has clearly stated that he does not want to be exclusive with me. He wants/needs to have other loves in his life, but that does not limit his feelings for me. He believes that his prior relationship unhappiness was partly because he did not like who he was when committed to only one person. He was faithful to his previous wives, but he now believes that his new-found happiness is due to his freedom to love without artificial/institutional restrictions. I think a big part of his current happiness is because he has found someone — me — to share time and love with who is actually a better fit for him.

I do not want to push him, and I have said that I do not want to know about others that he might be seeing. We have discussed safe sex practices, and I have expressed my need for emotional safety and that I require frequent reassurances about his love to me. I am still confused, though, about whether this will work for me in the long run. I was cheated on in my past two relationships, by partners who had agreed to monogamy. He is not cheating because we do not have such an agreement. He is non-jealous, and he has stated that he would be OK if I dated others, even including having sexual relations.

My friends have urged me to not compromise on my values or needs, but I feel like this relationship works on many, if not most, levels. I do not know if my “head-in-the sand” approach is advisable, whether his love for me is “real,” whether I can stomach his loving other women at the same time as me. I am in therapy trying to figure out my best strategy, but I would appreciate your input. — Looking for the Real Deal

For some people, a relationship like this could work out perfectly. I could see, especially for older couples who don’t care to marry and/or raise kids because they’ve already “been there, done that,” that a relationship that’s loving but non-monogamous could provide the companionship and intimacy they want without the burden of commitment they’ve learned doesn’t work for them. The issue is both people in the relationship, obviously, have to be on the same page and when you describe your approach to this kind of arrangement as “head-in-the-sand,” it doesn’t sound like sharing the man you love is something you embrace.

It doesn’t even sound like you need therapy to figure out whether you can stomach the idea of your boyfriend loving and dating and being intimate with other women. What you may need help deciding is whether your ability to stomach something is the best measure for whether something is good and right and the best option for you. Even if you could stomach the idea of sharing your boyfriend with other women, is that the relationship you really want? And if it isn’t, does compromising one thing you want — a monogamous relationship — for something else you want — your boyfriend — bring you happiness in the end?

If it doesn’t — if full relationship happiness is, for you, dependent on both who your partner is AND the kind of arrangement you have — don’t settle for less than what you want or you won’t be happy. It’s a pretty easy equation: Good man + monogamy = happy relationship (for you). An even easier equation is this: Good match = good relationship. If you don’t want the same things, then it isn’t a very good match, no matter how much you may like each other.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. If you have to ask the answer is likely “no”. And that’s ok. Personally I would never do an open relationship because I know it would make me anxious/insecure.

    Also, I find it odd that he is telling you this after nine months together instead of right off the bat. LW if you are going along with this because you are holding out any hope that he will commit to just you then this open relationship is not right for you. There are plenty of men on match.com – I think you will find one who matches your wants/needs better than this man.

    1. The way I read it was that he clearly stated this at the beginning.

      1. It reads that way to me too.

  2. MOA. As Wendy perfectly said: “Good man + monogamy = happy relationship (for you).” And LW, I think it’s truly awful of you to judge this guy’s dead wife. You do not know what their relationship was like nor how he felt when she died, which was likely a myriad of emotions ranging from relief to utter despondence. A person does not care for their dying spouse if they don’t love them. In the future, mind your own damn business about other people’s relationships, past or present.

    1. In this case, I read the explination of the second marriage as to not say he was still grieving but explaining his fear of being controlled.

    2. Elanie May says:

      Ouch. Sounds like that’s what he told her about his dead wife, not what she’s just making up to judge. I don’t think she came up with that on her own.

    3. Yeah I think she was just giving an explanation of both relationships, that he’s probably given to her while discussing them, in that case he’s made it her business by talking to her about it.

    4. kerrycontrary says:

      I do think that he made it her business, BUT I think the LW needs to remember that their are two sides to every story. I don’t think it’s great that this man has talked so poorly about both of his exes. And I think that it’s a little arrogant of the LW to assume that she’s so much betterthan the previous two women. The LW has known this man for 9 months, not 20 years. Maybe he’s not such a peach to deal with after being married to him for a couple of years. A lot of women like to differentiate themselves from their man’s exes by saying how they are soooo independent and that last woman must’ve been sooooo needy and controlling and a huge bitch, when really the woman was probably a nice lady who was just matched up with the wrong man.

      1. actually he only talked bad about his one ex, the other he still has a good relationship with. and i don’t doubt that someone who has been unhappily married twice isn’t easy to deal with. there’s obviously more going on there than the LW has been led to or would like to believe. but, i still think he is spouting all of these off to her about them and she’s just eating it up.

      2. kerrycontrary says:

        I took the LW saying this: “I am the polar opposite of both wives. I am independent, have an excellent career, and am non-controlling, kind, open and supportive to him and his family.” as insinuating that the first wife also has poor qualities that this man has mentioned (i.e. she’s not independent as she still works for her ex, doesn’t have a great career, is controlling etc….)

      3. oh i agree that she would like to think she’s polar opposite and that he’s probably said bad things about both exes in passing. but, i don’t think the specific comments about the second wife where said because she was judging her. she was just regurgitating what she’s been told. which i think was probably told to her partly so she would see how different and cool she was and make her want to try this non-monogamy thing out. because obviously she’s different than the other wives and that makes her a better match (not what i think, what i think she’s been led to (or more like wants to) believe. and her saying those things reinforces to herself that she is different therefore she must be ok with this whole arrangement.

      4. Plus the explanation for the divorce being ‘she divorced him’. Huh? A lot of the woman-started divorces are because the guy cheated, was abusive, spent the food budget on gambling, etc. The LW seems to toss this tidbit of information from her bf out there as definitive proof that the problems with the marriage were the fault of her bf’s ex. The poor, deserving, caretaking lad was dumped and has an aversion to monogamy because of it.

      5. “The poor, deserving, caretaking lad was dumped and has an aversion to monogamy because of it.”

        It’s almost like the LW has to believe this because that allows her to still have hope/delusion that what the man is saying in terms of commitment will change because she will be worth it and they will be together (i.e. I will change him)… and I just don’t see that working out in the long run.

      6. MMcG, that is exactly what I was thinking! “It’s almost like the LW has to believe this …”

      7. I think that is the way men control women. They say, “You are so great and so much better than my ex because you don’t let it get to you that I (insert whatever annoying thing you want here). That is why I like you so much.” so he has trapped her into not getting annoyed because she doesn’t want to be like the evil ex.

      8. Oh my god, that theory is hilarious. And I think true in some cases. I love it!

      9. Obviously, not all cases. But i think it is controlling women through compliments.

      10. lets_be_honest says:

        Wow. Fucked up but I think very true.

      11. start noticing in the letters how much that comes up. “I don’t want to push moving in or marriage because his ex was controlling.” Think about it, how do these LWs know this information? Was it planted by a guy who doesn’t want to deal with commitment questions? or questions about going out too late?

      12. lets_be_honest says:

        I think some women who want a relationship, want one so badly that they completely change themselves to fit whatever mold they think makes the perfect girlfriend. I read an article once about a woman who was engaged like 30 times (something crazy like that). She said that she got so good at getting men to want her because she turned into exactly what she thought they wanted, altering herself a little for each different guy. In the end, she realized that she never wanted any of these guys and just wanted to be herself. If being herself meant being alone, so be it. But if being yourself and finding someone who loves your real self, imagine how good that would feel? I wish more women would think about trying to achieve that, rather than achieve any ol boyfriend.

      13. I just read a book called Gone Girl which was about this woman who wanted to be a “cool girl” and her marriage being a mess. Good, light read if you like mysteries.

      14. Horrible ending, is all I have to say!!


      16. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        I agree…but then again, I think I’m one of the very few people who HATED this book with a passion

      17. I hated it, too. I called it very early on and found the main characters to be unbelievable.

      18. Avatar photo LadyinPurpleNotRed says:

        OMG! ME TOO! Everyone thinks I’m crazy. I refused to finish the book. Once I figured it out, I checked to see if I was right–I was and stopped reading. I found the writing arrogant and the characters unbelievable as well!

      19. I read that book too. Totally effed up. Everything about it. But I loved it.

      20. SixtyFour says:

        Haha light read is one way to put it. Easy read, but totally and completely disturbing!

      21. you are right, disturbing but easy. I am right now reading book 3 of game of thrones. They take FOREVER. That book took me a few days.

      22. Seriously, I think it´s quite common. An ex friend of mine is a serial monogamist, and with each new guy she totally transforms herself, morphing into the female version of the current BF. It´s really sad. I saw her go from ultrareligious to pothead to vegetarian, to hippy.artsy, to gamer geek, etc.

      23. I think we all have a former friend like that.

      24. kerrycontrary says:

        This is sooo true. It’s like how (some) women are afraid of asking for what they want or need for fear of being labeled a nag/controlling/crazy bitch. Um, actually no sir asking for you to NOT stay out until 3 a.m. with hookers isn’t not nagging, it’s called respect.

      25. Love this!

      26. I vote kerrycontrary’s comment for Comment of the Week!

      27. Yep, this is definitely A Thing. Like– they frame things in such a way to make you feel like “the cool girl” so you don’t ever want to go against that for risk of seeming like “the psycho ex.” Like kerrycontrary says below, it goes hand-in-hand with that “you’re acting crazy” line.

      28. I mean…above. Haha! I didn’t know where my comment would end up.

      29. It’s what creates The Cool Girl Who Doesn’t Need Anything. I don’t remember if I got that phrase from here or from the Pervocracy, but it stuck in my mind, because I’ve had those tendencies in the past myself, and with guys who pulled the “my ex was awful because xyz” card. It’s something I’ve been working past in the last few years.

      30. everyone deep down has a middle school girl inside of them that desperately wants to be cool. I think it is why it is so effective.

      31. landygirl says:

        Thank you.

    5. Hmm maybe I was too harsh since I hadn’t finished my coffee at the time, but that description rubbed me the wrong way. If this guy criticizes his dead wife to the LW and the other women he is dating, I don’t know why anyone would want to date him. Someone who bashes their dead wife is someone who will bash you in the future.

      1. SweetPeaG says:

        I was taken aback with the whole dead wife description as well. But, I viewed it as more of a detriment to the guy… not the LW. I think she was just repeating what he said because it makes her feel better (which is an issue in and of itself). But, really… even if he did feel that it was a “relief” when his wife died, how awful to speak that opinion out loud?! Just leave it alone at that point, dude. However bad their relationship might have been, she was a PERSON with family and friends who are probably mourning her loss. I was kind of disgusted.

      2. You are absolutely right. My initial “WTF!” disgusted reaction was misplaced solely on the LW. However, now I am perplexed as to why the LW is dating this guy. I don’t know if most people feel this way, but if I was dating a guy and he said such awful things about his dead wife, that would give me serious pause. Combine that with his lack of desire to date exclusively and I would move on from him. It’s a very strange situation and I look forward to the LW’s update.

      3. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Yeah that’s the sort of thing most people leave in their heads or in the therapist’s office. There are just some things you dont’ say aloud.

      4. Isn’t your SO supposed to be the one you can say these things aloud to, though?

        And while he certainly wasn’t complimentary of his ex-wife, I wouldn’t say he really attacked/bashed/badmouthed her. He said she was controlling and degrading, and that he felt free for the first time in a long time after she passed. (Elsewhere on the thread we’ve mentioned how this isn’t an altogether uncommon thing for people who have been longterm caregivers to the terminally ill.) But he didn’t call her names or really drag her through the mud; if anything, his comments say more about how he felt in that relationship than they do about who his ex was or what she was like.

        I think the fact that he stayed by her as her caregiver until she died, despite a troubled marriage, says a lot more about his character than his comments about the negative aspects of his relationship with her. I mean, look how unforgiving we are of Newt Gingrich and John Edwards for bailing on their ill/dying wives to go have an affair. THAT is despicable behavior. Saying negative things about an ex-wife postmortem is insensitive maybe, but not the egregious offense others are making it out to be.

        Besides, I’m sure all of us here have said unkind things about our exes, out loud, to our current significant others. My first ex was a perv and our relationship was not a good one; I don’t dislike him or anything, or wish anything bad to him. If he died tomorrow, I would be sad for his family and loved ones, but that wouldn’t change that he was a perv when we were together. I’d still be allowed to think that and, I hope, to say it out loud several years later.

    6. AllisonExclaims says:

      (Generalizing here) You know how people are more likely to complain/vent about others (friends, roommates, spouses, etc)? That’s how I read that. He was venting/complaining about the relationship. People are more likely to talk about the bad things, then the good things.

  3. I don’t think you can paper this over with “frequent assurances” of love from him. Assurances are cheap and cost him nothing, emotionally. Your assurance of undying love will be accompanied by the knowledge you try to hide in the back of your head that another, or several other, women are receiving the exact same assurances. There will always be the doubt that you are no longer the number one object of his affection. What you will have is basically a FWB situation with the addition of profuse and likely somewhat phony assurances of his love.

    There is something amiss in the story that this guy paints of his life. He is so totally in love with you and yet this guy, who has been strictly monogamous in his two prior marriages — despite being put upon by the woman in each case, will not be monogamous with you. Becausee of hurt from his two prior monogamous marriages. Really? And after only nine months of an intense relationship? This guy has defined himself the way he wants you to see him and you have gullibly swallowed the whole line. I think you’ve been conned.

  4. I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again today:


    Not every guy wants to be in a long term, committed relationship. No matter how much someone likes, you, they might not be the “relationship type”, and you need to accept that. Some guys like your company. Some guys like the physical attention, some guys like to be seen in public with a cute girl, but that’s it.

    Please do yourself a favor, and start looking for partners who want the same things as you. If you want to get married, look for a man who would also like to get married one day.

    LW- You’re lucky in the fact that this guy was straight up honest with you about what he wanted out of your relationship. He doesn’t want monogamy, which is fine, he is entitled to want whatever his heart desires, but it’s obvious that monogamy is what YOU want. It’s never going to work out if the two of you want different things. It might be ok for a year or two, but in the long run, you can’t change what he wants, and you can’t really even change what you want… MOA before you get even more attached, and look for a partner who wants the same type of relationship you do.

    1. so many extra points for literally copy-and-pasting that…. haha

      1. I’m too lazy to actually retype that! 🙂

      2. It really brings home the point that it’s a lesson that (apparently) lots of women need to learn by just copy/pasting it. Next time we get another woman that needs to be told that she needs to MOA since her current love interest doesn’t share her desires, please copy/paste this again, haha.

  5. WWS. It doesn’t sound like you are okay with this at all, & if you try to force yourself to be, this relationship is going to crash & burn. You will wind up resenting him no matter how little you hear about his other lovahs– I mean, do you even need to know the details to be upset? You’ll know that every time he’s not with YOU, he’s potentially with somebody else. When you’re saying things about “blissful energy” and how you’re certain you “do not want to be with anyone else”, I can’t imagine these circumstances not eating away at you.

    And it’ll be really apparent when it does– so he’ll most likely end up resenting you, as well. Like Wendy said, this arrangement could be pretty sweet for two people who are totally, genuinely cool with it. But you are not.

    As a side note…I think 9 months is a little soon to feel so “in love”? It’s hard to dial it back at this point, but in the future it’ll be a good idea to realize that you don’t TRULY know anybody in this amount of time.

    1. Yeah, I agree. There’s nothing wrong with not being ok with this set-up. It’s just not what she wants. No matter how much she cares for him.

      And I don’t know I don’t think 9 months can be enough to be so in love. It depends on the person, their age, experience and knowing what they want, etc. I’m going to guess that if he has 5 grown children he’s no spring chicken and they’ve both had enough relationships to know what they want out of a significant other.

      I also think that she feels like she’s less independent if she’s not cool with this. That she’s not as cool about things as she wants to be. But, that’s life different things make everyone happy. And it’s ok if monogamy makes you happy. You’re less independent because you want that.

      1. It does depend, you’re right– I just think, in general, 9 months is an iffy time period. It’s long enough to recognize feelings of love & imagine the person is right for you, but the fluffy language in this particular letter is tipping me towards the “too much, too soon” side of the scale.

        And just want to say that you make a good point in the last paragraph. I also think she feels a little needy for not being okay with this set-up– she feels like an independent, open, not-needy woman, & seems uncomfortable with her own discomfort because it goes against her view of herself. But don’t worry, LW, even the most confident person is allowed to want monogamy in a serious relationship.

      2. Yeah I’m not so sure this specific LW is as ‘in love’ as she would think, but I think for others 9 months is enough time. It’s very person specific in my experience.

      3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        9 months is enough time for some people to fall in love. But truly being in love comes after the “blissful new relationship energy” that the LW talks about. They don’t happen at the same time.

    2. I think people can honestly be *that* in love *that* quick. The real problem comes from acting on it *that* quickly without really taking a good amount of time to get to know someone.

  6. LW, I think therapy will be really helpful with you. I think you need to change the narrative about yourself. You say your independent and not controlling but will not assert your needs. Strong Independent women do not need to be controlling b*tches. You both sound like you have been in the dating pool for awhile, so you know what is out there. Think about what you want and go after it. You have the right to be happy and not his tuesday/thursday girl.

    Also, let me stress how important protection is. Do you know that the fastest growing population for HIV/Aids are older single people. While 20 somethings have been taught about condoms since birth many others have missed that memo.

    But the great news is that you have time to decide, without the make babies clock swinging over your head, you have the time to explore your feelings and needs. In the mean time, I would start filling up your calendar with other dates for you both to see what playing the field is like.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Liked this too much just to give a thumbs up. First paragraph is something a lot of women need to hear!

      1. why thank you 🙂

    2. CSP, you’ve been on top of it this morning. Every comment you’ve made so far has been spot on.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Its all because AP liked her comment yesterday. Haha!
        I agree though, on fire!

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:


  7. first off, wtf is this- “Our blissful new relationship energy has sustained for nearly nine months”… wow, nine whole months? i dont get it- are you surprised this has happened? has it never happened for you before? has no relationship last for 9 months? im just confused as to why you are so surprised that you have “new relationship energy” for *nearly* nine months.


    i think that you need to figure out what this “head in the sand” approach really means, because i do think it is a valid way to go about non-monogamous relationships. i havent totally ruled out the fact that one day, that might be a good option for a relationship. but, i would definitely go with a “head in the sand” non-monogamous relationship. i dont want to hear about my partner’s other conquests, i dont want to know what they said to you, or how good the sex was, ect, ect. i would even go so far as to ask that i dont accidentally smell a different perfume on clothes, or things like that- but not because i want to live in a dream world where it really is just the two of us, just because i dont want to be clued into those specific details. where do you sit regarding that? if you are really happy with this guy, and you could be happy with both of you being non-monogamous as long as the “other” partners are not brought up, try it out. in fact, i would say to try it out regardless. you cant know if you dont like something you have never tried, right? maybe it could work for you- you never know. if, however, you know for a fact that you wont be able to handle just the knowledge that he isnt monogamous, you should not go any further, and you need to just cut your losses and MOA.

    1. You know, “nearly” is just another way of saying “almost,” not a remark of surprise necessarily…

  8. The relationship may work on a whole set of levels but if it is not working on a level that is important to you – then it just isn’t working. So many of us have met the perfect guy – dreamy in all ways…. except for that one particular way which sadly meant he just wasn’t the guy for us after all.
    Ask yourself how important is monogamy to you? Because I think for this to work your answer has to be somewhere between “not at all” and “not particularly”. Anything more than that – including your head in the sand as to the reality of the situation – unfortunately means this man isn’t the man for you. On the plus side though you now know exactly what you need in your next partner and what you can’t have. And though it may not feel like it – that’s progress and a step closer to the type of relationship that can be successful for you. Good Luck!

  9. Well, if the guy is a “caretaker” by nature, can we assume that he is caretaking you by lavishing you with the reassurances and words you want to hear…while actively looking to date other women, enjoy their favors, and presumably tell them what they would like to hear too?
    It’s just a little stinky if you ask me…

    1. Only he isn’t telling her what she wants to hear – he is telling her the truth – which she actually ISN’T fond of hearing at all. You know monogamy isn’t the ONLY type of relationship you can have, right?

      1. I’ve enjoyed a polyamorous lifestyle for the past 12 years, so yeah, I do know thanks
        that’s not the page the LW is on tho, and it doesn’t sound to me like this is a mutual process of discovery and experimentation for two people who trust each other, it just sounds like he’s suiting himself at her expense. i’d call that stinky

      2. I’m just lost when people blame men who are up front about what they want. It’s like the guy can never win. What could this guy do differently? He told her what he is interested in, what his boundaries are. It doesn’t sound like a mutual process of discovery because she wants monogamy…which isn’t on the table for him. How is that at her expense if she knows the deal and he is being honest?

      3. Exactly. He has been open and up-front about what he wants and intends to do. Wasn’t there just another letter like this the other day, or was I commenting on an old one? I don’t know. But I do remember seconding someone who said “the guy is not always the villain of the piece” or something to that effect.

        From what we know if the situation, he’s not playing her and he’s not taking advantage. He’s telling her what he wants, and if she sticks around, it’s a tacit agreement that that’s OK with her. She runs into a problem if she sticks around even though it’s not OK with her.

    2. yea, i didnt really like the “caretaker” line either… what exactly does that mean anyway? is it even a good thing? im not sure…

      1. I took it to mean he was taking care of her during her illness up until her final days (although I think ‘caregiver’ is usually the word used in that circumstance, but I can see how someone would mix the two of them up).

  10. blackbird says:

    Non-monogamy is not for everyone. But it sounds like this man could have some of the right qualities for being a partner you explore non-monogamy with (loving, honest, not jealous). I’d recommend reading Opening Up, and the Ethical Slut, and at least having a discussion on what sort of boundaries/rules you’d want to have. You need to be armed with information. And if after doing your research, or trying it out for awhile, you decide it’s not for you….you’re free to end things with him. Just because you agree to try it, doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to stick around.

  11. Sue Jones says:

    Hmmm…. sounds like he wants to be polyamourous. There is a lot of good literature out there about it – read “The Ethical Slut”. So, with polyamory comes a LOT of agreements. Are you to be his “primary”? His “secondary”? “undefined”? What do YOU need to feel safe in this arrangement because YOUR feelings are also important in this. He doesn’t just get to do whatever he wants without regarding how YOU feel. So, with polyamory, there are still RULES. Such as what isn’t and what is not OK for each partner, which includes YOU. He may have a lot of love, but he also may not have time for other partners. Other partners have emotional needs and it gets complicated. So maybe he just likes the IDEA that he can go be with other women without actually doing it? How do the other women feel? Are they on the same page? Like I said, it gets complicated if the communication isn’t impeccable. Please read up on polyamory. There is a lot of good info out there on how to do it well and with integrity. And if after studying this, you realize that it does not work for you to be in this sort of arrangement, then MOA.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      This LW sounds far from interested in this. She sounds like she wants monogamy but is trying to convince herself to settle for other than that.

      1. Sue Jones says:

        Well, to me it sounded like the LW was at least willing to look at it but wasn’t sure she could really live with it. The only way to be sure is to read up on it and be a bit more educated about it. Sometimes people are surprised at how polyamory can work. I have been monogamous for almost 18 years. I know it is what works for me in my marriage. But my husband and I have discussed thoroughly polyamory after I developed a crush. What we came to was that he would actually like for me to be able to explore. What I came to for myself is that I don’t think I have what it takes to be fully present in more than one relationship with children, a career, etc. Monogamy is simpler. And I never did act on that crush, which after I got to know him better, was a very good thing. A LOT simpler. And I am not comfortable with him having other partners because I do not like to share. But we, as a couple, went there in our minds and came to this conclusion ourselves.

        Now there is also “swinging” which is just sex with other partners without the complication of a real intimate relationship. I know that I am not at all interested in that.

        I should also disclose that in my 20’s I had a period of polyamory that was done, on all sides, very poorly. It was actually a relief to see some good literature out there on how to do it more skillfully, if one is going to do such a thing.

      2. i agree, i feel like this LW is willing to look into it, to try to figure out a type of relationship that would work for the two of them- and thats good! i think its a good thing, when you like someone, to see if you two can figure out a mutually beneficial relationship where you are both happy. that might entail exploring things you have never explored, it might not work out because each partner has very different needs, it might be easy because you want the same things- at the end of the day, the LW just needs to be honest with herself about her needs and about her happiness in a relationship and if that can work with this guy.

        like someone said above, even if she does try this, and doesnt like it, she is free to call it off. her giving a non-monogamous relationship a try, armed with knowledge and honesty, doesnt mean that she has to like it.

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Polyamory is for married couples, right? So this would just be “dating around” or non-monogamous. Not that the distinction matters much here. I have to assume a grown woman knows there are options other that monogamy and certainly since she has presented one of the other options. She just does not sound interested in that at all. I’d hate to see her further convince herself to try something she’s not interested in just because someone suggested it on here. I’m surprised so many people are suggesting she try non-monogamy when she has gotten to the point of referring to it as feeling like she has her head in the sand. It was just so clear to me she was sacrificing what she actually wants to keep a guy around. Maybe I’m wrong though.

      4. Sue Jones says:

        Polyamory isn’t just for married couples. It is, in short form, committed non-monogamous relationships. I think that commitment is the key here to distinguish it from swinging. It can take many forms, from a committed multipartner network, to a primary relationship with some secondaries, to monogamish… it comes in many forms, but is not limited to married couples. I think the key is whether this guy is willing to give the LW any sort of commitment at all. If he wants to be free and easy, in the moment, and totally go with the flow with no rules or boundaries for himself, then I would say this situation is dead in the water because that is not what makes her feel safe. If they are willing to work out some ground rules, and have a committed, yet open monogamish relationship, it perhaps could work.

      5. lets_be_honest says:

        Oh, I never knew that. Thanks,

      6. No, I don’t think you’re wrong. Clearly this LW shouldn’t try to convince herself of this. Her emotional stance on the subject is clear and by trying it out, she’s probably only going to hurt herself.

        That being said, I don’t think that we shouldn’t discuss the options available in trying it out. If anything, talking about trying it might make her face the subject (instead of putting her head in the sand) and really accept that she is not ok with this. I don’t get the feeling based on her letter that the emotional wrongness she feels about this is going to go away by thinking about or trying polyamory/non-monogamy.

      7. Also, there may be other readers would would benefit from the “try it out” advice and book recommendations.

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        That’s true, I guess. She just seemed like a person more than willing to convince herself of something, which is why I took at as dangerous, for lack of a better term.

      9. I got the same vibe from her too. You might not embrace something you’ve never tried but for you to even be open to it, the use of language of avoidance seems counter-productive…and perhaps indicative of your real feelings.

  12. I don’t know much about non-monogamous (or what sex/relationship columnist Dan Savage calls Monogamish) relationships should look like or how to make them work. The good news is, there are a lot of people out there who are making these sorts of relationships work and there are a lot of resources and online support groups for you to explore.

    One thing that concerns me is the fact that this relationship was never monogamous. In Savage’s column and podcast he frequently talks about the importance of maintaining your “primary relationship” even while dating and having sex with other people. Does the man you’re dating consider you his primary? Is he interested in committing to you in that way? These are important questions to ask before you go any further.

    If you are both seriously interested in a long-term commitment to each other, and he does want you as his primary partner, I would highly encourage you to close the relationship for a while. Monogamy is what you’ve always known and it will take some time to separate your feelings of being cheated on with your feelings about an agreed-upon non-monogamous relationship. Therapy is a great place to do that, along with frequent conversations with your partner.

    The thing it, you need to be prepared for the fact that after you’ve circled the wagons and worked on your primary relationship for a while, you will need to reopen it in order for him to be happy. He is very openly telling you that he needs to be non-monogamous to be happy and it’s not fair for you to doubt that. This has nothing to do with how great you are as a partner or how good a fit you are. He is telling you that this is what he needs to be happy, so even if he does agree to be monogamous for a while (and by a while I mean a year at least) you need to be prepared for the fact that reopening the relationship is a matter of when, not if.

    I think you both need to spend some time thinking about how badly you want to be together and what concessions you’re both willing to make in order to make that happen.

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad someone else said something about learning more about the dynamics of poly relationships. Communication is important to any relationship but ESPECIALLY to poly folks; there is no default set of boundaries to fall back on, each couple must negotiate this themselves.

      LW, before you come to any snap decisions on this, you may want to reach out to some in the Polyamorous/Open Relationship community, explain your position and your ambivalence about the idea of non-monogamy, and see what they have to say. From what I understand they’re typically very understanding, non-judgmental people and are more than happy to help and support those who are just dipping their toes in the water of polyamory or have questions.

      I know I’ve heard of poly couples who are each other’s primary but have a rule in place that they don’t want to know about what their partners are doing with other people, and that can work with the right couple. Are you the right couple for this? You may be leaning one way or the other, but it doesn’t do any harm to talk to people who can pull off this type of relationship, because they can give you a very real idea of what it’s like and what the obstacles or drawbacks are. You may find that talking to them makes the idea more appealing to you, or you may find yourself totally turned off and uncomfortable – either way, that’s okay, it’s your prerogative! In my opinion, though, it’s worth exploring. Leah made some good points about closing the relationship at least temporarily while you iron things out, too.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        A long while ago, there were people on here discussing polyamoury at length and answered appx. 1 million questions I had about it. They were all extremely open and happy to teach. I was very refreshing!

  13. Wendy really hit it on the head here. This type of relationship can work for a lot of people, and also be a nightmare for others. If I were in your shoes, I would just be completely honest with him about these feelings you are having and let him decide.

    So you might say, “Look, I love you and I have completely enjoyed this relationship. I would love for it continue. I understand how you feel about being monogamous, and that is entirely reasonable; I’m just not sure it’s reasonable for me. So, if I said that I wouldn’t be able to continue being with you as a result of that, how might that change things for you??” That puts the ball in his court. If he’s willing to let you go, then there is your answer.

    If he feels as strongly for you as he says he does, he’ll ultimately have to weigh what is more important to him. And you have a right to know what is more important as well. You aren’t those other women, and you’ve been exceptionally open to everything he’s said. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to agree with it or put up with it.

    1. I like this advice. I think that it’s hard to go wrong just being honest with how you are feeling. Your feelings are never wrong, they just are what they are. The right person for you will work with how you feel. Trying to change how you inherently feel about monogamy just because you love someone is a recipe for disaster.

  14. LW, I suspect that based on your letter here that you want to be ok with an open relationship, either because you don’t want to let go of this man (more likely) or because you have intellectualized it in some way (less likely), but you aren’t ok with it on an emotional level and that’s really what all of this boils down to.

    As someone that constantly deals with cognitive dissonance myself, the only advice I can give you is that you should not discount your emotional reluctance to accept the idea. No amount of telling yourself that you can get over this emotional “hang up” will actually make you accept it. Therapy might help you discover the true reason why you don’t accept the idea and it’s valuable for that reason but it’s not going to help you with “getting emotions in line” with what you are thinking. And that is ok. It’s ok to have seemingly “irrational” emotions as long as you are true to yourself and your desires.

  15. landygirl says:

    Meh, if you have to ask then you need to move on.

  16. “He was faithful to his previous wives, but he now believes that his new-found happiness is due to his freedom to love without artificial/institutional restrictions. I think a big part of his current happiness is because he has found someone — me — to share time and love with who is actually a better fit for him.”

    This part right here shows me you don’t really want an open relationship. You don’t even believe him that he does! LW – if you, even a little part of you, is banking on being able to change his mind, then this will NEVER work. MOA and save your heart while you can.

    1. also, can i add that its a little arrogant of her to assume *she* is responsible for this guys general happiness in his life? if his life is happy, its happy for many other reasons then his only 9 month old relationship.

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Sounds like that’s what he’s feeding her though, so it didn’t surprise me that she thinks that.

      2. but even so, as a functioning adult, you should understand that one person does not generate total happiness for another person…

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Oh absolutely. But saying he’s much happier bc of me doesn’t mean he’s only happier bc of me.

      4. No, no, no Katie, it’s all because of her. That’s why she’ll be able to change him and convince him he doesn’t *really* want an open relationship.

  17. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    WWS. And what Bethany said two days in a row now!

    P.S. When I saw this letter, I said to myself, “What the fuck, Wendy? Where are the Friday short cuts? I can’t handle change!” Then I realized it’s only Thursday. What the hell?! I’m so disappointed. How come I never wake up thinking all day it’s Thursday only to realize it’s Friday? That is my deep, rhetorical question for the day. Also, you guyz, there is a condom lost up inside me. Sorry if that’s TMI but am I going to die? Will it come out on it’s own? Will I have contractions and then “give birth” to the condom? I have so many questions. I’m really struggling today. Sorry, LW, I know you have a problem, too.

    1. Nope. It’s lost forever. It’s going to dissolve and enter your blood stream and you are going to be 1% latex for the rest of your life. Sort of like what happens when you swallow gum.

      1. Or, what LK7889 said. hahaha

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I could be Latex Girl for next Halloween (and for life, I guess)!

        Update: I’m going to the doctor’s at 6. Let’s think of it as a scheduled c-section, minus the c-section. … I love my doctor. Any excuse to see her I welcome. I hope everyone has a primary physician they love as much as I love mine. Unless she has to kill me to get it out. That would suck. If she does, someone is going to have to step up to the plate and talk about inappropriate things and that have nothing to do with the letters. Thanks in advance.

      3. Addie:

        For future reference, don’t let him “linger” when you are done. That is how this happened. This happened to me in college. I believe I used my pointer and middle fingers in a scissor fashion. This is not as uncommon as you think, but use back up BC because that condom was not effective.

      4. Also, if/when he notices slippage, STOP and rearrange or it can get wedged up there… not that I’ve had that happen or anything… and it won’t kill you (heck you vagina isn’t even sterile anyway)

        Hope all went well 😉

    2. Sometimes I wake up on Saturday dreading my alarm, only to realize I don’t have work. That’s a pretty sweet feeling!

      Also, AP, condoms don’t get lost! Your cervix blocks it & all you have to do is dig it out. Not to be graphic. (Does it help when I add “not to be graphic”? Probably not…)

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I dunno, I have this fear that it got shoved so far up in der that when I sneeze it’s going to balloon out of one nostril.

    3. lets_be_honest says:

      Can I get your address to send you a receiving blanket for your condom delivery? Or do you have a registry?

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        We’re registered at Binny’s.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        I was really scared to click on that link…

    4. I don’t have an experience with that because I don’t have much experience using condoms at all, but it might be time to get some emergency contraception if you’re not on birth control and not ready to pop out a little textin’ baby. Good luck!

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Well, this, my friend, is why I prefer to stick to the wine method of birth control – you can’t get pregnant if you’ve been drinking wine!

      2. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Tell that to my friend with twins. I dreamt last night that I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I started freaking out to my husband “OMG I’m pregnant again already! I can’t do two babies! I wanted some time to drink first!” (Is it bad that the reason I want a break between kids is that I really want some sweet, sweet drinking time?) But then I realized that I’m still pregnant and obviously I can’t get pregnant while I’m pregnant.

      3. lets_be_honest says:

        Wanting to drink is the only reason I decided to have only 1 child. 😉

    5. Grilledcheesecalliope says:

      AP that happens to me all the time, dig it out or ask texty lover to help you. If you can’t get ityour doctor will. And yes maybe EC is a good idea. Make sure to think loose thoughts.

    6. AP- You’ve gotta dig that out! I know it’s gross, but you can get TSS if you leave it in there too long.

      Also, thanks for the shout out!

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        I tried. He tried. It was a group effort! But no bueno. Also, in the spirt of over sharing, last night after losing the condom, I (oops) clogged my toilet…. My texty lover had to roam Chicago in search for a store that was open and that sold plungers.


      2. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Or a really good night, depending on who you talk to.

    7. kerrycontrary says:

      Addie-One time when I was in college I lost a tampon! I couldn’t find the string. So my college boyfriend had to grab the string for me. How mortifying and gross is that? We were so chummy at the time that neither of us was embarassed, but now I am!

      1. SweetPeaG says:

        I have such a fear of losing a tampon! I used to think it was an irrational fear. Now I know it is totally rational. Oh no!

      2. I always pull in the string before I put one in, just to make sure it’s on there nice and tight!

      3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        That happened to my friend while we were hanging out as young teenagers. I ended up calling my mom and she came over to get it out. I totally forgot about that until now!

        If you squat down as far as you can your vagina gets shorter and you can reach your cervix. Addie- try that!

      4. TMI, but I’m starting to think I have a really short vagina based on these comments. Also, just to terrify you all, I actually cut some of my string off sometimes because it gets all tangled in my underwear & I’m paranoid (in a swimsuit) that it’ll poke out.

      5. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Vaginas come in all different shapes and sizes, just like penises. Thats why what one girl will say is too small, another will say is too big. You just gotta find the one that fits!

    8. Best nonrelated tangent thread in awhile – well done.

      Now how do I find out what happened and whether forceps were needed? Will there be a forum thread tomorrow??

      1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:53 UPDATE: i’m early to the doctor’s. just waiting for the CONDOM REMOVAL PROCEDURE.

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:54 UPDATE: i mean, i’m early for me. “a few minutes before start” = wicked early for me. i’m 10 minutes late everywhere.

      3. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:55 UPDATE: there was a cupcake truck outside so I bought my doctor a cupcake. i wonder if there are rules about accepting cupcakes from patients.

      4. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:56 UPDATE: i think it would be fun to work in a hospital. to get to walk around and see and talk to people all day. how the hell did i end up with a job that makes me sit in a room all by myself all day?!

        i hope this lost condom doesn’t kill me. safe sex is dangerous, people.

      5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:57 UPDATE: if there are rules prohibiting my doctor from accepting my cupcake, i hope she tells me so i can at least keep it and eat it myself. if she throws it away that’ll be $3.17 down the drain!

      6. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        5:59 UPDATE: oh em gee, i get to see my doctor in like a minute! i miss her. i haven’t seen her since… 3 weeks ago. Still.



      7. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        My husband really wants to give our midwife home canned pickles. I swear I am not a hippy.

      8. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        6:04 UPDATE: i’m naked from the waist down, waiting for the doctor to come in….and…. i think to be safe I’ll just keep the cupcake. 😉

      9. It’s 8:04- are you alive?? What happened- you’re going to leave us all hanging? 🙂

      10. Tomorrow’s question for shortcuts: Why do I so desperately need attention when I am allegedly in a blissful new relationship?

      11. Addie Pray says:

        I know, it’s my worst feature, but I’m just programmed that way! So annoying.

        FINAL UPDATE: the condom was removed! Phew. And my doctor devoured the cupcake. 😉

        I should’ve updated earlier but I had to high tail it out of there to meet my BF for dinner. Now I’m up before the butt crack of dawn to finish an agreement that’s due at 10 am. Thank you for all your support and LW sorry about my gross tangent. And Kate, sorry, I just, I just, I just am what you call an extremely extroverted extrovert!

  18. To be honest, I think the things this man has told you about his dead wife should be a huge red flag as to the type of guy he really is when in a relationship. Who talks shit about their spouse after their death? He was relieved by her death? WTF?! Why do you even want to be in a relationship with someone who A) does not want to be in a relationship with you and B) may start to hate you and wish for your death if you dare to get ill while you two are in a relationship?

    I know there are people who are ok with sharing their partner. I am not one of them, but to each his/her own. It sounds like you are not ok with sharing but simply don’t want to lose him. It might be better to just cut your losses now if an open relationship isn’t what you want. And go get tested for STDs immediately, as you don’t know if he’s practicing safe sex with his other partners.

    1. Well she did say they had discussed safe sex practices. Just because he’s choosing to be non-monogamous doesn’t mean that he’s not being safe. Doesn’t mean she shouldn’t get tested for STDs, anyone have sex with multiple partners should. But, seeing as they discussed it I would guess that safe sex is being practiced.

    2. I agree it sounds—on the surface—totally terrible, but it is seriously tough to become a caretaker for an ill spouse. Especially if the bonds of the marriage were tenuous to begin with. If you look it up, there’s many articles & support sites where people talk about feelings of relief once the terminally-ill spouse passes. It’s usually accompanied by feelings of guilt. I mean, this guy could just be insensitive & heartless, but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion.

      1. THANK YOU! I was trying to figure out how to say the same thing – that his relief at her death is, to some extent, understandable. It’s not like he wished death on her, but that after she died, he was able to reclaim parts of his life and himself that had been consumed in their bad relationship and in caregiving.

  19. Just spit out my coffee, thanx Addie! 🙂

    Also, is anyone else just blown away by this guy’s stamina?? He helps take care of 5 kids, maintains a good relationship with the ex wife, makes the LW content, has a good career, and still has time to sleep with other women? Wow. I’m personally impressed.

    1. According to the story this guy has fed the LW he not only has great stamina but he is PERFECT, paragon of virtue,etc.!!! Which in and of itself is a red flag when you really think about it 🙂

  20. LW, I know that you are reeling with emotions with this relationship. I know you enjoy each other and you may make each other mutually happy. Yet your letter sounds like someone in angst over the definition of love and potentially reeling with insecurity over the fact that you may not truly be enough for this guy. LW, forget strategizing with how to keep this guy happy, please ask your independent self, “Are you happy with the kind of person you are when you are with this guy?” If this relationship makes you unhappy with any definition or aspect of your identity, whether it’s a snapshot of you are or the person you will become when you stay with him, then you need to end it. I don’t care if you connect on 99.9% levels with the guy – if that 0.1% is something you truly feel and identify with and compromising on it makes you unhappy, then MOA.

  21. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    It seems like this guy wants less of a polyamorous relationship and more like he just wants to back it up a bit to before you became exclusive. That relationship can work for some people and all the power to them. If you need therapy to see if you can “stomach” that facet of your relationship though, that should tell you that you can’t. You shouldn’t need therapy 9 months in. Also, please don’t ignore that he talks shit about his dead wife. That is bad on so many levels. Even if he tells you that he is confiding in you because thats how deep your relationship is. Yikes.

  22. Liquid Luck says:

    It’s hard to tell from your letter whether you’re uncertain about this situation because you just don’t want to lose your boyfriend by insisting he not see other women, or if you’re unsure because you’ve always just assumed you would be monogamous. If you’re unsure because it’s new territory for you, then it might be worth it to try it out in a more “official” way.

    If you want to give it a try, you need to do non-monogamy your own way, whatever that is. I’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship before, and it worked really well for us. However, we set ground rules and re-communicated about boundaries every couple months to make sure we were still on the same page. These are some of the ground rules we came up with:
    1) We both agreed that our relationship was the number one priority. Any side action could not interfere with our time together.
    2) We agreed that our side dates would be purely physical encounters. If either of us started feeling an emotional attachment to a third party, it was called off. We could also veto specific people that would make us uncomfortable (i.e. coworkers or friends we would see often).
    3) We also decided to have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but we could ask for information about other partners if we wanted to know. However, there were never any specifics given (i.e. positions, number of orgasms, etc). We also agreed to use condoms together and with other partners and to get tested every three months, just in case.
    4) Either of us could call off the arrangement and go back to monogamy at any time, no explanation needed.

    This is what worked for me/us, but you will need to come up with your own ground rules that make you feel comfortable. Ask your boyfriend if he would be willing to consider your terms. If you can’t come to an agreement, then it’s probably best that you both MOA.

  23. tbrucemom says:

    I can understand him not wanting to marry again, at least not for a while, but I don’t think he truly loves the LW. If he did, he wouldn’t want to be with anyone else and couldn’t stand the thought of her being without anyone else either. I’ve been with my BF for 3 years and I’m “older” (51) and was married for 28 years. I’m OK with not being married (at least for now) but I wouldn’t be OK with him seeing other people and I have no desire to be with anyone else so I just don’t get it.

  24. I feel for you LW. I swear to god, every guy I’ve ever been really into NEVER want’s to be monogamous. They’re poison.

    I’m truly starting to think there are WAY more men out there who will never want to be monogamous, and those that are in monogamous relationships start to resent their partner. Women will always, always want monogamy more than men. This is a fact that I’m starting to accept.

    Or I’m cynical and bitter. At 23. Sigh.

  25. laxhaxtax says:

    If you want monogamy and he doesn’t you don’t have a good relationship period. Don’t be desperate and stay with someone who will slowly bring you down. You can’t choose who you love but you can certainly choose how you let them treat you. I think you need to find a man who is committed to only you.
    Simple story…..my brother was happily married and lost his wife. He was very handsome and had women calling him, not the other way around. He told me that for a few months he had sex with a different woman every night and began to hate it. He loved his monogamous life and found another woman to love and never looked back.
    In this era it appears to be a man, or woman, who wants ANYTHING will go for it because they feel are entitled to it even if it hurts someone else. He has been clear about what he is doing so you cannot say you haven’t been warned. I think when people like you write in you want someone to magically fix the problem. Sadly this is your decision. Can you live with a man who cheats on you because in your heart that is what it feels like. Only you know whether you can live with that or not.

  26. Sue Jones says:

    You also have the right to determine, for you, what the “price of admission” into a relationship with you is. Is that monogamy? Is it agreeing to certain rules? That is your “price of admission”, and he has his of course. The key here is whether you can live with each other’s “price of admission” for this relationship to move forward. Because all relationships include some element of compromise.

  27. I don’t think this letter is about polyamory or about non-monogamous committed relationships or anything like that. I think it’s about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you just want it to fit so much. Everyone has been through that, whether with a friendship, with a job, or with a relationship.

    There are some things in life we just have to make work: we may hate our jobs but we can’t find a new one or we need the schedule/benefits/whatever. We may want to move, but not be in a position to do so. The babysitter may annoy us to tears but we may have to put up with her because we can’t find anyone else. And so on.

    But you get to choose relationships. You don’t ever have to “make them work.” We are not talking about a boyfriend or husband who is obsessed with sports when you can’t even watch a game and understand what’s happening, or a partner who develops an annoyingly sixth-grade sense of humor whenever he’s around his buddies. Those things are well worth putting up with when the rest of the package is exactly what you want. But when the two of you have a fundamentally different vision of what a satisfying relationship looks like, you’re selling yourself short if you decide to settle for something that – while neither a better nor worse option than anything else – isn’t what you really want, and won’t really make you happy.

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