“He Won’t Call Me His Lover”

No satisfaction

For the past six months I have been in an open relationship with a much older man who says he really cares about me and finds me to be an important part of his life. We talk almost every day and see each other at least 2-3 times a week. We have gone on weekend trips together and have met each other’s friends and family. To me it feels like a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. However, he is insistent upon not using any “possessive” titles that insinuate exclusivity. We both want to keep the relationship non-exclusive, but we’re not dating other people at the moment. He introduces me to other people by my name and chooses not to exhibit any kind of “claiming” behavior. It’s odd because we frequently display public affection. We decided we are “lovers” and “in an open relationship,” but he doesn’t ever refer to me as his lover or use the word “my.” He knows I am not fond of this choice, but he won’t change his ways. Do I dump him because he’s not proud sharing that we’re together? Or am I blind to his super-progressive approach to relationships? — Just My Name

Your lover doesn’t introduce you to people as his lover because that would be really weird and kind of creepy and totally awkward for everyone because it’s basically announcing that the scope of your relationship is purely, or at the very least mainly, sexual and nobody needs or wants to know all that. And since the scope of your relationship is purely, or at least mainly, sexual, you aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend no matter how many weekend trips you’ve been on or how many friends and family members you’ve met or how often you talk to each other. “Open relationship” and “non-exclusive” are concession titles. They give you the “relationship” you want while granting him the no-strings-attachment that he wants.

You need to be honest with yourself about what kind of relationship you really want and if it’s more than regular sex with someone you like (even someone you care very much about). If you want to be someone’s actual girlfriend, then you also need to be honest with yourself that this isn’t the relationship for you. This man knows what he wants. He’s likely been around the block quite a few times by now and isn’t interested in a committed, monogamous relationship with you. He’s confident enough in that choice, and in what you two share together, that he has absolutely no need or desire to define your relationship and what you mean to each other to anyone else. You, on the other hand, are less confident in what you share together and what your roles are in each other’s lives. And you need to ask yourself why. If you are truly OK with just being his lover, you wouldn’t need or want that title given during casual introductions.


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


  1. Why would you even want to talk about your sex life as an introduction? Be glad he introduces you by name instead of “that girl”.

    1. If you want a full-blown relationship with someone then don’t settle for FWB as a “consolation prize”.

  2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    I would be very uncomfortable if anyone was introduced to me as “my lover Bob”. I mean that’s like saying “Bob, the person I casually have sex with”. I don’t need to know that! That’s between you and Bob!

    1. The name ‘Bob’ doesn’t really inspire great romance in me; I’m sure there are hot ‘Bob’s but that’s not what comes to mind when I think of someone being introduced this way!

      1. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I totally agree. I googled “hot guy named Bob” and a bunch of cat pictures came up…I think that’s pretty telling.

      2. Ha, I honestly ‘lolled’ a little. 🙂

      3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Bob Guiney. Google it. I think he might be a hot Bob!

      4. mmm, not really my type. Bob Dylan was nice looking for a hot second when he was younger, I could’ve eaten him up in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.

      5. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Yeah, this Bob Guiney guy isn’t my type either, but I think he would fall into a lot of people’s “hot”. Bob Vila is def hot.

      6. lets_be_honest says:

        Bob Villa too!

      7. LBH, that is disgusting!

      8. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Bob barker!

      9. I think of Bob the demon from Twin Peaks.

      10. tbrucemom says:

        The irony is that there are lots of hot “Roberts” – Robert Downey Jr., Robert Redford, Robert Pattinson, to name a few. I guess guys named Robert shouldn’t use the nickname Bob if they want to be considered hot!

  3. There’s a reason why the Will Ferrell/Rachel Dratch “lovers” sketch was so hilarious. Introducing someone as your lovahhh makes everyone around you super uncomfy. If you want a man who is willing to claim you as his, go find another man, cause this dude has been pretty open and honest with you. You can decide what he has to offer isn’t enough for you and move on, but you don’t get to accept less than what you want and then be justifiably mad about it.

    1. Yeah, What Jenny Said.
      Introducing someone as your lover is just kinda icky. Unless you’re like 90, then for some reason I find that really amusing.

  4. So this is interesting. I actually think you have a point since non-exclusivity doesn’t imply that your relationship is unimportant. And I would argue that saying stuff like “this is my girlfriend” is very different from making a claim on a person. Commitment and exclusivity are simply two different dimensions, and anyone with progressive views should see that. That said, it sounds like he’s not willing to see you as his girlfriend, exclusive or not. And he won’t introduce you as such. If you don’t like that, then absolutely dump him. His view of things is not more progressive than yours, but just different.

    1. I’ll also say that even though I see the awkwardness of introducing someone as one’s “lover” I actually think the taboo on merely sexual relationships is sort of funny in a way. I mean, why is it awkward if people know that the main aspect of a relationship is sexual, but it’s not awkward if it’s sexual among other things (which can usually be assumed with bfs/gfs)?

      1. Because puritan values. Which I’m conditioned by, I’d be a bit squicked out if someone said ‘here’s my lover Bob’. I’d immediately start imagining them doing naughty things together, for some reason with BBQ sauce.

        You raise a valid point though, and something I was thinking… like, why is it a bad thing to be non-exclusive with someone but still want people to know that you are together? Maybe this is an example of someone wanting more from the relationship but what about the question as well?

        What could you call them?

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I’m not sure if I can write this out in an understandable way…this couple sounds like non-exclusive FWB, then there is also like non-exclusive couples, exclusive couples, open committed relationships, a million others. So, like IMO there isn’t a “together” other than sexually? Which I don’t know that I think that needs a label. But then again people should be able to label/define their own relationships how ever they please so…
        Maybe what I’m trying to say is there is a “label” for this, it’s friends with benefits.

      3. Yeah but there’s no ‘public’ sharing of that… Or maybe there should be? I don’t know, then we’re back to Lovah Bob and his BBQ sauce which makes me shudder.
        I guess what I’m asking is there a way to indicate that you are boning without spelling it out to people? What if you’re out with your FWB and your with their friends, wouldn’t you like to be somehow… known as more than a friend?
        Or not, maybe not. I don’t know. ???? I should go read some anthropology if I’m going to make my head hurt like this.

      4. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Yeah, I mean I guess that’s up for the FWB to decide. I think close friends often would know there is the sexual aspect too…and acquaintances don’t need to know? Haha, yeah this is making my head hurt.
        One could be all creepy and say “this is my friend Bob, wink wink”

      5. YES! ‘This is my friend Bob and we’ve been sploshing like crazy! Man’s got some serious BBQ going on!’

      6. lets_be_honest says:

        You’re making me want ribs for lunch.
        The Nookster’s on a roll! (get it? a roll? with bbq sauce? haha)

      7. jake made ribs this weekend. they were delicious!

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        jake makes everything. stop bragging!
        mmmm, ribs!

      9. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        We had ribs and potato salad this weekend too. So yummy!

      10. I am on FIRE, like a BBQ!

      11. I suppose now you need a hunky shirtless firefighter…

      12. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I miss BBQ sauce. It’s just not good on veggies.

      13. You can put BBQ sauce on veggie burgers or marinate tofu in it. I’m assuming you’re now a vegetarian.

      14. Have you gone veggie??

      15. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        Pescatarian mostly. I haven’t ventured into the tofu world yet, and we try to avoid processed foods so veggie burgers are out. I did make some homemade black bean/quinoa/kale burgers that where pretty good. I could probably put bbq sauce on that.

      16. snoopy128 says:

        She makes amazing veggie burgers (different varietys- beans, quinoa ones etc etc)

      17. lets_be_honest says:

        I had a fairly long term FWB and I never introduced him as more than my friend so and so. I mean, my friends knew we were sleeping together, but other than that, I never cared/wanted people to know we were FWBs. There was no reason to make that known. Curious how others have handled this.

      18. lets_be_honest says:

        Oh I just thought of something. We were at his apartment and he had a bunch of friends over once and we were all going to a bar together, but the friends went before us and we stayed behind for a bit. When we got there, a friend I guess knew what we were doing and winked or something and it was SO uncomfortable. So yea, I would not get why anyone would want other people to know about who you’re banging.

      19. I’m the same, and it does sound like the LW wants more than the FWB label. The bit about weekends away and what not, she might want more. Maybe it’s about context?
        I took this guy to a party once and a lot of my friends came up to me while he was in the toilet to ask if we were shagging. I had to say ‘No, I couldn’t shake the bastard after our bad date!’ Ugh.

      20. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        GGuy and I started in the FWB range. We where exclusive though, but still not like “a couple” (does that make sense?). We didn’t use labels, and I never felt the need to clarify our “status” to anyone else. But yeah, I think people just know or don’t need to know if it’s a FWB.

      21. So, in my “FWB” situation, we just introduced one another as “ktfran” and “best sex ever.” But EVERYONE knew we were together. The bartenders at our regular bar, our friends, people we just met.

      22. I was in the same situation as you- long term FWB, his friends knew what was up, my friends knew what was up. He was always just introduced by his name, and it wasn’t a big deal.

      23. Oh, and we were “exclusive” FWB’s for like 8 or 9 months, and we still just used names.

      24. tbrucemom says:

        I think FWB is a title a lot of people use when they’re together and not seeing anyone else but haven’t evolved to the GF/BF stage yet. For some reason I think FWB are usually exclusive, I don’t know why. I guess its just because I’m a little old fashioned and can’t envision having sex with more than one person at a time and it’s different then a one night stand, or just banging someone. You’re friends which means you like and care about each other and do other things besides have sex. At some point I think you usually progress to being more serious or revert back to being just friends because one of you meets someone else.

      25. Yeah, that makes sense. I wouldn’t use any label in this situation either. The problem probably is that she really wants the girlfriend label, but reverted to “lover” when he didn’t want to use that.

      26. lets_be_honest says:

        That’s called sploshing, Nookie (sex with food involved). I watched a documentary on it once.
        Anyway, do you ever find yourself imagining that even without someone saying they are lovers? That’s weird, right?

      27. Sploshing, I like it. I’m going to use it next time I meet a new couple, I’m going to say ‘are you official? Or sploshing?’ And then just flounce off while they’re trying to figure out what I’m talking about.
        I have to say I try not to think about my friends boning. I wish I could think of something funny to say about that.

      28. because with other labels there is the sanctity of commitment and hopefully marriage (someday if not at that moment)- and that is what makes it ok.

    2. although i agree with you, that “this is my girlfriend” doesnt necessarily mean commitment ect, i can think of a good reason why he wouldnt want to use it: it means commitment to everyone else. so imagine that he introduces his “girlfriend” to someone, and then that someone sees him out with another woman. now he is a cheating man whore, that someone might start telling other people, they might try to “inform” the girlfriend about it ect, and so if i was in this guys position i would also not want any labels.

      1. Yeah, that is a very good point!

  5. WWS!
    LW, I’ve been exactly where you are. You’re in that place where you’re more than FWB’s, but you’re not actually dating. It’s a weird position to be in because it’s kind of an illusion. You do everything “couples” do, but with no commitment. And you’re likely not going to get that commitment, because if he wanted it, you would be there.
    This kind of situation is completely OK if both parties are amenable, but if one is not, then it won’t work long-term. It took me a lot longer than it should have to figure out that I wanted more, especially when the sex was so great. I mean seriously, I didn’t even care for sex until him.
    So, if you want an exclusive relationship, I would MOA, like yesterday.
    Also, this relationship I had, which looks a lot like yours, was why I started therapy.

  6. Do you really want to be non-exclusive? Because reading your letter it kind of sounds like you’re not entirely happy here. And what is ‘claiming’ behavior? Using terms to introduce the other person? I wouldn’t dump him because he’s not proud of your relationship. You should dump him because you’re not happy.

  7. lets_be_honest says:

    It always bugs me when my boyfriend doesn’t introduce me as the girl he bent over last night. He should be proud of that, ffs!
    WWS 🙂

    1. I like that! I’d like people to do the Carson intro for me…. ‘HERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRE’S NOOKIE’!

  8. Curious what the “open” part of this liaison entails, LW. Is it open for him and maybe you don’t really avail yourself of the wonder and enjoyment of open? If not, I think you should: go out on other dates and sleepovers, take other trips, meet other friends and family and don’t over-focus or over-expect on one person. After all, it is very likely that he is squiring others around and doing all the things with them that he does with you so why the need to have him acknowledge your position? Your position is the person who’s next to him right now. Voila the joy of open, eh?

  9. Most people don’t equate non-exclusivity with labels. I guess the word lover can be used with it, but like others have said, it’s not likely to be taken seriously if you use it in front of other people. I imagine that a person who doesn’t want to be exclusive is not going to want a label because it implies claim that either will deter other dating prospects or simply appears too possessive for that sort of relationship. If you’re otherwise fine with what you’ve got, I’d drop it.

  10. Laura Hope says:

    Nookie– BBQ sauce?! Takes treating someone like a “piece of meat” to whole new level! Do not serve right out of frig.

    1. BRRRRRR that be some cold sticky sauce! I don’t know, I equate the name ‘Bob’ with ‘BBQ’. Which is fine, I love BBQ! Hooray for Bob!
      But I must confess I can’t imagine wanting to try Bob’s ‘special sauce’.

  11. If I were at a party, and a man introduced the girl next to him as his lover, there’d be a few seconds of stunned, awkward silence, and then I’d burst out laughing. Because it’s supremely icky, and kind of ridiculous.

    Seriously? You want to be introduced to his friends, family and coworkers as the girl he’s banging?

    You are friends. With benefits. But you don’t say the ‘benefits’ part in an introduction. Well, not if you have any manners.

    If he introduces you as his friend, that’s ‘claiming behavior’ (barf) enough. If you then proceed to paw each other in public, people will infer that you are having sex. You don’t need to make an announcement.

    1. Yeah, that’s what I ‘really’ thought. I introduce my longterm partner by his name, that’s it. And then we make fun of each other and giggle like loons until it’s time to go home. I think that spells it out to people enough, I would actually find it rather alarming if he went around a party saying ‘HARK, THERE IS MY GIRLFRIEND!’

      1. lets_be_honest says:

        Points for the use of HARK.

      2. Thanks, it’s been awhile since I got to bust it out. 🙂

      3. Even more alarming if accompanied by a renaissance herald. (Which is what I picture whenever anyone says “hark”.)

      4. Without the herald, it’s barely worth mentioning. I mean really.

      5. Of course – because without said herald the whole thing would be foolish.

      6. Avatar photo lemongrass says:


  12. Laura Hope says:

    Nookie– I can’t stop laughing. That is freakin funny.

    1. awww thanks.. I just like making people laugh, it makes me smile too.

  13. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

    I would like to know who “we” was that decided that you were non-exclusive and in a secret open-relationship. This works for some people but it doesn’t sound like it’s working for you. It sounds like you want to be in a committed relationship, he doesn’t and you accept the scraps of what he offered you and now want advice on how to make him commit more than he agreed to. See how this doesn’t seem healthy? If you were truly okay with your arrangement then you wouldn’t want him to step it up a notch. If you’re not, and I think that is the case then stop settling. This guy isn’t going to give you any more than he says he would, take him at his word.

  14. LW, you should ask yourself what is actually bothering you about this relationship. If it’s really that he won’t refer to you with a possessive pronoun, you are just borrowing trouble (and being petty). I strongly suspect there’s something larger at issue here.

  15. the term “my lover” in the regional accent where I’m from is an affectionate term you might use for children or younger relatives as in “oh (name) me lover, how are you today?” when meeting a baby, to me that is the only context in which lover is not a super creepy thing and even then it’s kinda creepy when it isn’t being said by your grandmother or something. And if an older man said it about a younger woman to try to black out the creepy I would probably assume he was her uncle using pet names far beyond a time when they’re appropriate
    I think Wendy is right, the LW needs to reassess how comfortable and confident she is with this arrangement and why they need to label it so badly

  16. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

    I don’t like the term “fiance” and “lover” is too silly, so when I introduce Llama Guy to people I say “this is the guy I’ll be DOING IT with exclusively for the rest of my life”. It lets people know exactly where he and I are in our relationship.

  17. Painted_lady says:

    I have a derby friend who refers to everyone’s SO’s, including her own, as their “lover.” It cracks me up, and the first time she did it, I really don’t guess I knew for sure she was joking. Anyway, aside from it being a little creepy that you’re basically being introduced to perfect strangers on what everyone will assume is sexual terms, everyone’s going to assume that he’s joking around and laugh at that term.
    Also, I don’t think there’s anything inherently shameful in a purely sexual relationship, but it’s inconsiderate and presumptuous to an extreme degree to assume that people want to be let in on the details of your sex life. Which is what you’re doing when you use a term like that. It’s sort of like someone who puts nude/overtly sexual photos in their home. There’s nothing wrong with taking pictures like that, but I’m not a huge fan of seeing them when I’ve just come over for a cookout. (Also, this is a true story. I have a friend whose husband took nude photos of her and they’re blown up huge and hanging over the couch. I feel violated every time I come over).

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Oh god I have a friend who has a huge portrait that you see right when you walk in her front door of her and her husband holding their newborn…all nude. Its only chest up and she’s covered by the baby, but its like BAM! in your face. I don’t want to see your topless, hairy husband.
      Also, my stepmother has a full nude drawing of herself in her bedroom and, really, stop calling me up to your room. I don’t want to see my dad’s wife naked.

      1. Wow… I applaud people being happy in their own skin but that’s a little TMI for my tastes.

      2. lets_be_honest says:

        Yea, I guess the good news is is that Lil will never cringe at nude pictures?

      3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        Never say never.

      4. mmm, I bet she will all the same. Especially since it’s like her grandmammy she’s seen in those!

      5. I have a collection of female nude drawings on my bedroom wall. They used to be in my pole dance practice space, where they made a bit more sense (and that was a very private, no-guests space) but when I moved, I lost that separate area, but didn’t want to put them away. They’re not people I know – they actually come from some “How to Draw Figures” books that belonged to my grandfather, and they’re very tasteful.
        But I’m just curious what the maintenance man will think when he comes to fix my broken closet door.

      6. lets_be_honest says:

        Yea, I feel like this is a bit different/more ok? They aren’t of you, and your granddaughter doesn’t have to see your nipples in charcoal every time she comes over haha.

      7. I feel very very weird having any photos of myself on display around my place, even clothed and decent. Wedding photos were one thing when they were relevant, but I don’t want to decorate my place with myself. I’d feel surrounded.

      8. lets_be_honest says:

        I’m the same way! I have pictures of tons of people on display, but never with me in them. I got a little carried away with pictures of Lil til my brother pointed out it was looking like a shrine. Haha. I’ve gotten better.

    2. She must feel really awkward having anybody in her family (and for that matter his too) come over.

    3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Yes to your second paragraph. You’ve said that so well, and so much better than I could articulate.

  18. LW, I’m pretty sure when this “much older” man introduces you to his friends, they get the idea that you’re not just his friend.

    1. Avatar photo fast eddie says:

      The age difference may be the root of the issue. It’s easy to imagine that a much younger woman is exciting but over time their tastes for things other then sex will most likely be divisive. He seems to realize that and is giving her space to connect with someone that would be a better match for the long haul. I think that realistic and noble of him. In the meantime enjoy the moment.

  19. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    I haven’t read the letter – just the headline – and I’d like everyone to start calling me “My Lover” too.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Ok, read the letter and the response! WWS. Also, “We both want to keep the relationship non-exclusive,” says the LW, but I call BULLSHIT!
      Also, I still want everyone to start calling me “My Lover” except rather I want to hear “Me Lover.” Like “Me Lady,” but “Me Lover.” Many thanks.

      1. That sounds kind of Irish to me. ‘Och, there be me lover and a fine lover she be.’

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        YES! That’s how I wish everyone would refer to me. Le sigh.

      3. Bless her and all that sail in her!

      4. Stonegypsy says:

        That’s going to be my new euphemism for sex. “Oh man, I’d let him sail in me any day of the week.”

  20. Bittergaymark says:

    Gays have a much better handle if this sort if thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve happily been trotted out at big social events with: “Met Mark yet?He’s my nonexclusive, otherwise super important blowjob swapper…”

    1. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      This is amazing. You just made my day.

    2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Maybe Wendy needs to put that on a mug.

  21. I think he just wants to have sex with you and nothing more. He’s not even willing to attach any sort of commitment term starting with “my” to you. If you want that then don’t be ashamed and just move on. Or stay in this relationship while it’s still good but keep your eyes open for what you actually want. As he said, you guys aren’t committed. If a guy comes alongand you are interested in him you are free to pursue. If it gets to the point where you start feeling negative and antsy and really just want him to call you something, then you need to break it off. Becuase I’m sorry to say it seems like it’s just about the sex for him.

  22. snoopy128 says:

    These comments are making my morning. Thanks for making it worthwhile to get out of bed and come to work. 🙂

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      I whisper that to DW on my computer screen every workday at 4:59 pm.

  23. Blackwood says:

    I thought once you were past the age of 25, you’ve already manage to assimilate the fact that “I like/love you, but I’m a free spirit, etc.” actually means “I want all the benefits of a serious relationship without ever having to commit to one”. But then this LW doesn’t say how old she is. Just my 2 cents.

  24. Stonegypsy says:

    So, I’m going to disagree with a lot of people here and say it’s clearly not solely about sex for him (“We talk almost every day and see each other at least 2-3 times a week. We have gone on weekend trips together and have met each other’s friends and family” — that’s not a simple FWB, and he wouldn’t put in that much effort if it was solely about sex).
    Some people, especially people who are strictly non-monogamous, are simply not into possessive labels. It doesn’t mean the relationship means less to them, they just don’t like to rank their partners on that scale.
    This was a really good blog post along these lines that I would recommend reading –

    What I would like to agree with everyone else about here is this – it sounds like you’re not happy, and I highly doubt a simple label is the root cause there. Are you seeking more commitment, exclusivity? Take a week off from your not-boyfriend and do some introspection – what exactly do you want out of a relationship? If you’re not getting it, whatever it is, and he’s not willing to give it to you, then you should move on and find someone who can.
    If you really are happy, and it’s just the label thing that’s bothering you (seriously, though, don’t lie to yourself about this), I think you should let it go. What he calls you to other people is not really that important. The effort that he makes to see you and talk to you is a better measure of your relationship.

  25. Just My Name says:

    Hello, good day! Thank you everyone, especially Wendy!, for bringing valuable input to the conversation. Well, yesterday we spent the whole day together, going on a hike then laying in the grass talking about our relationship. Then we went out for dinner, took a bath, and fell asleep (no sex!). Despite the strife I went through confused about our status, I see our label-less non-claiming, non-exclusive relationship as quite progressive. We’re not FWB, we’re not bf/gf. We’re outside of that. And undeniably there is love. AND we are both doing what we want, not trying to control each other or deny our own needs. Since having written to Wendy, I’ve come to see the label-less-ness of it as something to embrace, as a challenge in my human revolution. Yes, he’s been around the block and knows what he wants–he’s 50, and yes, he doesn’t have any need to explain his personal relationships to the public…unlike me, who is doe-eyed and 25, yet to experience the bulk of her relationship journey. I consider myself capable and mature in relationship, but I also have a lot to learn and understand about myself. Yes, for the future I do want more expressions of love and unabashed confidence claiming one another. For us though, for now, I’m quite happy. We get along surprisingly well, share versatile experiences together, and find each other irresistible.

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