Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend Wants to Open Our Relationship But I Don’t Want To”

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years and we’re now trying to find a place to move into together. The other day he mentioned how he’s been thinking that he wants to be polyamorous, and he asked how I felt about it. I immediately said I don’t know and would think about it. But my gut reaction is that I’m not okay with that. I’m a fairly insecure person and feel like I would be jealous and feel inadequate if he were to commit to other women and I just feel like I’m a monogamous type. The thing is, this seems to be pretty important for him. I asked him what if I said no, and he said it was possible that it could end our relationship.I love this guy more than anyone I’ve loved before. I can’t imagine losing him. However, I don’t want to say yes and be unhappy in my relationship. But I don’t want to say no and then lose him. I feel like “don’t knock it till you try it” could apply, but I know I don’t even want to try it. It’s just not me.

He never mentioned wanting to be polyamorous or have an open relationship when we first started dating and only mentioned it after we had been together for around a year, so I feel like it’s kind of unfair for him to spring this on me so deep into our relationship when I feel like that’s something you mention early on (but it also seems like this might be a new revelation for him too). I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and can’t keep saying “I’ll think about it” forever. — Just Monogamy, Thanks

You have to be true to yourself, especially in a relationship. It’s perfectly fine that you are not open to polyamory, and now that you’ve “thought about it” and have realized that you have zero interest, you need to tell your boyfriend. Yes, you might lose him, and that would hurt, but the alternative is that you stay with a guy in a relationship that completely does not work for you, and that’s terrible.

As for your boyfriend not mentioning before now that he was interested in polyamory or an open relationship, that’s pretty normal. Lots of people don’t realize that that’s something they’d be interested in until they’re “deep in a relationship,” as you say. At least you aren’t married yet and you don’t have children. His springing this on you could be a lot more complicated than it actually is. You haven’t even moved in together yet.

The other possibility is that these steps you’ve been taking toward making your relationship more committed has your boyfriend thinking about the long-term picture in a way he wasn’t before. The two-year mark — and certainly moving in together — are fairly significant milestones in a relationship. He may be feeling some commitment phobia or he may simply be realizing that what you’ve had for the past couple years isn’t going to be enough for him long-term. Opening your relationship may be a way for him to explore adding “more” to his life without losing you. And in the end, he could decide that it wasn’t that he wanted “more” necessarily; it was that he no longer wanted you. And wouldn’t you feel terrible having tried a lifestyle you have no interest in in a bid to hang on to a boyfriend you didn’t want to lose, only to lose him anyway? And what if you don’t lose him? What if you try opening your relationship and he loves it and he absolutely wants to keep you in the mix? Then you’re in a relationship with a boyfriend you share with other women, and that’s not what you want.

Your boyfriend doesn’t sound all that afraid of losing you, to be honest. He’s told you point-blank that your rejection of polyamory may be the end of your relationship. I think you need to tell him that his rejection of monogamy would definitely be the end of your relationship — no maybe about it. If that doesn’t scare him, your relationship wasn’t going to last anyway.

When my husband and I go out (usually to a social function where alcohol is involved) I always end up mad at him. Usually, this is because I feel he has left me on my own with a room full of strangers, and while he constantly looks for attention from other, mostly much younger, women. I know he loves me and our family very much and would never do anything (at least not in good judgment) to jeopardize our relationship or family, so why do I get jealous and angry? Is it because I’m getting old and insecure? People like me, too, , and I can generally have a good time and find people to chat with at a party, but something triggers these feelings and I don’t know why. It has to stop. I don’t like when I behave like this and it’s not fair to my husband. He does attend a lot of events through work and he does tend to drink a lot at these. And he is usually the last one to leave any party or social event, coming home at 3 or 4 in the morning. I tell myself that that is why I’m angry, that his behavior is maybe affecting  my self-esteem. What do you think?— Insecure

I’m a little confused. You say your husband ignores you at parties, drinks a lot, and then comes home at 3 or 4 in the morning, but when do you go home? Are you leaving before him? Are there parties and functions he goes to without you and is that what you are referencing, and if so, how do you know how he’s behaving when you’re not there? And are you simply upset that he’s coming home late? Or that he’s drinking a lot? (By the way, I hope he is not driving after drinking so much! And if he is, you need to demand that he not drink and drive because that is not tolerable… or legal!).

Despite the specific details that are a little confusing, what is clear is that you seem to have self-esteem issues that you are projecting on your husband. You don’t like this about yourself, and you want to change. You wonder if your issues are tied to getting older, and I don’t know, maybe they are? Are you taking care of yourself, physically? Eating well, getting lots of sleep, exercising, grooming/presenting yourself in way that boosts your confidence? If not, start there. I’d also suggest spending time with your husband just the two of you if you aren’t already doing that. If the only time you’re getting out together is to go to some social function where your husband is easily distracted and you feel “left alone,” you clearly aren’t getting much of his attention, you aren’t connecting, and you aren’t tending to your relationship, which obviously needs some tending to. You two need to make spending time together a priority. Go on dates. You don’t even need to spend much money — here are 52 cheap date ideas. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Laugh with each other. Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Remind him what he loves about you.

If committing to these things still doesn’t help you feel less angry and insecure, maybe the problem is your husband’s drinking, or maybe you don’t trust him as much as you say you do. In that case, I’d suggest couples counseling to help you get back on track and to address a potential drinking problem.

Related: “My Husband Flirted With Another Woman at His High School Reunion” and Six Reasons to Try Polyamory.

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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.

15 comments… add one
  • avatar

    LisforLeslie July 2, 2018, 10:37 am

    LW #1 – WWS – don’t set yourself up for failure. If after a short consideration you’ve confirmed poly-life isn’t for you – don’t try it. You don’t have to have reasons other than “Don’t wanna do it.” There are plenty of activities and things in this world that you don’t have to justify: Going to North Dakota. Eating a live baby octopus. Driving in New York city. Living with your in-laws. This is one of them.

    LW#2 – are you mad because your husband is drinking and flirting? Is he actually flirting or are you viewing it through your insecurity lens? I’m not doubting you so much as thinking about stories where if a partner is jealous, every interaction is viewed as flirting (e.g. “You said hello to the cashier! You want to date the cashier! Why do you flirt in front of me?) If he’s working the room -then he may be no more or no less chatty with everyone but you focus on the young women.

    Do you trust him? If no, then marriage counseling.
    If yes, then individual therapy to figure out how to manage your issues.

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  • avatar

    Northern Star July 2, 2018, 10:53 am

    LW 1: Your relationship is now over. Your boyfriend has told you point-blank that unless you let him have sex with other people, he’s gone. So, you need to think about how you want to live your best life now—without him. He’s already out the door.

    LW 2: Maybe you’re conflating some things that legitimately are irritating and your husband can/should change (drinking to excess and stumbling home around 3 or 4 AM) with some things that are basically normal (talking to people at a party). If you’re addressing NOTHING, then EVERYTHING will bother you.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 2, 2018, 10:56 am

    LW1 There is no good reason for you to get into polyamory in this situation. If it was something you wanted to do that would be different but doing it just to keep your boyfriend from breaking up isn’t a good reason. An ultimatum like this is a dealbreaker if you can’t happily live with it.

    Don’t move in with him because this relationship is probably not going to last much longer. Keep your own place so that when the relationship implodes you don’t have to find a new place to live.

    I think that when someone springs this on you and it wasn’t who they were before they often have someone in mind that they want to have a relationship with but they don’t want to break up while exploring that other relationship. I’m sure that isn’t true of everyone but it is something I’d keep in mind. I’d ask him point blank if he has met someone he’s like to include in a polyamorous relationship.

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  • avatar

    JD July 2, 2018, 11:01 am

    I agree with both responses. LW1: no you don’t want to be without him but if this is what he needs it won’t work for you. That ok! It’s not the most common thing and plenty of people wouldn’t like it, and many would. You just aren’t one that would. That’s fine. You need to be happy with your relationship. Not just stay and cope because you are afraid.

    LW2: yes I see a lot of insecurity here. First you say he leaves you alone but then you say you are social and can chat with people. I personally don’t get offended when women talk to my husband. If he was flirting ya it would bother me but good for her thinking my husband is hot. Me too! Sometimes you need to go be social and not be attached at the hip. We go out and have our fun nights now and then and I’ll talk to people, he will, etc. Frankly if we didn’t we’d both be bored. Sometimes you need to socialize and talk to someone other than your spouse. Sometimes I’ll go up to him and say “hey can you hang out with me for a while” and somwtimes he does the same. Other times he plays pool and I chat with people and that’s fine too. I think there just needs to be communication you both feel comfortable with in these situations. Feeling comfortable saying just what I just said and vice verse.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom July 2, 2018, 11:16 am

    LW2 I think it makes a difference whether your husband is talking to everyone or if he is specifically spending most of his time talking to and flirting with younger women. If he is just focusing on getting attention from younger women that says something about him searching for validation of some sort, like assuring himself that young women still find him attractive, that he could get a young woman if he wanted to, etc. If he spends the evening flirting with younger women I wouldn’t be surprised if he creeps them out because most young women don’t like older, married men hitting on them. Do the young women like the attention or do they appear to be trying to move away from him?

    I think that in general when a couple goes to a party they go through a mix of being together and apart and together and apart. If you never have the together part of the mix then I could see that being a problem. I think there is something important to intimacy in keeping in touch, even at a party. The shared thoughts about the people who are there. The quite conversation where you tell each other things you probably wouldn’t tell anyone else. It could be about the food or the people or the temperature of the room or how two people aren’t getting along or two people seem to be hitting it off. The sharing is what creates and keeps intimacy. If that isn’t happening I can see that you would feel lonely in a crowd of people even while interacting with those people.

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  • avatar

    000 July 2, 2018, 1:22 pm

    I’m surprised by the answer to LW2. Her husband “constantly looks for attention from other, mostly much younger, women”? He wouldn’t do anything “at least, not in good judgment”–but his judgment is frequently impaired because he drinks so much! My take was that he’s being inappropriate, and likely cheating too–not that she needs to make sure she’s keeping herself up or work on her insecurity.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse July 2, 2018, 1:50 pm

    I think it sounds more like he wants to break up but not want to be the bad guy. He doesn’t sound afraid of losing you, and he effectively gave you an ultimatum “open sex or the probable end of our relationship.” This is the time to stop looking for places with him and think about what YOU want. Polyamory isn’t what you want. Don’t be suckered into a losing situation for yourself.

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  • avatar

    carolann July 2, 2018, 2:00 pm

    LW1-If one person wants an open relationship and the other doesn’t, it NEVER works out. Just move on and find someone who wants only you. You deserve that. I could never be in a “poly” relationship. I think it is icky and weird and defeats the purpose of being committed in the first place, but to each their own as long as I am not involved.
    LW2- I would be concerned with his drinking (possibly driving) and coming home late alone. Having a drinking problem is progressive and his flirtation with someone at a party (which could turn very bad at some point if he is drunk, so you are right to be uncomfortable with it) it could eventually go bad even if he didn’t really intend for it to. Sounds like he needs to work on his drinking issues. It is one thing to go to a party with your wife and be social, it is another thing to stay after your wife leaves, be the last to leave and come home (I would assume wasted.) at 3-4 am. He needs to learn some self control. (I am one of those people who can’t have just one or two. Your husband is obviously one of those also. I got myself into a questionable situation or two before, which is why I don’t drink anymore) This is a recipe for disaster.

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  • avatar

    brise July 2, 2018, 3:17 pm

    LW1: I don’t like that your boyfriend is shifting responsibility to end the relationship on you. He has problems with commitment or is probably fantasising about other women, but he makes it so that YOU should decide wether you accept his having sex with other women? That is gross. Wendy’s answer is very good. you must be the one to say: this is a monogamous relationship or you are gone (not the opposite). Anyway, I wouldn’t look for places as a couple. Often, the search of a new place triggers challenges of the relationship, confuse wish of independence, which don’t get explicit. This happened to me too: the relationship didn’t survive it. Some guys are afraid of commitment and will say anything to defy it. Hold your line: he goes in or out. His choice, not yours. Be firm: he will be positively impressed. If you yield: you will lose so much more than your dignity. Your integrity.
    LW2: I think his behavior does jeopardize the relationship. He needs to calm down (I would consider cheating as a real possibility). You both go through a middle life crisis, both in your different and co-dependent way. Try to talk of it honestly together. He should take your feelings into account.

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  • norabb

    Norabb July 2, 2018, 3:28 pm

    Thank you Wendy for the compassionate response to Lw1. A lot of people are very dismissive of these situations, and you addressed the nuances perfectly. Theres a lot of misinformation out there, mainly due to people who felt coerced into an open situation and are rightfully scarred by it.
    I’m polyam myself, started about 2 years into our relationship, and it works for me and my partner, but it’s not for everyone. You can’t force yourself to be non monogamous if you really feel a gut instinct that you couldn’t do it.
    For me, I can’t be monogamous. Mypartner was very open to it, and our love has grown because there is a new level of trust and honesty involved in opening up. But not everyone is like that. WWS, think it over, talk with him about it. Listen to your inner voice. But if it’s a dealbreaker, that’s okay too.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros July 2, 2018, 7:49 pm

    LW1: I know you don’t want to lose him, but it sounds like you two are starting to want two separate things. A person can’t force themselves to want to be polyamorous and a person can’t force themselves to be monogamous if they don’t want to. Ultimately, things are going to unravel if either person tries to be something they aren’t. It’s probably just time to move on.

    LW2: I’m having a hard time understanding the situation. I feel like you’re listing a lot of things you don’t like, but it’s hard to follow what the main problem is. Generally, if someone doesn’t like mingling at a party, then the answers tend to be either to learn to get better at it or don’t go to parties that you clearly don’t want to be at. But then you imply that the issue is also that he comes home late, flirts, and you mention the drinking, so maybe that he drinks to much? It’s really hard to tell. But if those things are issues, then obviously not going to parties or learning to mingle isn’t going to help. At the same time, there’s not enough detail to know exactly how much is him being inappropriate and how much is you feeling jealous.

    I think you need to look at what the core problem is because usually when it’s this complicated, there is a larger, overarching problem than just a party or whatever. Do you think he’s cheating? Do you feel like he doesn’t value you? How is your relationship outside of parties? Do you think he drinks too much?

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  • avatar

    ron July 3, 2018, 11:42 am

    LW1 —
    He’s going to, in fact he probably already has, opened your relationship, whether or not you agree. He just wants your approval so you can’t accuse him of cheating. If you want monogamy, this isn’t your guy. You may like other aspects of him, even love him, but he isn’t your guy and you need to MOA. Do you really think he’ll accept your ‘no’ as a binding answer. No, of course not, he’ll just cheat.

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  • avatar

    Oracle July 3, 2018, 1:47 pm

    LW1 Let me translate guy speak for you. I have decided that I want to sleep around (I already am but that is besides the point and there is this really hot girl I am interested in). I know you are really into me and you have proven you will put up with just about anything to have me around. After all I am so handsome and am quite the catch. I would like to have you move into an apartment with me. I like having sex any time I want it (after all some nights I just do not feel like going out to get laid) and I am not that much into doing household cleaning. I know I make more than you but we still should split everything 50-50 (with you doing all the chores). I am letting you know about this “open” relationship because I do not want to hear any complaints when I do not come home or when I come home at 3 or 4 in the morning. And no complaints either if I happen to give you an STD. I know I do not have to worry about you finding other guys to sleep with because you are just not into that.

    You want to know why you are insecure? Its because you are not loved and are not cherished by this guy. Dump his ass.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom July 3, 2018, 2:29 pm

      I think you’ve got it. He wants permission to sleep around, probably already at least has someone in mind if not already doing so, and thinks the LW won’t do the same because she is monogamous.

      LW I think you should say no it doesn’t work for you and breakup. But, if you don’t want to do that I think you should tell him you won’t be moving in together because if the two of you decide to be polyamorous you will want your own place to take guys back to and it would be awkward to do that if you two were living together. Then say that you just want to double check with him that he is really wanting to do polyamory before you get onto some dating apps. “That really is what you want to do, right?”

      I think he assumes he would be having lots of sex and you would be waiting around for him at home. Do not wait around for him at home. If this doesn’t work for you break up but it wouldn’t hurt to see his reaction to the thought of you taking guys back to your place.

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    • avatar

      RedBlue July 3, 2018, 2:47 pm

      I think you are correct. Those few that I know who are non monogamous, it always seems to start the same way.

      If he hasn’t already cut a fully from the herd, he’s probably been in the barn trying on saddles.

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