21 May 2002

Open Relationships

“I really love you, baby.
You’re such a great partner, and sex with you is so incredible. But, you know…
I really like that guy and… I’d like to be with him… I mean, just for sex.
But don’t worry, after all, you know that you’re still my baby – the only

Équipe -Pose ta question!-


Have you ever heard anything like that? It sounds like an “enough to cause a break-up” speech from a shameless guy to his partner. But, believe it or not, these were the words that a friend of mine once told his boyfriend with whom he has been in an open relationship for the past seven years.

I’m living in an open relationship, too. My boyfriend and I have been “open” for almost four years. And what I would like to share are some of our experiences – not as a psychologist or a counselor (because I’m not one of them) but as a guy like you, who may be reading this and might have some questions about it.

Reaching the point of being in a long-term open relationship, based in love and respect, hasn’t been easy at all. My partner and I have had to face our feelings and our thoughts about it, and we’ve had to honor what our hearts and our minds have wanted throughout this whole time. Being “open” wasn’t something that we suddenly sat down and planned, either. In our case, it came suddenly in the shape of a very cute guy that pursued me as my boyfriend and I neared our first anniversary. Luckily, this did not end our relationship, but instead strengthened it.

Things were difficult in the beginning. There was confusion, guilt and the feeling that I was gam bling with the most important things in life. Those were hard times, thinking day and night about the love that I had for my boyfriend and my desire for the other guy. Frequently, I wondered and asked myself: “Why do I feel this way?” and “Should I do what I really feel or should I repress it in order to keep my relationship?”

Finally, it happened. I ended up sleeping with the guy (nothing special, if you ask me – I’ve ascer tained that the most of the time it is better to keep it a fantasy) and, after several days of feeling bad, I decided that it was time to be honest not only with my boyfriend but with myself.

I figured if this happened once, it can happen again, and it can also happen to my boyfriend, too. I realized that I have to be prepared for that. We’re young and attractive and we’re surrounded by many young and attractive boys. Although I was confident about the love and respect that we felt for each other, I knew that eventually we were going to feel attracted to other people. And I knew that it didn’t mean we didn’t love each other. I figured we should try it and see what happens.

Fortunately, his reaction was very understanding and mature, maybe because he was older and had been in a relationship before. We began to open our relationship and, although it wasn’t easy (especially when it was my turn to face the music), we overcame some of our own insecurities and fears. We also had to endure our friends’ criticisms about monogamy, cheating, and even safe sex, long before they finally understood and accepted our way of life. All this helped us to grow and to mature together as a strong couple.

Some people think that attempting to “open the circle” should not be done until after the first year of living together. They argue that seeing someone else is a serious step that may be done only when the couple has achieved a strong level of love, respect and tolerance. It sounds reasonable and you may agree with it or not. I believe that each case is unique with many factors contribut ing to the “correct” timing for opening a relationship. Some couples will be ready to try opening their relationship after one or two years, some after only three months, some never… The fact that this happened to me and my boyfriend as we approached our first year together doesn’t mean that it was better or worse than if it had happened earlier or later. The timing is unique to the particular relationship and to the people involved.

I have a friend, for instance, that always tells me about his fears of trying a threesome with his boyfriend. They have been together for one year and, during that time, his boyfriend has asked him several times to have a threesome. Although he understands his boyfriend’s desire to experi ment with new things, my friend doesn’t feel ready to take that step… at least not right now. I understand both positions: the one that asks for time and patience and the one that asks for new sexual experiences as a way to enrich the relationship. And although these guys can ask for help and advice, what they really need is to sit down together and talk through everything. Only by communicating their feelings and thoughts with each other will they be able to come to a decision that is right for both of them.

As somebody told me once: “A long term relationship is a lot like a pressure cooker – sometimes you have to let the steam escape a little bit so that it doesn’t accumulate.” There are different ways to do that and having an open relationship is just one of those ways.

If you are thinking about opening your relationship, I would tell you that in all the successful cases that I’ve known, what has really worked has been a combination of confidence, honesty, respect and, (mostly) freedom. Take your time and do what you need to in your own way, but also take care about the way your partner feels and thinks. A relationship is not only about you – it is about both of you. You must honor how your partner feels just as much as he must honor how you feel. Talk to each other. Don’t let the steam accumulate. Keep it cool.