D ear Amy: I have been dating “Steve” for almost four months. He is divorced and has a young child. We are both in our late 30s.
Based on conversations we’ve had, I was under the impression we were a “couple,” as we spent most of his nonchild time together.
Early on, he told me that in the past his relationships (including that with his ex-wife) were “open,” but it wasn’t something he actively looked for — they just happened.
He said he was looking for a committed relationship. I admired his honestly and openness. However, recently when I pushed for more of a commitment he informed me that he has been in open relationships with “friends” regularly. Now he seems to be involved with two women — one who is going through a divorce and the other who is just a friend.
He’s been with one woman for a long time. Both women know about me. He said one of them is open to “exploring” more with him and me. He also said a committed relationship can still be an open one.
Do you think it’s possible to have a stable “open” relationship and also a committed relationship? I’ve fallen hard for this guy. Should I be open to “open?”
— Feeling Naive
Dear Naive: It is curious that “Steve” defines his choice to sleep with multiple people as an “open” relationship with you. (If you didn’t know about it and didn’t consent to it, it’s not “open.”)
He has one long-term sexual partner, another more recent partner and you — his romantic and sexual partner of a few months. So far, you have no say in his choices — in some “open” or nonmonogamous relationships the “primary” romantic partner gets a vote on other potential sexual partners. And because he says he wants to be in a “committed” relationship but this other sexual stuff just “keeps happening,” it’s possible that Steve has a control problem (in that he doesn’t have much control).
I think committed relationships can work alongside almost any other kind of behavior as long as the commitment and the relationship come first. You and he need to define very clearly what the word “commitment” means to each of you.
If you want to play with him and other consenting adults, then go for it. Always use a condom with all partners — especially Steve. This sort of arrangement means it’s “open season” for STDs.