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Parallax - Advice

November 17, 2003

Unusual Matches

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No two people are alike; no two relationships are alike. This week we meet three couples in relationships that have been defined by the writers, but seem to defy definition. One has an open relationship with no borders; one ended a relationship with no end; and the third is in a long-distance relationship that needs 'distance' to survive. Our pugilistic pundits go three rounds.


He's the main man.
Or is he?
 Date: 11/17/03

Never-ending story.
Just say no!
 Date: 11/17/03

It's okay—if he's away.
Just don't move!
 Date: 11/17/03

More advice...
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He's the main man

Dear Conversely,

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I've been in an open relationship with my girlfriend for over a year. This means she's my main partner and I am hers, but we can date other people and occasionally sleep with them. I think we both love each other but we don't want to be tied down. Most of my friends think this is crazy. Her parents will barely speak to us since we made our status public. I thought we'd do it for only a few months and then it wouldn't work, as I've tried it before and it always ended up badly. Now I think it's all about finding the right person with which to do it. Do you think we are crazy? Is this common? How do other people make it work?


Her view:

Dear Open,

Other people cheat. It's so much easier. Or they are genuinely in love and it's a non-issue because they only want to be with each other. Yes, I think your arrangement is crazy. In the long term it will fail. And I do not believe you are in love. You are in lust, which is fine. But let's be clear.

Here's how it will go. Eventually, one of you will get highly interested in one of the 'other people' you are 'dating' and the open relationship will be over. That is the way most of these things go. And there are several reasons why you won't be able to ward it off.

The most formidable is the fact that new relationships are always more fun and exciting than five-year-old relationships. Thus, when the two of you are in a rut and someone new and exciting comes along for one of you, the current relationship will go by the wayside. Don't forget your relationship is still relatively new, so it's not yet threatened. But it will be.

Secondly, the whole arrangement is creepy and you'll have all sorts of social pressures including family rejection and friendship tensions. What happens when your friends want to date your partner? Eventually the whole thing will wear on you and you'll get annoyed. One of you will come to realize the arrangement just isn't working.

And here's a question to ponder. If you're willing to go through all this trouble—write to advice columns, mull on the future of the arrangement, deal with the rejection of her family—why are you unwilling to try a committed relationship?

You seem to be fighting to keep this girl in your life. Are you sure you wouldn't like her as a girlfriend?

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His view:

Dear Open,

Your arrangement is uncommon and, if it truly is as successful as you claim, surprising. Open relationships, unlike 'closed' ones, require a remarkable level of trust or detachment or both…but not madness.

It's possible that some people would consider your promiscuity crazy—by indulging it, you place yourself at risk, which is irrational behavior. However, I don't think that it is any crazier than my friends who, without any formal arrangement, shuffle back and forth between different partners. Or those who go through bedmates faster than they go through boxes of cereal.

The curious thing about your letter is that you claim a reluctance to be 'tied down' and yet, you are. You are more tied down, in fact, than more traditional monogamists. The ties between you are so strong that, despite the occasional foray, you keep coming back for more.

Most couples would never survive a fling, let alone a recurring cycle of them.

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You Vote!

You Vote! 64% of Women agree with HER VIEW and 36% with HIS VIEW.

83% of Men agree with HER VIEW and 17% with HIS VIEW.

You Vote! Do you agree more with HER VIEW or HIS?

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