Closing an Open Relationship, Part 2


by The 4-Way Panel

Dear 4-Way,

My boyfriend and I have had an open relationship for a little over two years. We are free to have safe, physically intimate relationships with other people, but have always said that our emotional relationship would be exclusive. This worked for both of us for a while because we love the fun of the first kiss, the first touch, etc, which you can’t get when you only have one partner.

But my feelings about our relationship have changed. I feel jealous now when he’s with other women. I know that I need to talk to him about it, but I’m afraid—this arrangement is what he wants (and what I used to want) and it’s why our relationship has lasted as long as it has. I don’t want to lose him. Lately I’ve been thinking that since I’ve sucked it up for this long, I can keep doing it if it means keeping him. What do you guys think?—SN

Rebecca    The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
Open relationships intrigue me, because I know I would never be capable of having one. Why, you ask? Because I’m that woman; if you sleep with me, I want your penis all to myself. I’m not a sharer. I’m the only one who gets to admire it, touch it, rub it, ride it, make a puppet for it, or do anything else with it. The end.

But my possessiveness has scientific grounding. When you have an orgasm (and also, interestingly enough, when you have a baby), your body is flooded with oxytocin, a hormone which according to one source “induces feelings of love and altruism, warmth, calm, bonding, tenderness, and togetherness.” Oxytocin has been called “the cuddle hormone.” It helps you bond with someone. (Clearly this isn’t always the case since there are plenty of people who still pull the old love ’em and leave ’em routine.) One study also suggest that higher levels of oxytocin are associated with the reciprocation of trust. And I suspect that this is where the heart of your problem lies.

If he’s sleeping with other women, how can you be sure that he won’t develop that same sort of emotional commitment with them that he’s built with you? You may have been okay with him sharing his body with others, but you’re no longer okay with the possibility of him sharing his heart with others. You want to be the only one who’s special, but you’re now questioning if that’s possible in your current arrangement.

So talk to him. If he still wants to be with other women, say goodbye. I know you love him, but now that you’re ready to be with only one person, you deserve to be with someone who only wants to be with you. There should be no “sucking it up—” unless, of course, that sucking is one of those fun firsts you can have with someone new.

Check in tomorrow to read the gay woman's perspective by Jody Fischer.

The 4-Way is published monthly. If you have a question for our 4-Way panel, please send it to them in care of the editor at To read more of The 4-Way columns or to listen to our podcasts, visit The 4-Way now.

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