Closing an Open Relationship, Part 4


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

Chris    The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
The dating advice grim reaper is nice and warmed up, and I’m coming out swinging on this one. The grim reaper has gotten a bad reputation, but I’m simply here to help you get to the next place you’re supposed to go … and that’s out of your open relationship.

Here’s the thing with open relationships. The “open” is referring to the can of worms that you get into with this sort of arrangement.

I say “arrangement” because I feel that’s a more accurate word for what you have with this guy. There really isn’t much of a “relationship” in an open relationship. Part of what makes a relationship special is that two people know they could still sleep with other people but choose not to out of respect. They are choosing to be only with one another sexually, emotionally, and mentally. That sort of commitment and fidelity breeds trust and a deeper intimacy than multiple one night stands. Trust and support are two of the big draws of being in a relationship. Otherwise, you’re just steady sex partners, eternal booty calls.

That said, regardless of what your current relationship situation is, it’s not uncommon for at least one of the people to want a change in the status—to go from just dating to exclusive, to go from exclusive to breaking up, to go from girlfriend to wife.

Since you now want to have an exclusive relationship with this guy, you must tell him that. Denying what you want just to keep somebody around is not good or healthy and just causes you to waste valuable time.

If this open relationship was his idea, I doubt that he’ll go for it, but you never know—maybe he’s willing to give exclusivity a try. There’s only one way to find out and be true to yourself. Tell him what you want.

The upside to this open relationship is that the door is open for you to leave and find someone who wants to be with you … and only you.

Check in next week for another Q&A series with The 4-Way.

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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