This week in Barry's Dilemmas page, reader Jack asks whether he and his partner should open up their relationship.

Dear Agony Uncle

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about 3 years. Over the past few weeks we have been rowing constantly. He hadn’t been with any guys before me and felt that he’d missed out on a lot. He says he loves me but needs more. He’s suggested that we have an open relationship and that we’re both free to go with other men. I’m not interested in sleeping with anyone else. I’m not sure if it’s what I want from a relationship but I’m afraid if I don’t agree to it, he’ll just cheat on me and leave anyway? If I do agree to it, he might meet someone else.

Jack


Hi Jack,

It sounds like there is a lot happening for your relationship right now. All relationships, family sexual or romantic, go through changes and have to adapt along with the people in them. As part of this we need to renegotiate the terms and what we want from them. Although this may sound very cold and logical, of course, isn’t when it comes relationships.

From what you say. It sounds like your boyfriend is still exploring his own sexual identity, you were the first person he slept with and has been faithful to for the past three years. He is keen to experience sex with other guys but he still wants the security and intimacy that he obviously gets from being with you.

(C) BIGSTOCK

The good news is you are both talking clearly about what you want. The channels of communication are very much open. You’ve discussed opening the relationship and the ramifications but has he said specifically what he’s missed out? It may be worth seeing if there is a specific aspect of sex that he wants to experiment. It may be something that you may want to try.

It sounds like from your letter that you are not keen on the concept of an open relationship and that you would have insecurities about where it would lead. However you have also not dismissed the concept outright. This needs to be given equal weight in your discussion. As much as he has the desire to change the relationship, it’s ok if you don’t want to.

It feels like it would be a good decision for you to talk clearly about the practicalities of it. Would he tell the men that he is in an open relationship? Will you discuss who, where and when? Would you do this before or after? In terms of the guys he will be meeting, would they just be one-off encounters? Safe sex is also a vital part of this discussion. From doing this it will help you to make a decision based on fact and not from fear.

As I said earlier, all relationships will change and adapt. The discussion about opening the relationship is fluid. It may be the case that you try being open. If it doesn’t work for you, then you can always bring this back to the table, you can always discuss closing the relationship again. Open relationships aren’t for everyone; they require a high degree of trust and understanding. Hopefully, it gives both partners what they need to feel fulfilled.

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This article was first published in October 2013