Open relationships and hard truths

Dan Savage
LaRae Lobdell of

Dear Dan: I am a 30-year-old straight man and I’ve been with a 28-year-old bisexual woman for a year. Early in our relationship, after much discussion, we established that it would be open. I would have the liberty to see other women and so would she. We just had to be safe and always keep each other informed. The key was that she agreed to see only other women. I was uncomfortable with the idea of her being with another man, and she went along with it. Fast-forward a few months, and she told me that she had drunkenly kissed a male coworker. Hearing her say that hurt me. However, since then she has explained to me that the rule that she can be only with women is unfair because she’s bisexual and she’s attracted to both men and women. I can see whomever I might find attractive, but she has to limit herself. After much soulsearching, I came around to her point of view and she now has the option to see men too. My question: How do I deal with the jealousy and emotions that will come up when she does kiss another man? Or does even more with another man? We love each other, and I think it’s important to note that while we have both been on dates with other people, neither of us has had sex with someone else yet. — Having Emotional Reaction Means Asking Nervously

Dear HERMAN: “Hard Truth #1: Renegotiating is crucial to the survival of all long-term relationships — even more so in unconventional, customdesigned relationships where there’s no established template,” says Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. “And while I don’t see any unfairness in HERMAN’s girlfriend wanting to have the same freedom he has (to see whomever she wants), if he agreed to the open relationship on the condition that she ‘see only other women,’ then renegotiating is going to be difficult.”

Your description of that particular limitation — only other women — as “key” to opening up your relationship, HERMAN, left Ryan feeling less than optimistic.

“Hard Truth #2: It’s a time-wasting mistake to negotiate nonnegotiables,” Ryan says. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t be willing to learn and grow by trying new things. But our first task is to ‘know thyself ’ and take it from there. For example, if you’re certain you want or don’t want kids, then that shouldn’t be open to negotiation just because you met someone you like (or love) whose dreams go the other way.”

Assuming you’re willing to renegotiate, HERMAN, where do you start?

“Perhaps the question of why he’s more bothered by her being with men than women,” said Ryan. “Maybe he could ask her to set up a three-way with a man they both like so he can face the dragon, so to speak. See if the flip side of his fear isn’t that he’s actually turned on by the thought of her with other men. Lots to explore, once he’s certain he wants to explore it. But, again, if this is a nonnegotiable — if this really isn’t something HERMAN wants, despite his desire to be fair — it might be better to end the relationship than to attempt to be someone he’s not or agree to something he’ll never be at peace with.”

Follow Christopher Ryan on Twitter @ChrisRyanPhD, and check out his podcast (Tangentially Speaking), videos, and swag at

Dear Dan: What are your thoughts on two Doms sharing one sub? The scene I envision includes the domination of the other Dom. Do some Doms enjoy the submission to another Dom while also enjoying dominating the sub? It’s probably best to put it into the context of my fantasy. I tie my sub to a chair or tie her down and then send a Snapchat to her other Dom. I invite the other Dom to come over and have his way with her. I would then leave, but they must stop immediately when I return, no matter where they are. The other Dom must then leave, and I do what I want from that point. Is this something I should talk with the other Dom about beforehand or should I just do it and see what happens? I’ve talked to my sub, and she is really into that scene, but she doesn’t know how her other Dom would feel about it.

— Dominate Other Man

Dear DOM: Sharing a sub could strike me as a great/hot idea, DOM, but my feelings are irrelevant — the scene isn’t going to work if the other Dom thinks the idea is terrible/lame. That said, I don’t see any harm in waiting until your sub is tied down to propose this scene — lay the details out in advance on Snapchat, not once he’s in the room, so he’ll be free to take a pass if the scene doesn’t appeal to him. But by waiting, you run the risk of discovering, after it’s all set up, after you’ve sent the Snapchat, that her other Dom loves the idea but is out of town/watching the GOP debate/ sitting shivah/whatever.

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