On opening your relationship.

Dear Coquette,

I have struck gold. I found the most amazing man. I cannot even begin to describe to you all of the ways that he astounds and inspires me. We are deeply in love and have been together for some time. Lately I have been struggling with a conflict in some part of myself. It started when his ex-girlfriend moved back into town, or rather, I became more acutely aware of my personal struggle.

So the situation is this: He is open and fluid in his ability to give and receive love romantically and sexually with others besides myself. That being said, he respects my inclination towards monogamy and has told me that as long as I feel that way, he will never cheat on me. It would have to be something that we both agreed on and were comfortable with. I learned about his ability to love others as deeply as he loves me when his ex-girlfriend moved back. And now I am presented with the opportunity to learn and try to open myself to new possibilities.

Coquette, I am so scared. I have read a lot on your blog and other sources about open relationships. It was all sort of academic, though. I never felt like I could be that person or would want to be. I feel as though my love and devotion has one destination and that is my boyfriend. That’s just emotion, though. I know in reality that it doesn’t have to be that way, that love can flow freely to many sources and that there will always be more to give.

I have been physically sick over this. Why can’t I wrap my little head around this? Why am I consumed with dread that I will lose him to someone else? Why am I floundering in feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt, just because my partner has love to give? I feel as though he is something too hot to hold, like I can’t harness the energy he emits. I’m left feeling small and insignificant. I want to be able to learn from him and grow. What is this hand that has ahold of me deep inside my stomach that squeezes so tight? Why is it so greedy for his love? Is our relationship doomed? 

Jealousy is a powerful emotion. It’s primal, deeply embedded in those dark and sticky parts of your psyche where a fear of abandonment is still tied directly to your ability to survive.

You are in a classic struggle with jealousy. It’s a visceral thing. Those freshly squeezed guts of yours are growling about doom while your rational mind is pulling you toward openness, love and personal growth. It’s gonna take some bravery and bold moves to quell the cognitive dissonance you’ve got going on, maybe even a good old-fashioned leap of faith.

The key to all of this is trust. You have to trust that your partner’s motives are pure. You have to trust that you’re strong enough to share your partner romantically and sexually. Most importantly, you have to trust that your relationship will remain above all others, no matter what.

If you can gather up all of that trust, then maybe you can break through all those feelings of worthlessness and insignificance. Hell, you should let go of those anyway. They’re poison, whether your relationship is monogamous or open. Those negative emotions are just manifestations of fear, and it’s the fear that always ends up doing the damage.

Say it with me now: You are neither worthless nor insignificant. Quite the opposite. You are the one in control of your relationship. You are the one who decides if, when and how to move forward with this kind of thing. You’re the one who gets to mark the boundaries and set the rules. Recognize your own strength in this. Beat back the self-doubt with the trust you have in how much you love each other, and only open things up if it’s something you both want.

Opening up your relationship is a big deal. It’s terrifying. It’s also thrilling, but that’s not reason enough to do it. This has to be something with the potential to bring both of you more happiness. It can’t be one-sided. Make sure your happiness is an equal part of the equation, and if you decide that it is, then I wish you the best of luck with that leap of faith.


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