My boyfriend and I have been together for a couple years and I’m realizing that I really want to be in an open relationship. I love him and I love having sex with him but I’m missing having sex with women and I’d like to experience sex with another man again. I feel like every time I bring it up I hurt his feelings and he doesn’t want to budge on the issue. What can I do?
This is the toughest, and I feel like so many people wind up in this exact situation. I love you, but I want to see other people. I think the toughest part, that you noted, is being able to clearly explain to your partner exactly what you want and why. It’s not easy to express your need/desire for something new or different without your partner feeling like they aren’t good enough. I mean, fuckit. I’ve been studying this stuff in school and in my personal life for the past couple of years and there are still some aspects I struggle with, still some new things I’m learning. It’s a process. With no understanding of polyamory or open relationships or swinging, the thought of your partner being with someone else can be particularly painful. Don’t forget that. It may make complete sense to you, it may not seem hurtful or damaging to you, but if your partner isn’t in the same mental state that you are he’s going to perceive what you’re asking for differently than you may want him to.
That’s where I’d start. Get on the same page. Read books together (Open, Opening Up, Love in Abundance, Sex at Dawn, The Ethical Slut…) and learn about alternate styles of relationships. Write lists about what you’re both looking to get out of your relationship. Write about what you want and what you need. Express your concerns, your boundaries. Talk about what you want together out of your relationship. Develop your ideal relationship. Talk about why you want to stay together rather than just splitting up. Talk about how you want to make it work and find a way to both be satisfied. The hardest part is understanding. The hardest part is getting to a place where you have a similar point of direction.
If you can get to that point, you’ll be able to work on experimenting with these things and developing the boundaries for your relationship. You’ll be able to work through struggles one at a time. Finding a couples counselor who works with open couples may be incredibly useful for you in learning how to deal with your emotions and learning new ways of communicating with one another.
You also have to consider that your boyfriend knows what an open relationship entails and just isn’t interested. In this case you have to consider your relationship with your boyfriend. Are you going to be happy if you stay in this relationship and don’t get to have these experiences?
The bottom line is that you can’t have an open relationship by yourself. Your partner needs to be on board and consenting to the style of relationship you want to have. So talk about it. Express how you feel. Communicate. Maybe don’t jump straight into your ideal relationship but tiptoe to it with baby steps that make him feel comfortable. Explore it together. See if there is anything he’s interested in trying. But if he’s not interested, consider the need/want you have for these new experiences. Are you going to regret not experiencing them? Are they a necessary part of your life? Are you not ready to completely settle down yet? Is settling down something you ever want to do? Is this something you can compromise on and let slide? A passing curiosity? For some it is, for some it is definitely not.