I’m in a happy, long-distance monogam-ish relationship with the human of my dreams. Really; things are so good. This is my first time having an open relationship, and I think we talk through things really well and effectively. He has several partners — all of which I’ve met and adore — and I can say really genuinely that I’m happy that he has these other sexual relationships in his life. The thing is, even though I was the person to suggest an open relationship, I’ve had yet to “take advantage” of our arrangement, if you know what I mean.
There are a few reasons for this. I have a lot on my plate; between school, work, and volunteering, there are no days off in my schedule and limited “free” time. It feels like a lot to prioritize my friendships, let alone go through the work of introducing a new romantic/sexual partner into my social circle.
The few people I had periodical, casual sex with prior to starting this relationship are not comfortable continuing sexual relationships with me after I’ve started this relationship — a decision I understand and respect. And honestly, I think I harbor a little bit of lovesickness for my partner, and therefore I don’t want to put myself — and truthfully, another person — in a situation where I can’t be fully present in our sexual encounter because I’m wishing I was with my partner and not them, you know?
On some level, I know this is okay. But I can’t help but ask myself, am I doing monogam-ish right? Is it okay that, for now, I like having the option to sleep with other people even if I don’t readily take advantage of it?
— Lovesick Monogam-ish
Maybe you find comfort in knowing that if you want to experience sex with someone other than your long-distance love, you can? But that doesn’t mean you have to.
So much of what you’re saying here in regards to protecting other partners from your lovesickness, keeping strong boundaries around your friend/school/volunteer time, and being extra comfortable with his other partners all sounds like you’ve got a really healthy relationship-self balance going on here. Whether monogamous or not this is quite a feat in itself — so pat yourself on the back!
Many folks who practice this style of non-monogamy — where their partner sees a lot of other people, but they don’t — come up against extra skepticism from friends, family, and acquaintances. People can more easily accept the novelty of “having your cake and eating it too” as long as it’s “fair” even though non-monogamous relationships that rely on tit-for-tat scorekeeping often crash and burn. Faux fairness is often masking some deep-rooted not okay-ness with relationship agreements.
I would imagine that you get a little extra of this skepticism due to your perceived gender imbalance of him being able to “sleep around” and you “just letting it happen.” But it sounds like you know and feel much better than that. If it’s my stamp of approval that’ll tip the scales in favor of you internalizing the belief that if it works for you, him, and the rest of the crew then it’s A-okay, then yes! You seem happy! Stamp! You’ve got it!
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.