November 25, 2013

“I had someone move in with me last year, and I love him and love being around him, but sexually it’s just not working. I want an open relationship, but only for me. I get extremely jealous if he goes to meet someone else, but because I’m older (by 28 years) and have been around the block so to speak, I know there’s a lot of fun out there that I could be having. Is it wrong to have a one-sided open relationship?”

Right and wrong in relationships is subjective to the people who are in those relationships. Cheating in relationships is breaking the defined rules of the relationship. I suggest that you sit down with your partner and discuss with them what is working for you, and what is not. Then you should listen to them tell you what is working for them and what is not. After that, you will be in a better position to discuss what you want to do in the future. In my relationships, I always believe that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. With that in mind, I would be careful what you ask for when negotiating your relationship with this person. If you are unwilling to let them have permission to play outside the relationship, you have to be willing to let them put the same limitations on you.

As the older partner, it is your responsibility to make sure that this relationship runs its course (whatever that course may be) and that when it ends, your partner is in no worse shape than when they started this relationship. This means: No new (unwanted) children, no new diseases, and no new scars (emotional or physical.) This is Dan Savage’s campsite rule, leave the campsite in better shape than you found it, and leave your younger partner is better shape than you found them. Cheating on your partner when they have put trust in you, especially when that partner sounds as vulnerable as yours does, is creating new emotional scars that could be with him long after you’re gone.

The way your question is worded gives me pause, and makes me wonder what’s really going on in your head. You are 28 years older than your partner. You know what’s out there, and what’s fun, and you want to have fun without your partner. Meanwhile you expect your partner to stay at home and not have fun. What is the purpose of limiting his options while opening up yours. In my experience that is a classic control mechanism that send up red flags to me, and should send up red flags to anyone with the emotional maturity to recognize them. Which brings me to the HUGE age discrepancy in a relationship, and very difficult to navigate under normal circumstances. But you have set up a world where your partner relies on you for a place to live, and is presumably is emotionally and financially dependent on you. Now you want to make this person sexually dependent on you as well, all the while keeping your options open for other sexual and emotional outlets.

Personally, I don’t like this story at all, but I also accept your premise that he is there by his choice. I also accept that he presumably has equal say in the relationship, and you are going to listen to him when you have that conversation I mentioned earlier. My advice in this situation is: Open relationships work when everyone’s needs are met by the relationships they are in. You know what your needs are, he knows what his needs are. Little rules tend to make big differences when assuring your partner that they are still number one in your life. Not sleeping over with your tricks, and always returning to your partner can help you make sure that your partner still feels loved and wanted. Many couples have “No Kissing” rules because they reserve kissing for only each other.

Whatever the rules are, make sure you keep them! Breaking even the small rules, or the rules that you don’t think are significant can lead to a deterioration of trust. Without trust, there is no relationship. I would also advise you to learn to curb your jealousy and learn to trust your partner. In my experience, jealousy destroys more relationships than it saves. You can talk about times when you are feeling jealous, and discover what makes you feel that way. You can discover if you have a legitimate reason to be jealous, like if your partner is spending 75% of their free time with someone who is not you and you are feeling left out; or if you are merely projecting your insecurities onto your partner’s behavior. Once you’ve decided the root cause of your jealousy, don’t try to change your partner’s behavior, because it will never happen. Change your behavior so that the things causing your jealous reaction go away.

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