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How to open a relationship



Dear Sexorcist,

I live with my girlfriend of three years, and for the last two I’ve been unsuccessfully suppressing primal urges to wander. It doesn’t help that she’s the only sexual partner I’ve had. The idea that I’ll never get to experience another girl freaks me out. When we first met, I never thought I’d have these urges, but I’ve come to understand that love doesn’t only have to exist in a monogamous relationship. How can we expect one person to fulfill all our needs? My deepest gut instincts tell me we cannot. After reading your recent segment on monogamy, it made me realize I needed to talk to her. I told her about everything, but I didn’t go as far to suggest our only option at this point is to make the “paradigm shift” together or I’m going to wander anyway. She listened carefully, but didn’t seem to have a positive or negative response. I can’t cheat on her behind her back because that would tear apart my soul. I need to know where to go from here. What do I do?

— Baffled in Buford

Dear Baffled:

Happiness doesn’t silence people; shock does. So we can pretty much assume that your talk went over like a tranquilizer dart to the neck. Help her unravel her feelings by listening to her. Of course, this is where most men get in trouble because they think “listening” means giving her a five-sentence head start before going after her.

Most people fear that opening a relationship cracks the foundation. But that’s only if you bust the door off its hinges. Think of your relationship as your home. If a stranger knocked on the door, would you fling it open and invite them in? Of course not. First, you’d look out the window or through the peephole, then you’d crack the door just enough to see who’s knocking, all the while protecting what you’ve got inside.

It’s the same thing when you first open the relationship. Don’t open the door; draw back the curtain. Take tiny steps. Play a few games. Browse the online dating sites together. Who gives her a wide-on? Who tents your jeans? Make it playful. Gauge her reaction.

Then play Shag or Bag? at a bar. Take turns picking out people and revealing whether you’d meat ’em or street ’em. Ease the discomfort of talking about the sexual desirability of other people.

Keep upping the ante. Go to the Cheetah and have her buy you a lap dance. Go to Swinging Richard’s and buy one for her. All the while, talk, talk, talk. What’s uncomfortable, what’s not? One thing I will guarantee is that all this peering through the curtains will bring you closer together. You’ll discover things you never knew about each other, fire up your libido and strengthen your sexual bonds. And, most importantly, you’ll realize that if expressing desire for other people doesn’t endanger your relationship, there’s a good chance that sexing them won’t either. If it’s managed correctly.

Now, it’s time to play the IF Game. IF you were going to let each other roam, what would that look like? What assurances would she need? What would you need? (I’m assuming you have some reservations about her lusting for a penis that isn’t yours.)

What are her rules? What are yours? One couple I know not only insists that they lie to each other, but that they have to do it convincingly. Bad lies, game over.

Typical rules usually involve tying nots, as in, “Not in our bed, not with our friends, not without a condom,” etc. A U.N. Security Council-type veto power is usually wise — especially if one partner smells a homewrecker.

The best way to close a deal on managed monogamy is to put an expiration date on it. Try it for three months and reassess. It’s a lot easier to get buy-in when something’s temporary.

Textbook monogamy doesn’t have to be the default setting for long-term love. There isn’t just one way to be two.

Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for The Sexorcist? E-mail him at Midtown resident Mike Alvear hosts HBO’s “The Sex Inspectors,” blogs at and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.

(Photo courtesy peterpan_harris/Flickr)

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