So you’re seeing someone. Getting yourself a little on the side. I see you. And this guy is pretty cool, right? He’s cute, he’s not too shabby in bed, he’s easy to hang out with. Checks off a lot of boxes. A few weeks pass happily enough, then a month or two goes by. Suddenly you’re wondering when this guy became your boyfriend without being your boyfriend. You’re not totally exclusive, but sleeping together semi-regularly, and in frequent contact. It’s hookup quicksand—and you find yourself considering the possibility of taking things to a more serious horizon. This is a good time to ask yourself some hard questions, if there is such a thing as a good time to emotionally torture yourself. But before you start your pro-con list, Rory Gilmore style, keep an eye out for some red flags that what you’re getting from this guy might be all he’s prepared to give.
There’s a good chance that part of what intrigued you about this guy in the first place is his unpredictability. He’s just available enough to make you feel safe, and just unavailable enough to keep you wanting more. But now, his inability to be nailed down or tell you what tf he’s doing a week from now is less exciting than it used to be. It’s hard to move forward with someone if he makes it so you can’t let go, but you also can’t get any closer. Here are some more signs that this is going to be a guy who’s always the hookup, never the boyfriend.
He Never Makes Plans That Don’t Involve Sex
He brings food over to your place, but is noncommittal when you suggest grabbing dinner out sometime. A simple question about what he has planned for the weekend can send him into a tailspin since he tends to prefer making last-minute plans. Maybe he acts like he’d be down to see a movie or grab drinks at a normal time instead of around 1am, but he never follows through. The sex in general really seems to be enough for him. He’s content with the physical connection you’re sharing and isn’t acting like an emotional one is missing.
He’s Making You Work Way Too Hard
Dating guys in their 20s is an unpaid internship
— cecilia (@waple_cyrup) November 28, 2018
This is the kind of guy who keeps you in a perpetual attention tug-of-war. For every bit of effort you put in, he puts in half as much, so it takes more of your energy and time to coordinate with him than it should. When he does respond, he’s great, but the rest of the time you’re forced to debate a dreaded triple text just to get a simple answer. Plain and simple, this just makes your pseudo-relationship easier on him. The more effort you put in, the less he has to do, and he wants to keep the balance of power in his favor.
He Gives You Just Enough To Keep You Interested, But Never Enough To Actually Rely On Him
Just when you’re ready to write him off, he’ll call you or send a sweet text, and you’re reeled right back in. It’s hard not to respond to him when he’s being charming or asking if he can stop by later, and you always seem to give him another chance to prove himself. But then you wake up and he’s gone again, even though last night he swore you guys would grab breakfast, and you’re back to square one. He never fully ghosts you, but he’s not the first person you’d call if you got a flat tire on the freeway, either. He’s not interested in being the first one you call with your problems, because then you seem less like the girl he’s just sleeping with and more like a girlfriend.
He Doesn’t Ask You About Yourself
He doesn’t text back.
He breaks promises.
He doesn’t instigate conversation or check on you.
He only messages when he needs something.
— Tolly (@tolly_t) September 24, 2017
You know his siblings’ names, where he was born, and the sport he played growing up. Meanwhile, he still acts surprised when he brings over takeout and you have to remind him you’re allergic to onions. Again. He doesn’t seem to have any issue answering questions about himself, but he doesn’t really reciprocate—and if he does, he’s likely to forget what you told him the next day. The fewer personal things he knows about you, the easier it is for him to stay detached and keep things casual.
He Wants To See Zero Emotions From You
sex is cool but have you ever had someone give you so much emotional safety that you were able to break down & process trauma right in front of them without fear of being judged or ridiculed?
— Bruna, CPC & ELI-MP (@brunanessif) August 22, 2018
This is no Victoria F. on The Bachelor situation; if you cry on a date with this guy, he’ll send you home
in a limo stat. He wants you to be the cool, chill girl he hooks up with, and the rest is just “drama”. When you do get emotional, even if it’s as simple as you tearing up in the scene where Warner breaks up with Elle, he’s likely to bail or put up walls without seeming to be affected by the way you’re feeling. Your emotions are really seen as complications to him that get in the way of you two having a good time together, which at the end of the day, is a bigger priority to him.
All of these characteristics don’t necessarily add up to this guy being a bad person—for the most part, you probably enjoy yourself around him, and he’s not hard to be around. And as long as the two of you are on the same page with that, it’s all good. But the key thing to remember about his actions is that they don’t indicate he’s feeling any of the necessary things that normally work to move a relationship forward. And this is a situation where actions really do speak louder than words. Especially if he’s a sweet talker, ignore what he’s saying and look at what he’s doing. If he wanted more with you, it would be pretty clear and straightforward. He’d make it easy for you to reach him; he’d make plans further in advance than one night; he’d remember the little things you tell him about yourself. (Granted, he’d still probably get freaked out by how easily you cry at commercials with dogs in them, but chances are he’d think it was endearing or at least handle it with a reaction other than panic.)
Bottom line is there’s nothing wrong with wanting more, Anastasia Steele, and there are guys out there who genuinely want to get to know all of you, even the version of you who consistently blacks out on bottomless mimosas. This particular person, on the other hand, is keeping a certain amount of emotional distance between you two. It could have nothing to do with you at all. He could have hangups from an old relationship, or just be skittish about the commitment game. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, necessarily. It just makes him a bad guy to try to turn into a boyfriend. So, be honest with yourself, and make the decision to do to him the same thing he does to you: take him as he is, at face value, or not at all.
Images: Brooke Cagle / Unsplash, Giphy; @brunanessif, @tolly_t, @waple_cyrup / Twitter
I recently wrote an article that addressed the annoying questions people ask me about my open relationship, because I’m a f*cking hero, but turns out y’all have even more questions. A lot of people in the comments wanted to know how the logistics of how my open relationship works, others wanted to explain to me, a person they have never met, how my love life is a sham. Love all of my fans equally.
ANYWAY, I’m going to address some of the logistics here, but they aren’t going to be concrete. Sorry, bitch. But here’s the thing: open relationships are amazing because they are open, not just to sexual partners but to different options, variations, and changes. Everyone makes the rules for their own open relationship, and those rules are subject to change if you feel like it. Much like sexuality, open relationships are fluid. And having a healthy one is all about finding what works for you. And sometimes that means testing things out, trial and error style, and learning along the way. It’s about being, and I can’t stress this enough, open to new ideas, possibilities, chances and ways of life. Wow, did I just replace Marianne Williamson as Oprah’s spiritual advisor???
The important thing to remember is that open relationships are like any relationship in that they are about loving and respecting each other. Just because you can sleep with other people doesn’t mean morals are thrown out the window; if that were the case, the implication would be that sleeping with other people is immoral and that’s some slut-shaming bullsh*t. So, without further ado, here are some things to consider if you are thinking of starting an open relationship.
1. To Tell Or Not To Tell
It’s good to decide with your partner (or partners) whether or not you’d like to know if/when they hook up with other people. Some people prefer to not know anything. Some simply liked to be informed when it goes down, either before or after. Others like to hear all the hot deets, and may even get off to it. I’ve tried out both not telling and telling, and personally prefer telling. However, it is totally up to you when it comes to your relationship. Just pay attention to what makes you feel comfortable, and try to base your decision off of healthy feelings, not possessive/jealous ones. And you may find, that like me, you start with one rule and have to change it to another. There’s no shame in figuring these things out as you go.
2. Are There Specific Rules You’ll Want?
Brainstorm a list of things that come to mind when considering an open relationship. Will you want to make it so you sleep at separate places on the nights you hook up with other people? Do you want to make a rule so you can’t hook up with mutual friends? Are you allowed to hook up with the same person more than once, or do you want to try to make these one-time hookups only? Discuss everything with your partner and see where you land. You can also have it so a rule only applies to one party, if the other person feels comfortable with that. For example, one person might prefer that you not come over after you’ve hooked up with someone, while the other may not mind that scenario. In that case, you could apply that rule accordingly. Truly, all of these things are up to you; it’s like a custom made salad at Sweetgreen, but instead of parmesan crisps it’s relationship rules.
3. Safe Sex
This is important. Having multiple sexual partners is fun, but you absolutely must be safe for both your and your partners’ sexual health. Practice safe sex with your other partners. It’s obviously up to you what form of birth control you’d like to use with your primary partner. I personally am on birth control, don’t use condoms with my boyfriend, but use condoms with everyone else. Get tested regularly, and if anything comes up, make sure to be open and communicative about it with anyone you have been sexually active (lol sorry for using this term) with.
4. Do You Want To Explore Together?
I’m talking group sex, y’all! This is definitely something you could discover you are into one wild night, but it’s also something worth discussing with your partner. Do you want to share sexual partners sometimes? Do you wanna make it cute and create a Thrinder profile? Wanna hit up that sex rave? Things to consider.
5. Polyamorous Or Open?
People throw around the term “poly” a lot and associate it with an open relationship, but there is a difference. Polyamory is when you date multiple people at once. In an open relationship, you are essentially dating one person, while hooking up with others. I personally do not date other people. Being poly is admirable, as it takes a very open and generous mind to figure out how to be in a romantic relationship with more than one person, while also being at peace with the fact that your romantic partner(s) are emotionally invested in others. It’s a v cool kind of free love, and if it works for you, then congrats on being chill as hell.
Again, the main thing to remember is that this is your chance to make a relationship on your terms. You don’t have to base everything off of my guidelines. Make your own rulebook. As my mom always says to me when hearing that I’m leaving my apartment, “Have fun and be safe!!!”
I am in an open relationship, so I am required by law to corner you at a party and tell you how it “just kind of works for me!” In all seriousness, the only time I talk about my open relationship is when people inquire about it, or when I’ve been given the liberty to do so in a writing assignment, so there’s nothing you can do to stop me. In any case, whenever people discover that I am in a relationship that allows me to f*ck other people, they come in hot with an onslaught of questions. There’s nothing wrong with curiosity—in fact, I encourage people to explore topics they aren’t familiar with—but sometimes people don’t think about the implications their questions and words hold. People’s questions about my open relationship can sometimes feel intrusive, judgmental, condescending, and ignorant. Because people are…what’s the phrase I’m looking for…really f*cking annoying.
So, in order to help you avoid annoying someone with your questions about their open relationship, I’ve gone ahead and answered some of the most common questions I get bombarded with while attending a party I didn’t want to go to in the first place. God, the things I do for ART.
“Doesn’t That Make Things Complicated?!”
Babe, all relationships are complicated. Have you met people? They’re messy AF, and when you put two of them together and try to live in harmony, sh*t tends to go down. Working on yourself and your partnership and finding what works for and makes both of you happy is an amazing thing, but I can promise you it will be complicated at some point. And open relationships are no exception. And yes, incorporating a less traditional “rule” where you can get it on with other people does require work. It forces you and your partner to confront things with a very open mind. And above all, it requires constant communication. My open relationship has transformed me from a person who would never admit when she was devastated, to a woman who is ready and able to talk about her feelings and her feelings about those feelings. So, in that sense, open relationships force you to be able to better handle complications. Opening your mind and focusing on mutual respect, desire, and freedom requires a lot of growth. And after some time, you just might find that your relationship feels less complicated than others you’ve had, because now you’re a pro at openly communicating with your partner.
“Don’t You Get Jealous?”
Sure. Show me someone who never gets jealous of anyone in their life—including significant others, friends, and enemies—and I will show you either a liar or a robot. Jealousy is a natural feeling, and it’s one we’ve been taught to feel when our sexual partners desire someone else. But like, I hate to tell you this, but desire is natural and your partner will likely feel it when they see a hot person. And the thing about hot people is they are everywhere, for better or for worse. Being open has taught me how to deal with my jealousy in a non-accusatory, hostile way. It’s okay to feel jealous, and when I do, I simply let my partner know. I tell him, “Hey, obviously you didn’t do anything wrong here, but just wanted to say that I feel a little jealous!” And you know what? Being able to say that out loud in a healthy way feels really good. I often find that once I do that, I’m able to let go of the jealousy, instead of letting it fester inside of me until it explodes. Also, I’ve found it important to disconnect jealousy from possession. While it’s okay to feel jealous, it’s not okay for me to let that jealousy transform into an active need to control and possess my partner. Because one of the best things about an open relationship is experiencing a love that is void of possession. My partners wants me to be free to be my own person and, and I want the same for him. Our love is lit.
“So Will You Be Monogamous When Things Get More Serious?”
People often assume our openness is temporary. I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you I love our relationship more than anything, and it’s been working great for the past three years. I don’t see any reason to change it, and implying that being “serious” in a relationship requires doing the opposite of what we’re doing is…rude. Like, I just witnessed you and your “serious” boyfriend get in a screaming match over the dishes, but go off, Carol.
“But If You Really Loved Each Other Wouldn’t You Only Want To Be With One Another?”
Nope! Some people like being monogamous, and that’s great! Do love your way, I’m not here to tell you it’s wrong or not real. Everyone should do what works for them, and for me and my partner, that is not monogamy. For us, sleeping with other people doesn’t change the fact that we love each other and want to be together. I like to explain it like this: You have multiple friends, right? (If you answered no… sorry?) And you love them, right? And maybe you have a best friend? But hanging out with friends you’re less close with doesn’t change the fact that you love your closer friends, right? For us, sex is a fun thing that we love to do together, and that we have fun doing with other people. You can have a favorite dish without depriving yourself of other snacks.
“Is The Sex Just Not Good Enough? Like, Why Do You Need To Have Sex With Other People?”
This is directly related to the previous question. Again, just because you really enjoy one person doesn’t mean you necessarily don’t want to enjoy other people. TBQH, the sex I have with my partner is by far the best sex I’ve ever had. It’s been three years and our sex life still blows my mind and keeps getting better. And honestly, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we both find our relationship and each other exciting. That, combined with the fact that we are so open with each other, creates a sexual connection that is v satisfying. Hooking up with people is fun. One stands are often a hoot. Sometimes you’re out at a bar and making out with a hot stranger is ~the vibe.~ That doesn’t change the fact that you and your partner know how the f*ck to lay it down in the bedroom.
Images: Max Rovensky / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
I spent a lot of time looking for the “perfect guy”—ya know, a nice boy to settle down with and start a family. I also spent a lot of time running away from all of the guys I dated who seemed to want those things. It seemed like a weird-self destructive pattern, but turns out I didn’t actually want any of it—I just thought it was the only option. And it’s a strange fucking thing, to not want what everyone else around you seems to put on a pedestal. To turn to your boyfriend at a wedding and whisper, “Really, until death do them part? That seems unrealistic”. But you know what? Marriage and kids and monogamy just aren’t for me. And that’s fucking okay.
So, not wanting to get married is not like, revolutionary. And since I live in San Francisco, being in an open relationship isn’t either. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as fuck to explain to most of the people in my life. Turns out it’s difficult for someone to look past what they would want for themselves, to get them to respect that while your life choices may be different, they can still be right. So I’m going to do my best to plead the case for open relationships, but before I preach do, let me start by saying this: If you are a die-hard fan of “till death do us part,” my open relationship is not an affront to your monogamy. You do what makes you happy. But your monogamy shouldn’t make my open relationship any less significant, because I’m gonna do what makes me happy too.
So here it goes, my somewhat experienced guide to a healthy, happy and fulfilling af open relationship:
Step 1: Commitment
Yes, in an open relationship you sleep with or date other people, but at the end of the day, your partner is your partner. You should be there for each other in crisis and want to celebrate with each other in happiness. Sure, you are not committing to only sleeping with each other, but you are definitely committing to being there for each other. And if you don’t have that, then gtfo because that’s not a relationship at all.
Step 2: Set Some Ground Rules
Navigating non-monogamy can be confusing af, and being open can mean something different for every couple. For some it’s “one night stands are okay” and for others it’s “anything goes”. But no matter where you are on the open spectrum, you need to talk to your partner about it. Share what you are comfortable with and where your boundaries lie. Commit to your ground rules in the same way you commit to each other, and check in every once in awhile to make sure you are still on the same page.
Step 3: Be Okay With Jealousy
Jealousy doesn’t go away when you are open, it just takes a different form. It becomes something you talk about and not something you fear. I am open, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get jealous—it means I don’t equate my partner being with someone else to them not being committed to me. So if I get jealous, I’ll tell my boyfriend and vice versa. And if it means we need to re-adjust our boundaries, then we’ll do that.
Step 4: Put Happiness First
A relationship should make you happy; it shouldn’t hold you back. That’s what makes being open so great—you have someone who brings joy to your life, but if you are out one night and you want to flirt with or go home with someone, and that’s going to make you happy, then you can do that too.
Step 5: Choice, Not Compromise
If you wanted monogamy and couldn’t find it, you shouldn’t settle for an open relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it from the get-go (I wasn’t). It’s okay if it takes time (and numerous breakups) to figure out. But ultimately, it will only work if you feel like it was your choice, not your only option.
And for a final little-known fact about open relationships: You can be open and still choose monogamy. For some couples, it’s about having the option to be with someone else and less about actually being with someone else. So if you feel like you only want what you can’t have, try removing the “can’t” and see what happens.
Images: Aranxa Esteve / Unsplash; Giphy
Topics include the Laci Peterson documentary and our love for true crime, and a little bit about the Emmys. We respond to reader feedback on open relationships, and give advice on ghosting a friend and demoting a maid of honor. And a sh*t ton of Would You Rathers.
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