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Open relationships rarely happen

Fri., Sept. 5, 2008

Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I are attempting a long-distance college relationship, with the plan that it will be long-distance only for a finite amount of time. Recently, the idea of making the relationship a slightly more open one for the long-distance part was brought up. I think his reasons for suggesting it seem perfectly valid, including ensuring we don’t suffocate, keeping loneliness at bay, and some curiosity. He stresses, however, that if it is not absolutely OK with me, it is not OK with him either, and that even so he’d ask my permission anytime something came up.

Even though it logically seems OK to me, I get a panicky gut reaction thinking about it. I suppose I’m just afraid of losing him somehow, but at the same time I’m worried that he might suffocate, if I say no, and I’d lose him anyway. He tells me this is not something he needs, just an idea that could make things easier, but it’s been brought up several times. Any ideas? – Worried Either Way

“The idea … was brought up”? “It’s been brought up several times”? Did you even notice that you switched into the passive voice for those two sentences?

If you can’t bring yourself to say, “He wants to see other people,” then you are not ready to have a boyfriend who sees other people. Imagine how his calls to “ask my permission” are going to go.

You want a boyfriend who spends his college years thinking only of you. Admit this, please. And then, accept this: You are not getting that from this guy.

This doesn’t mean you also have to accept an open relationship. You don’t even have to accept a “slightly more open” relationship, whatever that is. Openness is strictly for those rare, rare birds who believe in it. Everyone else should run.

I say this, though, at the risk of letting sex cloud the issue; no one should ever agree to terms they find objectionable. Yet everything you quote suggests he’s trying to manipulate you into this. He only wants it if you do? Ya.

And, everything you say suggests you’re trying to find a way to go along with it.

No commitment is worth anything, if you have to demand it. So, grant him his “freedom” outright. As in, seeya.

As in, do exactly what you fear most. Declare your love, say goodbye, bring your full attention to your college life. If he changes his mind, he knows exactly where you will be.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at 9 a.m. Pacific time today and every Friday at


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