Sex Q&A: What Makes an Open Relationship Work?

Karen from St. Louis, Missouri asks:

After loving a man for twelve years, I had to let him go. I can honestly say we had six good years and six years were compromised by his inability to stay committed. Our relationship was to be “open” in the beginning, including being honest about our feelings. He did not keep up his responsibility in the relationship, and, therefore, I decided to remove him from my life. He wants to be friends, but I cannot bring myself to do that, and I’m not adjusting to his absence from my life. Did I make the right decision? Is he really as bad an individual as he seems, or is it just my emotions not allowing him to be involved in my life? To say he confused me is putting it mildly. He broke my heart and destroyed my faith in loving relationships. I trusted him with all of my heart. Is this just another case of love gone bad? Thank you for any information you can offer. I need to know if I should allow him into my life ever again.

Liam’s Response:

Greetings, Karen. I find it ironic how you speak in such lofty romantic terms while so much of what you say is nothing more than a statement of your own issues of control. You speak of loving a man, but it doesn’t seem you loved who he really was. What you loved was the idea of a man who would adore you and you alone. Ironic though your situation might be, it’s not at all unusual. Human relationships are hotbeds of control, more often about self-validation than any real attempt to delve into another’s universe and enjoy being there. What we like to call love is often just the act of capturing and then altering another in order to prove our own power and self worth.

You stated very clearly that this relationship began as an open one, meaning you most certainly had full knowledge of this man’s expectations of sexual experiences beyond the confines of your relationship from the start. You speak of honesty as a cornerstone of your friendship, and yet it seems to me, you weren’t being very honest. If you had been, he would have known an open relationship wasn’t what you were after. It seems to me, you let this relationship start out with an understanding that things would be free and “open” hoping you would be able to get this fellow to cut out other women and focus on you—which you thought you did. Then you settled into a life of personal contentment, conveniently forgetting what you had already agreed to. Your fellow, though, was far from content. He was confused… Confused by your “new” standards and by your power plays. You ask me if this man is really as “bad” as he seems and that question goes to the very heart of what was your failure in this relationship. This man isn’t “good” and he isn’t “bad.” He’s just him. Refusing to conform to someone else’s possessive desires is not a crime.

The fact of the matter is a man will pigeonhole a woman into one of various unconscious archetypes on the very first date. It doesn’t matter what she does over time or how she attempts to change her “type” in his mind. In your case, you projected the personality of a free spirit and you yourself agreed to sexual liberation. He saw you as a good friend who was cool enough to understand his need for freedom.

His perceptions of you aren’t going to change, nor will his desire for variety. He does love you, but you are asking him to move against his own true nature. For a while, he tried to desist in his quest for sensual diversity because he didn’t want to hurt you, but in the end, he came to resent your games and the twisty turns of your demands. What you need to do now is work on you. You’re still playing games with this guy. Get over it already. Life is hard, and life is short. Either be his friend—a real friend—or don’t. And in the future, no more open relationships for you. It’s not your bag, and by agreeing to it, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak. Make it clear on the very first date that you’re a one-man/one woman girl and leave it at that. If the guy doesn’t like those parameters, he can be on his merry way and you won’t be wasting your time. From now on remember, men define these things early, and those definitions will not change even if the scenery does.


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2 thoughts on “Sex Q&A: What Makes an Open Relationship Work?

  1. kroo

    THANK YOU, Liam, for your response to my perplexing relationship. I do agree and completely understand that I changed the rules and expected him to follow. I was the one that did not want to commit and allow each of us to keep an ‘open’ relationship at the start of this ‘volatile’ relationship. Doing so, I could keep him from expecting more from me, and wanting something I was unable to provide. Without writing an ebook when I submitted my question, I only summerized as best I could to shorten an obviously long stretch of time. At this point, I am happy to say, a great lesson has been learned. I feel a tremendous amount of remorse for the pain and confusion I caused not just for my lover and friend but more importantly, to myself. I disappointed myself for not following my heart in the beginning of this once beautiful union and do what I wanted for me and my happiness. I took too much advice from those people whose opinions I once trusted and believed in. But I have learned, obviously the difficult heartbreaking way, to have faith in my own feelings and decisions rather than those forces outside of myself that have no knowledge of how the future will ultimately unfold. I am paying a price for that and regret not taking control over my own life and love. Consequently, when I flinally realized and had the courage to do what I wanted and needed in MY life, I changed the rules and ‘thought’ he would happily oblige. Well, and so the story goes. Thank you for clarifying and your ‘man’ perspective on this extremely important chapter in my life’s journey. I am and will be on that path to acheive the greatness meant for me during this brief moment in the vast infinity of time. I am still learning. love and peace to all, k

  2. asiax5486

    I truly agree with Liam…Men are very specific as to what they want…Us ladies try to change their “ideals”. We cannot go into a relationship with the intent that this will turn into a full commitment. He did make it clear as to what he wanted. How could he break your vision of love? He was open in stating what he wanted? Do not let this damage you in anyway…it was a rough lesson learned…and as Liam has said,make sure the next time around, you set the boundaries of what you want in a relationship! Blessings~Asia x5486


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