Negotiating an Open Lesbian Relationship

Dear Dr. Frankie,

My girlfriend and I have been together for two years. Last year, she went to grad school abroad, and the other day she called with a request: Can she have the freedom to sleep with other women even though she doesn’t want to have a relationship with them?

Honestly, I hate this idea and it makes me distrust whatever she is doing over there. I feel like I’m stuck in a bad situation where if I say no she’ll just do whatever she wants or else not do it and resent me, but if I say yes I’m agreeing to something I don’t want and is against my morals.

Dear Feeling Compromised,

If you are truly invested and committed to staying in the relationship, discuss the possible parameters of opening it up. Some couples find it very freeing and enjoy the depth and connection that a casual partner can bring to a (long distance) primary relationship. Adding a casual partner can alleviate sexual tension, provide companionship as well as attention while the two of you are apart and attending to your lives. Of course, for this to work, you’ll need to lay some ground rules that might make the situation more tolerable for you, as well as give you some feeling of control.

A few things to keep in mind about negotiating an open lesbian relationship:

  1. You mention it “is against your morals.” That’s a pretty bold statement. And something you should pay attention to. If you truly don’t believe that you can effectively, authentically be with more than one person at a time in a relationship, then be direct and honest with your girlfriend about this. You’re not saving anyone’s feelings by not disclosing this and from that bold statement, it’s not a perspective easily changed.
  2. A relationship needs to be ROCK SOLID in order to open it up to other partners. If you don’t completely, utterly and wholeheartedly trust your partner, your negotiated open relationship is already doomed. You trust, trust, trust – for an open relationship to work.
  3. Regardless of how many ground rules, parameters and well-crafted guides you put in place,  an open lesbian relationship may not work for you. It’s okay to accept this. Feelings such as jealousy, envy, hurt and anger can pop up and interrupt and well-crafted arrangement. Based on your very strong words against an open relationship, I think you might not be the best candidate for this arrangement.

If you decide it’s just not for you, be respectful to yourself and your girlfriend and end the relationship. It’s important to remember that you both deserve to get your needs met and have the relationships and experiences that you deserve. There are just as many women who want an open lesbian relationship as there are who want a closed, monogamous relationship.

Stay true to your beliefs and do what feels right for you. When she comes back from her studies you can always try to pick things up where you left off if it feels right.

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