open to closed

Reader H. J. writes:

I am in an open relationship with a girl I am totally in love with. She knows I’m in love with her, and she’s the only girl I want to be with. We’re “open” because she’s afraid of settling down too soon, and she was really hurt by a guy in the past. I’m fine with waiting around and with letting her date other people; in fact, I encourage her to. But recently it feels like she’s just comfortable coasting and nothing is ever going to change. I don’t want us to be in an open relationship forever, but I also don’t want to pressure her or scare her off. What should I do?

Dear H.J.:



Would a label really pin you to each other? Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know my advice is always “dump ’em”. Why even bother asking?


Okay, kidding, kidding.


As I always say, what should matter to you in this case is your feelings, since you can never really know what she’s feeling. If you’re feeling used or you’re not getting what you want, you need to communicate this clearly to this girl and see if you can change things. If things aren’t going to change, it may be best to end the relationship and move on.

Let’s parse this out a bit. In my experience, when I have really liked someone new, my prior baggage has lost most (if not all) of its power over me. If I really want to spend time with someone because I like them, my fear of commitment and of “settling” goes away and I simply end up spending time with them. Even if I swear up and down I don’t want to be in a relationship, the fact that I like someone makes it happen anyway.

Of course, I am not one to espouse labeling things, especially when it comes to relationships, and I think open relationships can be extremely good, as long as the agreement to have the openness is equal by all involved parties. But you don’t want an open relationship, apparently. So there is already inequality in the wants and desires of the relationship. She may not be willing or able to like you fully at this moment in time. You may be more invested in this relationship than she is. And that kind of imbalance is never a good thing. You will regret any attempt you make at getting her to feel the same way you do.

Maybe you need to quit worrying about labels or her level of commitment and just focus on your own feelings. Try just reveling in how much you like her. It’s a nice feeling to like someone, regardless of how much they like you back. Just enjoy that.

Furthermore, let’s consider the fact that a “label” may be the only thing you’re missing. Is she actually dating other people? Are you actually dating other people? Is jealousy what’s bothering you here? Or good old fashioned territorialism? Let go of those things, because they’re not going to make the relationship work even if you do end up in a “committed” one with her. The way I figure, if you’re stressing out about it more than you’re enjoying it, it’s not worth it.

And, okay, here’s a hint about basic psychology: the harder you try to hold onto her, the further she will slip through your grasp. If she’s already skittish about being in a relationship, any sort of forcing on your part is probably going to send her heading for the hills. Decide what you need, and if she can’t provide it, break it off and find someone who can. It sounds cold, but if you adopt this attitude, it will, in fact, make her more likely to stick around.

Here’s a wonderful adage that we should all remember:

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.

Make this your mantra. Every day, make sure that she is completely free to be with you or to go. If she truly has to choose, she’ll either choose you, or she won’t. And don’t be fooled — even in committed relationships, people make this choice every second they are “together”. Just because you slap a label on it doesn’t mean it’s suddenly fixed in time and space. Having an open relationship simply means you have fewer “shoulds” and “should nots” in your relations with other people. It doesn’t mean she’s any less tied to you than if you “put a ring on it” (oh lord how I hate that term).

So there you go. Decide what it is you really need, communicate that to her, and if what you really need is a closed relationship and a walk down the aisle, and she’s not ready to give it to you, let go.


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