Illustration by Laura Estrada.

Dear Queer: Open Relationships

An advice column about sexuality, gender, dating and overall queerness

By Mollie Whuppie /// Staff Writer

My significant other is going abroad next semester and wants to have an open relationship. I am not sure how I feel about this or how I could navigate the changing terms of the relationship. Any ideas? —Abroad Worries

Dear Abroad Worries,

In order for my advice to be most helpful to you, I have a few questions for you to answer first:

How long have you been in a relationship for? 

This is important because what you decide can have an impact on your relationship and your life. If this is a new relationship, changing the terms could take it in a completely different direction. If this is a long-term relationship, it can definitely change the structure and integrity of what you have established, which can be a good or bad thing.

Do you also want to date other people? 

This may seem fairly obvious to you, but really think about it. Though college is supposedly where many people find their life partner, it is also a time to explore yourself and find out what type of people you like. You will never be in this type of an environment again, so don’t be afraid to try yourself out. This goes for making friends as well, in terms of being open to all kinds of people that may cross your path while here.

Would you want the same thing if you were going abroad? 

This answer might have some clues about how you really feel about it, and it might also allow you to put yourself in his or her shoes.

It is also very important for you to know why your significant other wants to be in an open relationship. In the end, if you don’t want to be in an open relationship, no matter the reason, make that clear to your partner. If they would rather break up then I would suggest just breaking up. Otherwise, you are going to drag yourself through something even more painful than just backing away.

If you talk it out and do decide to try it, then here are some helpful tips:

Have a real, honest conversation with your significant other.

Put everything out on the table: Let all the fears and hopes out. This is the time.

Create some ground rules and boundaries, such as, “Please don’t tell me about last night’s escapade, because even though this is open, I don’t like hearing about it from you.”

Speak up if things aren’t working out as you planned. This can be tough, but is the most important. Separation is tough in general, and can cause a lot of miscommunication, hurt feelings and worry. So when something arises, do not sit on it. You are not going to see him or her, and he or she won’t be able to give you a hug, so the only thing to do is communicate, communicate, communicate! When I went abroad, my partner and I almost broke up a couple of times, so it’s okay to have those conversations if things aren’t working for you at any point.

Open relationships are about working together to make your partnership exactly what you want it to be. If you’re honest, and communicate frequently and openly, it will cause a lot less pain and hopefully give you what you want. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Your Queer,

Mollie Whuppie

1 Comment

  1. This advice is solid, no doubt, but I’ve noticed that this queer column uses “he or she”/”his or her” when referring to the unspecified gender of a person and I wonder why, as a column dedicated to queer-related questions, the writer is sticking to the strict gender binary. I feel that it actively excludes gender-neutral/genderqueer folk, when one could just as easily type “they/their.”

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