DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am in a happy relationship of nearly 5 years, I love my girlfriend and we are both very happy. Around 1 year ago I felt like I needed more close relationships with other people. I told my girlfriend I was polyamorous and that although I loved her, I wanted more than one intimate relationship.
It has since been a year that I have told her how I feel but we have swept it under the rug. This is because she would not be happy with me having more than 1 romantic relationship and I don’t want to leave her.
This is a dilemma. She is the girl I want to marry. However I feel like I need to discover what I really want, and I don’t think I’ve been given a chance to do this. I don’t want her to be unhappy.
I have since told my girlfriend that I am happy with monogamy, because I feel so strongly about her and I really want our relationship to work.
Thank you for reading!
More Love To Give
DEAR MORE LOVE TO GIVE: Let me make sure I have this straight, MLTG because your phrasing’s a bit ambiguous. You want a poly relationship because you want to find what you actually want, is that right? Because, quite frankly, the way you phrase things makes it sound like you’re saying you want to play the field to figure out what actually want while still having your girlfriend. And… that’s kind of a problem in general. It’s a really BIG problem if that’s how you pitched it to your girlfriend.
Now to back up a little bit, let’s talk about the difference between an open relationship and a polyamorous one. An open relationship in general means that you’re not sexually exclusive to your partner; the specifics and the rules involved tend to vary from couple to couple, but it tends to be more about sexual relationships. A polyamorous relationship, on the other hand, is not having an emotionally exclusive relationship with your partner. Again, the style tends to vary dramatically from couple – some poly groups are equilateral triangles where everyone’s involved with the other equally, others involve a single person who’s with two (or more) partners who are not involved with each other. All variations can get pretty complicated pretty quickly and require some serious social calibration, emotional intelligence and incredibly clear and open communication with everyone involved. A polyamorous relationship – regardless of the structure – is dating on steroids and all the stresses and duties of a relationship are multiplied. It can seem awesome from an outside perspective – the harem fantasy, anyone? – but in real life it can explode very quickly and all over the place.
If you seriously want to pursue a non-monogamous relationship, I suggest you do your research. Read The Ethical Slut, Opening Up and More Than Two, so that you’ll have the toolset and the vocabulary to negotiate and manage an open or poly relationship. Maintaining a polyamorous relationship is varsity-level dating when it’s poly from the start. Trying to turn a long-term, monogamous relationship into a poly one is basically pro-level dating. The idea of opening up a relationship sexually is often easier, interestingly enough; there’re more cultural models for getting some on the side than there are for the idea that you can have romantic love for more than one person at the same time.
And that’s part of what’s going to make things difficult. Your girlfriend went into this relationship – quite reasonably – assuming that you and she were on the same page. Making that big of a change to the terms of your relationship? Especially if the two of you haven’t had any sort of serious discussion about how it would work and what it would look like? That’s going to be a very hard shift to make.
So that’s one problem right there. Now here’s the other:
You’ve basically kicked it back under the rug and said “never mind, just kidding.” If polyamory is something you seriously want to pursue, then that really was a bad precedent to set. While I get that this seems like best way to make things work with your girlfriend, you’ve basically given yourself a short-term fix to a long-term problem. If you’re not genuinely OK with monogamy… well, all you’ve done is set yourself up for a break-up down the road instead of ending it now, before things get more entangled and harder to end cleanly. It’s also going to suck more for your girlfriend, especially if she thinks that the entire time you were with her, you were wishing you could be with someone else… even if that’s “someone else as well“.
You’re going to have to make a decision, MLTG: which do you want more? Your relationship with your current girlfriend? Or a polyamorous one? You’re not going to be able to have both.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a bit of a complicated sexual and emotional situation that I’m looking for some insight into. There’s a lot of NSFW detail in here, but it’s important to understanding the situation.
So I’m a cis woman and my partner of almost a year (since March 2015) is a trans woman, K. She’s assigned male at birth and pre-gender-affirmation surgery. My relationship with her is the longest one I’ve ever had (my previous longest was two months, to give you an idea of my background).
When we first started dating, I was able to give K two to three orgasms in one session – with some down-time in between, of course, but still pretty closely timed. That gradually stopped, and for the past few months (I’m not sure exactly when), orgasm has been almost exclusively “one-and-done” for her…at least when we’re together.
See, K and I also made the decision to open up our relationship in early September. We started out by getting together on two separate occasions for a threesome with a cis-woman friend of hers, G, who also had a couple dates with K without me there. During the threesomes K was obviously able to orgasm much more than with me alone, which made sense. However, that was also the case when K and G had solo dates; K was able to have multiple orgasms in one night with G, but that is no longer something that K does with me.
K and I did close up our relationship in October when school got busier, but in the past month we have reopened it, again with G being K’s friend-with-benefits. It’s still the case that K is able to go for multiple rounds every evening she spends with G alone, but not when she’s with me alone. Now obviously, this makes me feel like total crap.
My brain is telling me I used to be attractive enough and exciting enough to make her want me, but now we’ve been together long enough that I’m boring and unattractive to her, and that’s never going to change. I’ve brought these concerns to K, and she’s 1) felt guilty as hell that I feel unwanted, and 2) tried to tell me that it’s not “better” with G than it is with me; it’s just different, and she still does desire me sexually even though we interact differently now. It’s just really hard for me to believe this – after all, there’s a quantitative difference between one orgasm and two or three, right? And one is simply measurably better than the other.
I don’t know what to do at this point. Our relationship has always been very honest and supportive, and I don’t want to ruin it with my own irrational insecurity on this issue. I simply don’t know what I could do to make myself believe that I’m desirable and exciting again. K suggested watching porn for extra stimulation so she can go a second round with me, and we tried that, but it ended up making me feel even worse because it’s a reminder that she used to be able to do that with only me being the stimulation, and now I’m no longer exciting enough to make that happen.
Literally anything you have to say would be appreciated here.
Thanks for your time,
Going Back for Seconds
DEAR GOING BACK FOR SECONDS: Your jerkbrain’s going nuts, GBS and it’s making you miserable. Let me help you out a little.
First and foremost: sexual desire and performance is a strange beast in mammals. We’re sexually wired in all sorts of weird ways that cause a lot of stress because our genitals don’t always play nice with our social mores. K’s not wrong when she says “it’s different”. This is actually a factor of biology, and something that trips people up all the time in long-term relationships. In scientific circles, the way we respond sexually to new partners vs. the same partner is known as the Coolidge Effect; it describes the way that the dopamine spike from sex drops when people mate repeatedly with the same partner. In layman’s terms: our bodies start getting used to our partners as we get more familiar with them and the novelty fades. Being with a new partner ramps the dopamine spike back up because, well, they’re new and different.
But new and different doesn’t mean better. It just means different. Similarly, familiar doesn’t mean worse or boring. Those are labels your jerk-brain is throwing up because it’s trying to tell you that something’s wrong and it’s all your fault.
You’re going through something every couple goes through. Sexual passion ebbs and flows in a relationship. It’s hot and heavy in the early days, then settles into something less frantic but more intimate over time… but it can come right back too. The fact that you’re at a (relatively) low ebb has nothing to do with the quality of your relationship, your feelings for one another or how attractive you are to each other. It’s just part of a cycle that everyone goes through.
Second of all: Don’t conflate the number of orgasms or length of the refractory period with the quality of the orgasms or the strength of the connection. How many times a person orgasms or how are dependent on so many factors that are completely separate from attraction that you can’t really make any qualitative statements about “what they mean”. Hell, people with penises and prostates tend to have stronger orgasms, with correspondingly higher levels of ejaculate, when they believe their partner’s had sex with someone else. This serves as a way to flush out the competitor’s sperm. It also happens to feel good, in the way that only a mind-blowing orgasm can. That doesn’t mean that they suddenly find their partner that much more attractive; it’s just a weird quirk of being a primate.
So let’s put number of orgasms aside and look at behavior. It doesn’t sound like K’s neglecting you sexually or that she’s avoiding sex with you in order to sleep with G. In fact, it sounds like K’s doing a fair amount of work to make things work – and that’s more important than how many times she orgasms with one person or another.
In fact, K’s doing one of the things I advise couples to do when the passion starts to dip: she’s bringing more novelty into the experience. Watching porn together is one of the ways for couples to change things up. You might also try having different kinds of sex – experimenting with kink, sexting, dirty talk, taking it to new and different places (literally)… getting out of the tried and true and trying the new and different to kick off the same chemicals you had shooting through your brains when you first got together.
But let’s focus on this fact: she’s trying to show you that she still finds you attractive. Sometimes you have to be willing to take “yes” for an answer and realize your jerkbrain is a lying liar as what tells lies.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)