DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So, I lived very happily being single for some time – and I also had my quota of serious relationships in the past. But after some time being single, I met this girl in my home country that I really feel comfortable with. Then, fate happened: I moved to another country on another continent. Although I was still feeling comfortable by myself, after some time dating at a distance and a few very expensive plane tickets, we decided that it could be cool to live together here: at least as a test… we never lived with a couple before so it was a new experience for both of us. It was really a pain to bring her here, because of COVID bureaucracy, the fact that she came with her cat (and I had mine)… but we finally made it.
So, it’s already been a year since she arrived, and I’m still comfortable with her. The thing is, I’m really missing the fact of being single: particularly in the fact of dating other random women.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel really sexually satisfied and happy with her right now, but I do miss the fact of getting out there, trying to seduce other bodies, other voices, other personalities; even if that sometimes derived in a not-so-satisfying sexual encounter, the fun was in all the process.
We had a very short conversation about “opening the relationship” but she was 100% against it, so clearly “going rogue” would definitely hurt her a lot. But I really feel very tempted…
Any suggestions here?
Abroad Guy With Single Thoughts
DEAR ABROAD GUY WITH SINGLE THOUGHTS: Right off the bat, AGWST: what you’re feeling is normal and damn near everyone experiences it to one degree or another. One of the tropes about relationships and dating that is my continual pet peeve is the idea that monogamy is simple, easy and everyone can do it. It isn’t, it definitely isn’t easy and no, not everyone can. That’s not a moral failing; that’s just human biology. We are a novelty-seeking species, and one of the most powerful forms of novelty is sexual novelty. Even folks who are ostensibly monogamous still indulge in sexual novelty; folks who watch porn don’t just watch one movie or one particular porn star, after all.
The fact that you’re attracted to other women doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong in your relationship. The fact that you kind of miss going out and hooking up with new people is natural; it’s that thrill of the new. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that your relationship is failing. It just means that you’re a primate with a sex drive, same as everyone else. While some folks may feel the urge at different levels and some may have an easier time pushing it down, it’s something that hits pretty much everyone. Monogamy just means that you’ve chosen to not sleep with other people; it doesn’t say a damn thing about not wanting to.
However, at the same time: just because things are natural doesn’t mean they can’t f--k up a perfectly good relationship.
Here’s the thing: every relationship comes with a price of entry. It can sound cold when you look at it dispassionately, but every relationship is subject to a cost/benefit analysis. No relationship, no matter the relationship style, the person, the country or any other condition you care to name, occurs without compromise. If you are in a relationship with someone, you are giving up something. Many times, what you’re giving up is sex or romantic relationships with other people. Other times, it may be a particular type of sex. You may be letting go of dreams of having kids, traveling to exotic locales, working a particular job because now you need to support a family… there is always a compromise being made. The key is that while you may be giving up something that you want, what you get in exchange is so awesome and makes you so happy that you can accept not getting the rest.
Case in point: you like the thrill of meeting someone new, the process of getting to know each other, the build up of attraction and tension to the moment where you and they fall into bed together. That’s both very common and very normal, and for a lot of folks, that’s something that they can’t live without.
However, that’s something you can’t have in the relationship you have with your girlfriend. While some folks are cool with non-monogamy — if they aren’t non-monogamous themselves — others aren’t. Your girlfriend has made it clear that she’s one of the folks who isn’t. Being in a relationship with her means that the price of entry is that you are giving up the thrill of the new. Cheating on her — not “going rogue” or some other euphemism, cheating — will likely destroy her trust in you and your relationship in short order. And while I know my view of infidelity is nuanced, what you’re describing as “very tempting” is a deliberate betrayal of that trust. That’s not “I had a couple too many drinks and failed my Wisdom save”, that would be choosing to do something that you know would hurt her.
So, you’re asking for suggestions. If I’m going to be honest, AGWST, my suggestion would be that you shouldn’t have committed to a monogamous relationship when you started dating her. If that thrill of the new is something that you know you need, then agreeing to a monogamous commitment isn’t a great idea. That’s not something that you “get out of your system” or “goes away in time”; it’s part of who you are and what you need in a relationship. Trying to force yourself to not feel something only ends up making it stronger.
I would also say that moving straight from long-distance to living together wasn’t a great choice. The dynamics of dating when you live in different cities or countries is different than when you live in the same place. Leaping from an LDR straight to living together means having to adjust to a lot of differences very, very quickly, and that can put a pretty significant strain on the relationship. When that leap involves moving to an entirely different country adds a lot of pressure on the relationship; they’re in a place with very little social support or connections besides you. That can make it very hard to deal with the usual stresses that come up in every relationship. Now the stakes involved in resolving your issues are much, much higher than they might be otherwise.
That can put a serious strain on relationships, especially if you’re already feeling like you’re missing being single. It’s harder to have those awkward, necessary conversations when you know that breaking up has vastly different stakes for them.
But all of that would require having access to a Flux Capacitor or a TARDIS and since none of us have those things, the only way we can move is forward.
So under the current situation, you have a choice. You can either decide that what you don’t get — dating and sleeping with other people — is a compromise you can make because what you get in exchange is so worth it. Or you can decide that this isn’t a price you’re willing to pay for your relationship.
It’s certainly possible that she’ll change her mind about opening up the relationship, and there’s nothing saying that you can’t circle back to that discussion down the line. Not every relationship starts off open, and some couples come to ethical non-monogamy after having been monogamous for a while. Some come to it even after having rejected it out of hand previously. However, this usually takes a lot of time while you build up the level of trust, security and communication needed for her to feel ready to consider the possibility.
At the same time, though, she may never get to that point no matter what. Going further into this relationship on the assumption that you will change her mind later is a bad idea. If this is something you knew about yourself from the jump, then you would have a better time saying “I am willing to be monogamous with you for now, but I’ll want to reopen this discussion later,” at the beginning. So if you’re going to go forward with your relationship with her, then you have to do so recognizing that an ethically non-monogamous relationship may never be on the table.
If you do decide to stay with your girlfriend, then I would suggest making a point of keeping the thrills in your sex life a priority. While you can’t keep the initial novelty of a new partner alive forever, you can keep the excitement and adventures together alive. Beyond the biological component, part of why sex and passion fade in relationships is because people fall into ruts. They quit doing so many of the crazy things they did at the start of a relationship — including all the wild sexual encounters — because they’re starting to settle in. When you’re having sex the same ways, at the same times… well, it gets a little repetitive. It gets dull. Part of making a relationship work in the long term means continuing to shake things up, try new things and to avoid falling into patterns. So, in your case, part of what might make monogamy more acceptable as a price of entry would be to put the effort in to keep the sexual novelty and adventure going. Whether it’s exploring kinks together, creating artificial barriers you have to overcome together or stepping up your Gomez Addams game, keeping the spark alive and vital will be an important part of making this relationship work.
And if you still need a little strange on occasion? Get yourself a couple Tengas or Fleshlights, subscribe to some Fansly or OnlyFans profiles and jerk one out.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org