We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: should you open your relationship if you have a crush on someone else?
Q: “I've been with my boyfriend for four years. He is the only relationship I’ve ever had. I recently moved across the country to be with him. I love this man so much, and he loves me, and we have a great relationship, but I am in this sticky situation that I cannot sort through.
Recently, a new guy started working at my job. Since he started working here, we have kicked off a really great friendship. A couple nights ago, he took me by total surprise and completely opened up to me about how I am the perfect girl for him and he knew it from the first second he met me, but he feels like sh*t for feeling this way because I am in a long term relationship with my boyfriend. He could not stop telling me how I am the person he has been looking for his whole life. The part that makes this feel all fucked up is that I have feelings for this kid too. When he first started working here, I fell head over heels right away and even started researching how to have a non-monogamous relationship. I wanted to figure out how I can keep this boy in my life as well as my current boyfriend.
My boyfriend and I have a great relationship, but after moving here with him, I have never felt so lonely. It’s a small town, he is constantly at school and I’m always at work. I feel deprived of attention and affection. And our sex life is slowly getting more and more boring and drab.
Things with this coworker seem way too unrealistic, but there is a part of me (a big part) that really wants us to work somehow, some way. But I don’t want things to end with my boyfriend. Is it realistic and ethical to think about an open relationship? I feel like that would be the hardest conversation to ever have with a long term partner that I believe is the person I want to marry.”
A: Thanks for the question! Opening up you relationship is a big decision that should not be taken lightly or done quickly, so I’m glad you’ve taken the time to write. Here are seven things to know if you’re thinking about opening your relationship.
Crushes Are Normal
First of all, I want to point out that it’s totally normal to get crushes on other people, even if you’re in a committed relationship with someone you love. Being in a relationship doesn’t make you go blind; you’re always going to be attracted to other people. Being in a relationship also doesn’t make you immune to having chemistry with other people. Even if you’re convinced you’ve found your soulmate, you’re still going to feel a spark with other people. Crushes are a part of being human.
Crushes are also often just about your attraction to or chemistry with another person. They don’t have anything to do with your relationship. In other words, getting a crush on someone else doesn’t mean that you don’t love your partner anymore, or that something is lacking in your relationship. You also don’t need to do anything about having a crush. It’s not a sign that you need to do some deep soul searching, or tell your partner about it, or end your relationship. Seriously! The more you can recognize how normal it is to have a crush, the less power it will have over you.
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Flattery
I know you mentioned that you started falling for this guy as soon as you met him, but I also wanted to point out that flattery can be very powerful. It sounds like your crush had quite the dramatic proclamation of his feelings for you. Anyone in your position would probably develop a little crush in return. Knowing that someone likes you can be overwhelmingly flattering, and it can be hard not to at least wonder what it would be like to be with that person.
Give Yourself Time
Next, let me get to the heart of your dilemma — whether or not to open up your relationship with your boyfriend. The best advice I can give you is to not make any decisions right now. It’s a big decision, and you should give yourself some time to feel into what feels right for you. You’ll also need some time to sort through some of the other tips I’m going to give you, below. I know you might feel rushed to make a decision right now, but if you and your crush truly have something special, it can wait.
Work On Your Relationship First
It sounds like things have been going downhill with your boyfriend for a while. It’s clear that you love him, but you recently packed up your whole life and moved cross-country for him. You’re in a new town, and feeling lonely. It sounds like the two of you are spending less and less time together, and your sex life is starting to taper off as well. Even if you didn’t end up developing a crush on the other guy, you probably would have still had to have a big conversation with your boyfriend about the state of your relationship.
I highly recommend that you first devote your attention to trying to get your relationship with your boyfriend back on track. Your relationship with your boyfriend needs to be healthy in order for you to even consider opening things up. Opening your relationship while it’s fragile is a recipe for disaster. Talk to your boyfriend about the amount of quality time you’re spending together. Talk to him about working on your sex life together. Go to couples counseling or sex therapy. Once it feels like you’re back in a good place, you’ll be better prepared to evaluate whether or not to open things up.
Evaluate Your Values
When you have a crush on someone else, opening your relationship sounds like a great idea. But an open relationship will only be successful if it actually aligns with your values. Do you genuinely align with non-monogamy on a moral and ethical level? Here’s another way to get at the heart of the matter — did you ever think about having an open relationship before meeting your crush? Or are you only debating it because of your crush?
Picture Things The Other Way Around
Another way you can try to get a sense of your values is by picturing the situation if it were reversed. How would you feel if your boyfriend was the one who developed a crush on someone new, and asked for an open relationship? It’s easy to get caught up in a crush, but picturing the situation the other way around can bring you back to reality.
Opening Your Relationship Isn’t The Easy Way Out
It’s tempting to think of open relationships as a “have your cake and eat it too” type of situation. You get to stay with your boyfriend AND you get to have a fun new guy on the side! But the reality of open relationships is that they take a lot of work. You have to decide what your boundaries are. You have to communicate with your partners, and continually check in about how things are going. You have to make adjustments as you go. You have to manage feelings of jealousy, fear, and abandonment. Don’t get me wrong — open relationships can work. Just don’t think that they’re not work.