Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

"My boyfriend jokes around about wanting an open relationship. I told him I'm not OK with it, but he still makes comments about a threesome and other things. It's not all the time... maybe just once a month, but still. It makes me feel wildly uncomfortable. I want him to stop and I want to be enough for him."

Signed, Two Is Enough

Dear, Two Is Enough,

This is a rough situation to be in, and I’m sorry that it’s bringing you so much stress. I’m glad that you’re at least clear on what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. That will make my suggestions much clearer.

One of the key parts of a healthy relationship is a little thing called respect. Without it, partners start resenting each other and don’t feel safe being together. It festers and builds until the relationship is so broken, it’s past fixing. How your boyfriend keeps making these little comments feels very much like disrespect. It’s one thing for him to make remarks about bringing someone into your bedroom, but a whole other to keep doing it when you said no.

You need to have a serious, straightforward talk with your boyfriend. One where you’re both sitting down and understand this isn’t a joke. Do it during the day, when you’re both thinking clearly (and fully clothed). Tell your boyfriend that your mind isn’t going to change about an open relationship or threesome. Let him know how uncomfortable his comments make you feel and that you need him to stop bringing them up.

His reaction will be very telling.

It’s important that, when you go into this conversation, you’re firm on your boundaries. There’s a path that could end well for the relationship: you could both come up with sexual fantasies that satisfy both of you but only involve the two of you. Perhaps this could be the compromise you need.

Chances are, though, that won’t be enough for your boyfriend. Wanting an open relationship isn’t a one-and-done mindset; it’s an ongoing arrangement. It sounds like both of you have fundamentally different ideas about what you want from your relationship. I know that can be a tough truth to come to terms with, but it’s important you know that doesn’t make either of you bad people.

Perhaps the relationship has run its course, and it’s time for you to move on. The fact that you wish you could be “enough” for your partner worries me. His decision to want a non-monogamous relationship has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. Staying in this relationship could deeply hurt your sense of self-worth, and that alone is enough concern to end things. You’re a great person; you just might be with the wrong person.

Another perspective that might help you see this clearly is thinking about a friend in the same position. What advice would you give them? How would you feel if you found out their boyfriend was pressuring them like this? I have a feeling you wouldn’t respond well. So maybe it’s time to feel that way about your situation.

Your boyfriend wanting a threesome doesn’t make him a bad person, just like his desires don’t mean you’re not good enough as a girlfriend. The issue here is the lack of respect for your boundaries. If your boyfriend can’t come to a compromise with you that doesn’t involve someone else in your bedroom, then it’s time to find someone who wants the same things as you.

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