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Savage Love: My Girlfriend Wants To Be Non-Monogamous

Missing out

I’m a lesbian and my girlfriend is bi. I’ve read your column and listened to your podcast for a long time, Dan, and I always thought I’d be fine with having a partner ask me about being non-monogamous. Then my girlfriend of about a year and a half told me she wants to see what other women are like. She says the thought of me sleeping with other people turns her on but the prospect of her sleeping with other people only makes me nervous. She came out later and I’m the only woman she’s been with. I understand that, as a woman, I’ll never be able to give her what she might get from a man sexually and that sometimes she’ll want that, so there’s also that. We’ve talked about it and it would have to be a Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell agreement.

I would also get to step outside the relationship, the other people would have to know we’re in a relationship, and there couldn’t be any “dates.” On top of all that, we’re long distance for now. She says she loves me and I believe her, and she says she doesn’t want to lose me. But she also says she’s been dealing with these non-monogamous urges for a while and needs to address them. I don’t want to lose her. Do you have any advice?
Fretting Endlessly About Relationship Situation

monogamous
(Artwork by Joe Newton)

I understand your fears. People in committed non-monogamous relationships have been known to catch feelings for their outside sexual partners. And while that doesn’t always doom the primary relationship, FEARS, catching feelings for someone else inevitably complicates things.

And while a non-monogamous couple can make rules that forbid the catching of feelings, feelings aren’t easily ruled.
But people in closed relationships have been known to catch feelings for people they aren’t sleeping with, i.e. coworkers, friends, friends-of-friends, partners of friends, siblings of partners, partners of siblings, etc.

So the risk that a partner might catch feelings for someone else isn’t eliminated when two people make a monogamous commitment — and yet sane, stable, functional people in monogamous relationships manage to get through the day without being nervous wrecks, because they trust their partners are committed to them.

And even if their partners should develop a crush on someone else … which they almost inevitably will … they trust that their partners aren’t going to leave them … which they still might.

By which I mean to say, there’s risk in every relationship and it’s trust that helps us manage our fears about those risks. So if you trust your girlfriend to honor the terms you’ve agreed to — DADT, fucks are okay, dates are not, the other women know she’s taken — and you trust she’s telling the truth when she says she loves you and doesn’t want to lose you, FEARS, then you should choose to believe her.

Just like a person in a monogamous relationship chooses to believe their partner when they say they won’t fuck anyone else (even though they might) and won’t leave them for anyone else (even though they could), you can choose to believe your girlfriend will honor the rules you’ve laid out.

I’m at a bit of a loss. I met a guy that I really like at a nudist resort of all places. I didn’t realize at the time just how much I was falling for him. He was trying to be more in the beginning but I missed some very obvious signs. Hindsight is 20/20. I’m incredibly guarded after growing up in an emotionally abusive household and am still dealing with some trauma after being raped a few years ago. By the time I realized how I felt about him, he surprised me by telling me he had a girlfriend. I was trying to arrange a time to see him after I disappeared for a bit to face some demons from the past.

I wanted to tell him how I felt in person. Before I got that chance, he already had a girlfriend. He and I run in the same kinky circles and I ran into them at an event. I actually got a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach that I didn’t expect. I never told him how I felt about him. I’m happy that he is happy with her but it hurts, nonetheless. He matters enough to me that I would be content keeping him in my life even if it’s just as a friend.

My question is should I tell him how I feel and risk losing him altogether or do I let him be happy with his girlfriend and not tell him that I fell hard for him? I know he might not reciprocate my feelings. That’s okay if he doesn’t, but the not knowing I think hurts more than the truth would.
Hopeless Romantic Nailing The Hopeless Part

If the not knowing hurts more than losing his friendship would — if not knowing whether you had a shot with him and blew it — then you should tell him how you feel (or felt) and express regret for missing the obvious signs and disappearing on him.

And as painful as it might be hear that he wouldn’t want to be with you even if he were single — and that’s the worst-case scenario — you will get over it and get over him. Best-case scenario, HRNTHP, he had no idea you were into him, he’s not serious about the new girlfriend, and he’d rather date you. Less-than-best-case scenario, he might be willing to date you if 1. things don’t work out with his new girlfriend and 2. you’re still single at that point.

In the meantime, don’t pass on any other opportunities that come your way and be courteous, polite, and non-toxic when you run into them together at kinky events.

I’m writing to beg you — to implore you — to make some sort of desperate, last-ditch attempt to hold back the tide of linguistic confusion over the word, “come.” Yes, that is the word, readers of Savage Love. It’s “come,” it’s not “cum.” The past tense is “came,” not “cummed.” (Yes, Dan, people are now saying and typing “cummed.”)

In the past I’ve been content to merely grumble cantankerously. The final straw came over the last several months when, while watching a lot of international TV and movies, I noticed — to my horror — that the people responsible for the subtitles are using “cum.” Yes, the semi-literate usage of free-online-porn posters has now polluted the entire planet’s comprehension of this simple English word.

I turn to you, DS, to do something about this. To come out loudly and proudly for coming, loudly and proudly. This isn’t just about spelling. It’s about losing the meaning of the word: It signifies an arrival.
Canadian Opposes Mangled English

P.S. You owe me one, Dan. I was raised in Winnipeg, whose inhabitants, Winnipeggers, refer to their home affectionately as “The ‘Peg.” You’ve turned any reference to my hometown into a source for snickers amongst the same sort of childish people who use “cum.” The least you can do, in recompense, is to restore the simple dignity of, “come.”

kink savage love
Dan Savage

I’m on your side, COME. I’ve been fighting a lonely battle against “cum,” “cumming,” and (shudder) “cummed” for as long as I’ve been writing this column. I confess to having sinned a few weeks ago when I used the term “cumblebrag.” But in my defense, that was obviously a pun and — for the record — my one-time use of “cum” in the service of a joke should not be construed as an endorsement of “cum.” (The eye stumbles over “comeblebrag,” so it wouldn’t have worked to use “come.”)

As I’ve written before, we don’t have alternate spellings for other words that have both sexual and non-sexual meanings. Seeing as we don’t “suk dik” or “eet pussee,” there’s no earthly reason why we should “cum” on someone else or be “cummed” upon ourselves.

P.S. Sorry about that, Winnipeggers.

mail@savagelove.net; Follow Dan on Twitter; On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Amy Chan of “Breakup Bootcamp.” Read past Savage Love columns here

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