Coupled With D&S

Real, nonjudgmental advice about dating, sex, love, and life from a thirty-something couple that has seen it all over thirteen years.

Trust us. We live in Brooklyn. (Joking. Kind of.)

Open but Unequal: In an open relationship, she gets dates and he gets jealous.

Jealousy by Edvard Munch

“Jealousy” by Edvard Munch

The Question

A 30ish Manhattanite wrote to us with a conundrum typical of non-monogamous relationships—in fact, we have several versions of this same question in our inbox. “My boyfriend and I have been together a few years. We love and are committed to each other, but we also want to sleep with other people. We decided to try having an open relationship, and we created OKCupid accounts. The thing is, I’ve found it ridiculously easy to meet men, and he’s having no luck at all. He’s had a few dates, but they’ve just been awful. Meanwhile, I’ve got more than I can handle. It’s created a lot of tension, and I’m putting a hold on my own adventures for now, even though I don’t want to. What can we do for him?”

Sally Says

It seems like a lot of heterosexual couples in open relationships report this problem. Maybe men are just bigger horn dogs and willing to overlook a cute girl’s relationship status, while women are often less interested in doing so. Women also judge men’s appearance more critically on dating websites, so having excellent photos, a really well-written, inviting profile, and being a good message-writer are absolutely necessary.

Especially in one’s thirties, women seem to be more likely than men to start looking to settle down and be serious. If they want to have children, they’re operating under the tyranny of the biological clock. This means that for men dating women in their age range, it may be hard to meet someone who will be a casual partner only and nothing more.

Two possible solutions to this are for your guy to try dating younger or older women, although this may get in the way of compatibility and personal connection (if he’s interested in those). He can also focus on meeting women who are, like him, in open relationships, which is something you can filter or search for on OKCupid, though not most other dating websites. We’re not sure if the two of you are game for the “real estate” (Where will you go to get down?) and interpersonal problems that might result from this—it depends on the rules you have for your open relationship—but that complication might be a price you have to pay to have equitable dating.

David Says

Women looking to have casual sex—or at least women who are open about looking to have casual sex—are precious commodities, whether they are attached to other men or not. I don’t think most guys care either way, and I’m sure there are many who would actually be turned on by a partnered woman.

Men openly looking to have casual sex, however, are nothing special—they are, in fact, almost every man—and many women will consider his relationship to you to be a strike against him (whether they are 21 or 41). A partnered guy looking to meet women to sleep with better have something special to offer: either he’s exceptionally attractive, exceptionally smooth, has an exceptionally good story, or has some kind of status that lends him special cache.

If that’s not your guy’s case (and you know this, no matter how handsome and charming you find him), and if you want to try sleeping with other people in an equitable way that doesn’t cause too much jealousy or friction (always a difficult task), then you’re going to have to step up to the plate for your guy.

They key phrase here is “sharing is caring,” and here are two possible ways you can do this:

1) Be his wing woman. That is, help him find dates. Talk him up to women in person at bars and parties and see if anything sticks. Online, write to other women and share what’s good about him. Edit his profile and messages so that you know he’s offering something that another woman would find enticing. And give him dating tips to minimize the awkwardness you talk about.

2) Share partners. Your profile mentions that you’re bisexual; if you’re able to find that magic third we’ve talked about before for a threesome, that could be a good option. If that unicorn proves too elusive, you might consider swinging or trading with another couple. That’s probably the most guaranteed equitable solution. Another couple interested in more than monogamy probably contains a guy who has experienced your boyfriend’s same difficulties and a gal who’s having as much success and causing as much stress as you are. I’m sure involving four people is more complicated than you and your boyfriend going off on your own, but it might be the most practical and fair solution for you two.

The Consensus

It is worth asking yourself and him, ‘How much do we really want to sleep with other people and what are we willing to do or give up to make that fair?’

You’re probably doing the right thing by taking a break right now. It sounds like this is new for you, and even if your boyfriend is Jon Hamm, it might take him some time to get started, especially if he has only been with you for awhile. Whatever you do, make sure that you and he place each others’ happiness above everything else. And think about how you’d want to be treated if you were in his shoes. There’s always the possibility that you could find your situations reversed. Most importantly, You don’t want to ruin your primary relationship for the sake of sleeping around. And if you feel you must open up and you want to stay together, then it’syou’re going to have to take some action to help your guy out, whether it’s primping his profile or pimping him out.