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Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Try An Open Relationship With My BF?

Auntie SparkNotes: Should I Try An Open Relationship With My BF?

Dear Auntie,

What is your opinion on open relationships?

I am a high school junior. My boyfriend is a senior and recently enlisted in the Marine Corps. After this school year he'll go through boot camp, then active duty for a couple years, then attend the Citadel on his GI Bill, hopefully go through ROTC, and become a marine officer.

Basically what this means is that I won't be able to see him save once or twice a year for the next 5-6 years, and even then I will be hopefully pursuing a Master's Degree and he will be stationed hundreds of miles away. We communicate pretty well and have talked about this predicament a little bit, and he has said that being in an open relationship would be the best route, keeping emotional fidelity but being able to do the HND with others.

I have never liked the idea of an open relationship, but at this point, it seems to be the most viable option. Ideally, we would like to get married. We both know the chances of our feelings remaining unchanged throughout the years are slim, but we would certainly like to try. I will be at college, and not being able to even kiss another guy for 5-6 years while I have an absent boyfriend would cause resentment on my part and distrust on his. But neither of us really like the idea of just breaking things off completely, as we are extremely close and have been dating for nearly 2 years.

What should I do Auntie? Should we break off our relationship completely and hope that we can date again in the future? Should we try to remain together? Or should we try for an open relationship?

My opinion on open relationships is as follows: they're terrific! I mean, theoretically, and just so long as everyone involved is trustworthy, communicative, and believes them to be a good and viable option. (And I do mean theoretically; in the interest of total honesty, I have no personal experience with open relationships, and if Mr. Auntie SparkNotes suggested we try one, I would probably throw up. Forever.)

But as for whether an open relationship is terrific for you... my dear, I've no idea. Only you know whether you and your boyfriend are capable of sustaining your relationship, monogamous or not, during the challenging years ahead—and even you won't know for sure until you try it. Some people have the trust and communication and capacity to be physically intrepid but emotionally committed during a long period of long distance; others, even with trust and communication and the best intentions, will find that they just can't deal with it. Not everyone has the desire or disposition to share the person they love.

So whatever you decide, and however you decide it, it'll be an untested choice that comes with no guarantees.

...Is an example of exactly the kind of warning you don't need, because you've already figured it out on your own.

Which is why I'm not going to tell you what to do, but instead make the following suggestion: that you have a little faith in your own ability to decide what's best for you. You know who you are and what you want. You've envisioned your options realistically. You've got open eyes and a healthy perspective. And if you don't want to break up, and if an open relationship feels like the best solution to you, then that's all the reason you need to give it a try.

(Note: If you do decide to do this, make sure you discuss in advance what the rules are and how much you each want to know about the other's involvements—and agree to re-discuss as needed. Some people prefer to be completely ignorant, others want to be fully informed, and most will need a few false starts before they figure out exactly what level of disclosure is the right level. Expect this, and be ready to talk. The one thing you can never, ever do in a non-monogamous relationship is fail to express your feelings, or punish the other person for expressing his; without trust and communication, the whole thing falls apart.)

And look, you're right: the chances of a high school romance surviving five years of military-grade distance are slim—and even if it does survive, it may not be a relationship that your five-years-older self finds appealing anymore. You may grow apart; you may fall in love with someone else; you may find that an open relationship, logical or not, makes you too miserable to be sustainable. But if the arrangement you choose isn't working, that doesn't mean you were wrong to try; it just means that now, you need to try something else.

And if that happens? You'll be fine, and you'll know it. Because you'll just do the same thing then that you're doing right now: the best you can, with the information you have. Trust me. And while you're at it, trust YOU. Happy deciding.

Would you ever try an open relationship? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

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Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, relationships, advice, boyfriends, ldrs, open relationships, monogamy

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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