DEAR AMY: I have been dating "Steve" for almost four months. He is divorced and has a young child. We are both in our late 30s. Based on conversations we've had, I was under the impression we were a "couple," as we spent most of his nonchild time together. Early on, he told me that in the past his relationships (including that with his ex-wife) were "open," but it wasn't something he actively looked for -- they just happened. He said he was looking for a committed relationship. I admired his honesty and openness. However, recently when I pushed for more of a commitment he informed me that he has been in open relationships with "friends" regularly. Now he seems to be involved with two women -- one who is going through a divorce and the other who is just a friend. He's been with one woman for a long time. Both women know about me. He said one of them is open to "exploring" more with him and me. He also said a committed relationship can still be an open one. Do you think it's possible to have a stable "open" relationship and also a committed relationship? I've fallen hard for this guy. Should I be open to "open?"
DEAR NAIVE: It is curious that "Steve" defines his choice to sleep with multiple people as an "open" relationship with you. (If you didn't know about it and didn't consent to it, it's not "open.") Using his terminology and logic, I'm going to call my choice to eat my way through the "endless shrimp" experience at Red Lobster "open eating." Steve can call his version of nonmonogamy whatever he wants, but it still sounds like he's trolling for crustaceans.
He has one long-term sexual partner, another more recent partner and you -- his romantic and sexual partner of a few months. So far, you have no say in his choices -- in some "open" or nonmonogamous relationships the "primary" romantic partner gets a vote on other potential sexual partners. And because he says he wants to be in a "committed" relationship but this other sexual stuff just "keeps happening," it's possible that Steve has a control problem (in that he doesn't have much control).
I think committed relationships can work alongside almost any other kind of behavior as long as the commitment and the relationship come first. You and he need to define very clearly what the word "commitment" means to each of you.
If you want to play with him and other consenting adults, then go for it. Always use a condom with all partners -- especially Steve. This sort of arrangement means it's "open season" for STDs.
DEAR AMY: I have several friends I never get to talk to unless I call them. Finally I have gotten sick of it and have stopped calling them. If they are too busy to call me, then I am too busy to call them. Do you think I am doing the right thing?
No Rings in WV
DEAR NO RINGS: I understand your logic and your desire to be in more balanced relationships.
These friends are doing what they want to do. They don't seem to feel inclined or obligated to keep in touch by phone. And so you should do exactly what you want to do too. If you want to call, then do. Don't stay away just to make a point, because they might not notice.
DEAR AMY: "Confused" got a thank-you note for the wrong wedding gift. Please tell Confused she should be thankful for the "thank you," even though it was for the wrong gift. I've given gifts for weddings, graduations, babies, etc., and don't get any notes. I wonder what happened to manners? I know they get the checks, because they are cashed. Sigh!
DEAR CONFUSED: This is by far the most commonly expressed frustration from readers. I share this frustration. All of this exposure to a larger lack of gratitude has made me much better at expressing my own -- and I hope you do too.