Q&A: I’m anxious with my new open relationship

My first ever gay relationship advice Q&A video! A viewer wrote in an asked about feeling anxious, insecure, or jealous in an open relationship. It’s his first time being in a gay open relationship while his boyfriend has been in open relationships in the past. He’s looking for some tactics on how he can work through those feelings and feel more secure in his relationship.

What about you? How do you handle feelings of insecurity in your relationship?

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Without further ado, here is the question…

This guy that I am dating and I are in an open relationship, and I’m struggling with the anxiety of it. He is extremely honest and very reassuring, that all of his encounters are just sex. However, I can’t help but feel anxious. I have a constant fear that someone will be better looking, funnier, more appealing, et cetera, and that he’ll be more into someone. Maybe it’s jealousy? I’m not sure, as I’ve never been in an open relationship before, but he has, and he’s been extremely understanding and patient with my anxiety, but I don’t want to always be anxious about it. Do you have any tips on how to overcome jealousy slash anxiety when in an open relationship?

Oh my God. Yes, I do. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

I come to it from personal experience and also from working with friends and clients who have been in similar situations.

When peter and I opened up our relationship, neither of us had been in an open relationship before. And when Matt and I started dating, this was also his first time being in an open relationship, whereas, I’ve been in one for a number of years now, and so, we’re sort of charting the same territory together that this person asking the question is.

I totally get it.

And I have a few tips that will help you navigate this question.

1. check out this book. It’s called “Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love,”

The reason that I recommend this book is that you talked about being anxious in your relationship, and this book is all about attachment styles and how those inform our adult relationships, our romantic relationships.

Anxious attachment, secure attachment, avoidant attachment…

The book explains what those attachment styles are, where they come from, and how your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style can impact your relationships. So if you know that you are anxious in your relationships, this is going to be a really super helpful first step in identifying that, identifying some unhelpful patterns that come along with your anxiety in your relationships, and figuring out ways in which your partners (especially if they’re secure in their relationships) can help you feel more secure and less anxious.

This will be helpful for you no matter what relationship you’re in, who you’re in it with, whether it’s an open relationship now or a monogamous relationship in the future.

Attached, is written, like many relationship books are, with monogamy in mind. They don’t talk about or address open relationships or polyamory or other forms of nonmonogamy, but I still think it will be helpful. I know it’s been super helpful for me. I read it a few years ago. I actually just finished re-reading it, like, two weeks ago. Highly, highly recommend for folks that are anxious in their relationships.

My next tip is another book. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I’m big into books, and that is “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.

This book is about how to have healthy solutions-focused, non-judgemental communication, and what I think will be particularly helpful for you in the nonviolent communication framework is figuring out what your needs are. That’s step three in nonviolent communication framework and I think learning about the whole framework will be helpful for you because if you can figure out what those needs are, then you can ask your partner or other folks in your life to help you get those needs met; specifically around this sort of anxiety that you’re feeling in this relationship.

I’ve made some videos about nonviolent communication. There’s four parts to them. You can dive into them and explore them here.

Video number three on identifying your needs is going to be crucial. If you want to go even deeper, as you can see, there’s a whole book about it. I think that will be very helpful for you, because like anxiety and jealousy or insecurity in a relationship, usually is a result of some sort of need that’s not being met. A need for stability, safety, comfort, belonging, security, stability, any number of things.

Relatedly, I made a video a few years ago about how jealousy can actually be a helpful feeling. You might find that helpful as well.

When you’re feeling these uncomfortable feelings, they can clue you into some needs of yours that aren’t being met, and so then if you can dive beneath that and figure out what is informing that anxiety, or that insecurity, or that jealousy, that will help you bolster and support your relationship, so it’s ultimately even stronger and more fulfilling. In this way, your jealousy, your anxiety, your insecurity can actually be a gift to your relationship and help you take it to an even stronger, more secure place. So don’t feel bad about how you’re feeling! Lots of folks feel anxious and insecure in relationships, myself most definitely included.

My third tip for you, if you’re feeling anxious and insecure in a relationship, or maybe jealous, is to figure out if an open relationship is right for you.

Just because you feel anxious or insecure or jealous in an open relationship, I don‘t think that necessarily means that it’s not right for you. Those are feelings that come up in all sorts of relationships. I know lots of my friends are in monogamous relationships, and they still feel insecure sometimes, or anxious or jealous, and of course people who are in monogamous relationships get left for someone all the time, you know?

You were worried that “someone better looking, funnier, more appealing, et cetera will come along,” and that can be the case even in a monogamous relationship. For me, remembering that, sort of, monogamy offers this idea of security and stability, but it doesn’t always actually deliver on that promise is helpful. An open relationship might seems scarier or like there’s more opportunities for your partner to leave you, but for me, it’s been actually, sometimes helped me feel more secure because I don’t have to worry, for instance, is my partner secretly in love with a co-worker? Is he conducting a secret affair? Is he harboring feelings for someone else? What’s going on? Is he almost at the breaking point of getting ready to leave me?

I don’t need to worry Because I know exactly like what he’s up to. That he’s going on dates, who he’s seeing. Often times I meet the folks that my boyfriends have dated or have been in relationships with, and so knowing that other people are out there, and knowing what is going on has helped me feel more secure rather than more insecure. So, just because you’re feeling uncomfortable feelings doesn’t necessarily mean an open relationship is not right for you. At the same time, just because everyone feels these ways doesn’t mean an open relationship is necessarily right for you, either. There might be other reasons why an open relationship isn’t right for you. So, I would spend some time thinking it through, that is it something that I want and feels good for me?

I made a video and wrote on an article on how you can figure out if an open relationship might be right for you.

You can also check out The Ethical Slut.

That’ll help you think through that as well.

I think that open relationships can be really helpful for folks. Many times, they seem scary because they’re taboo. We don’t talk about them and we have all these myths about marriage and monogamy, that get in the way of people even considering an open relationship for themselves.

So definitely don’t run away from the idea of an open relationship just because you’re feeling uncomfortable, but also at the end of the day, it might be that either an open relationship isn’t right for you or the type of open relationship that you’re boyfriend wants isn’t sort of compatible with the type of open relationship or polyamorous relationship that would be right for you. And that’s okay. Sometimes, relationships don’t line up and that’s ok.

Between working through some of your anxiousness around your relationship, figuring out what your needs are, and then just having honest communications with your boyfriend abou how you can feel secure, how you can get your needs met, and how you can “do life together” in a way that feels good for you, will hopefully take you one step further in the right direction.

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