Q: I got involved with my co-host on my Web show — a woman in an “open relationship” with her live-in boyfriend of two years. Things were light and fun between us until we developed actual feelings for each other and he got jealous and she became guilty and torn. Two weeks ago, after we had an amazing date, she texted to say she was “falling apart” and quitting our show. She’s since made our friendship conditional on our not being involved anymore and my not questioning her quitting or discussing what happened. I either abide by these rules or “watch (her) walk away.” I said she was being emotionally manipulative, and she got really angry. She knows I care about her and want her in my life, but it seems unfair that I have to constantly worry about saying the wrong thing and having her cut and run.
A: Some people in open relationships can come off a little smug about how cool, modern, and progressive they are — that is, until they write that first check to the private detective to make sure you and their girlfriend are only getting your freak on, not holding hands.
Monogamy might not be “natural,” but neither is watching your partner run around on you and being all “no problemo!” about it. A couple who decide to have an open relationship may tell themselves they can intellectualize their way around jealousy (and insecurity, possessiveness, and other such fun) without really working through how, exactly, they’ll manage that. This guy, for example, maybe got so excited about “having his cake” that he neglected to consider what would happen if his girlfriend really, really liked her cake.
These two actually had a responsibility to anybody they got involved with to do their open relationship homework and figure out that they could only manage “happily ever afternoon,” not “after.” It would be nice if she took responsibility now for failing to take responsibility then, maybe with an “I’m really sorry” and a “We probably shouldn’t see each other,” but she prefers to extend her history of denial with the notion that you can be “friends.” Oh, and P.S., feel free to ask her anything, as long as it’s about nothing more emotionally sensitive than the time.
As for whether you should stick around and meet her terms, well, with friends like her, who needs bar fights? Also, it’s hard to stop wanting somebody when you don’t stop seeing them, at least for a while. It seems your time would be better spent pursuing a woman who doesn’t already have a boyfriend. You and she can try the sort of open relationship you’re looking for now — one sans conversational restrictions — as opposed to the sort that, for a good many people, works out like the hen becoming BFFs with the coyote. (Eventually, somebody’s going to end up a pile of feathers.)
Q: You advised a guy who “choked” when talking to girls to focus on saying things he finds interesting and fun. Well, I often can’t think of anything smart or funny to say until the woman’s gone. I saw the cutest redhead at the supermarket, and not wanting to let the moment pass me by, I blurted out, “Are you an actress?” She smiled politely and replied, “No.” To which I responded, “Do you get that question a lot?” To which she replied, “Yes, I do.” I had nothing after that. Smooth. Very smooth. After she left, I thought of a million witty things I could have said.
A: My boyfriend hit on me by talking about a “kernel panic” (some kind of computer panic attack that fills your screen with scary code) — a subject of slightly less interest to me than the projected weather for tomorrow in Hammerfest, Norway. But because he’s very much my type, I didn’t care what he was saying, just that he was sticking around saying it and, I hoped, working up to asking for my number. Most women know whether they’re attracted to you before you open your mouth. If a woman’s into you at all, you don’t need to perform like there’s a two-drink minimum next to the kale; you just need to ask something that keeps her there and allows you to regroup. “Are you an actress?” is less than ideal, as it comes off as a version of “You’re HOT.” She’ll want you to think she’s hot. But women tend to downgrade men who hit on them by remarking on their looks. Ask about something she’s wearing or carrying or something in the environment. If she seems responsive, keep talking. If she’s giving you one-word answers, it’s a sign either that she isn’t attracted to you or that you forgot to point to the cider when you asked, “Those jugs yours?”— here — 7-8 p.m. PT, 10-11 p.m. ET, or download the podcast at the link. Call-in during the show: 347-326-9761 (NYC area code)