Dear Ada,

I’m in a 3 year relationship with my partner. My partner wants to have the kind of open relationship where it’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ but I want the kind of open relationship where we tell each other everything. Do you think one or the other is better and how should we resolve this?

Thanks,

Open Doors, Closed Lips

Dear Open Doors,

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve only tried the open relationship thing once and it was a gigantic flaming disaster of hurt and confusion. That being said, I’m an arrogant fuck, so I’ll go ahead and pretend I know what to tell you.

My understanding (from listening to way too much Savage Lovecast), is that successful open relationships are about three things: rules, check-ins, and compassion. So let’s start with the rules.

Setting the rules for your open relationship will require an honest and vulnerable conversation about why you want things to work a certain way. Do you want to know every move your partner makes because you’re insecure and jealous or because for you that will build intimacy? Does your partner want to keep things to themselves because they are being shady and elusive, or because they want a slice of sexuality that feels like it’s only theirs? There are a million reasons for each of you to want things a certain way, and in your 3-year relationship it’s important to come to a place where you can negotiate these sensitive topics openly and with a foundation of love.

You also will need to check in and on the terms of your open relationship fairly regularly. Relationships change constantly, and what works at one point, will not work forever. The only thing that is constant in love is the requirement to talk through your shit. I know this is going to sound corporate-y and lame, but I very strongly believe in regularly scheduled check-ins, to assess the success of your “group project”. Don’t just check in about your sex with each other, or your sex with other people, but about all of it. Check in about the dishes, the money, the kids if there are any, the stress of your jobs, the joy of your shared life. And if something isn’t working for one of you, then it’s not working for both of you. Talk it through and reset those boundaries as often as you damn well please.

In the words of the queen of feels, Nayyirah Waheed:

“things. that should be asked often. in every type. of relationship: how is your heart. is your breath happy. here. do you feel free.”

And compassion. Always act with compassion. Enter every conversation with the assumption that both parties want what is best for the relationship and that both parties are coming from a place of love. There is nothing inherently hurtful about speaking up for what you want, even if what you want doesn’t match with the other person wants. Don’t be afraid to want different things. Chances are there is some available middle ground.

I can’t tell you whether your open relationship should be a juicy tell-all or an elusive Russian secret. All I can tell you is that you’ll need to talk about why you want it to be a certain way before either of you steps outside.

And honestly, If you want more concrete advice from someone whose open relationship wasn’t a catastrophic (but sexy) emotional Fyre festival, I very strongly recommend this super thoughtful “do/don’t” list from sex-positive writer and blogger Alex Cheves. He knows way better than I do how to make that shit work. I’m not even fucking one person, let alone multiple people so what the hell do I know?

Talk first, fuk l8tr.

-Ada


Dear Ada,

I’m a lesbian and my girlfriend wants to try sex toys! Does this mean I’m not satisfying her enough? What kind of toy would be a good place to start? What if she likes using toys and I don’t? Help!

Good Vibes

Dear Vibes,

When you were a kid, and you would go over to your best friend’s house to play, I imagine that sometimes you would play using nothing but your imaginations. You would make up stories or songs or dances or games, bonding and building with nothing but each other for your entertainment. Other times I imagine you would break out the legos or the Play-Doh or the Lincoln Logs (I fucking loved Lincoln Logs) and you would play…with toys.

This is not to say that sex should be like childsplay. Sex inherently has a gravitas and intimacy that, for obvious reasons, is for #adultsonly, but it should have the same spirit of exploration, freedom, non-judgement and joyful play that you would feel playing with your dearest childhood friend.

Just because your boo wants to intro a few fun little accessories to your sexy times does not, in any universe, mean that you aren’t enough for her. Nor does it mean she is bored, unfulfilled, or restless. All it means is that she trusts you enough to explore her own sexuality with you, and that she cares enough about your pleasure to invest (cause that shit is NOT CHEAP) in exploring yours. I would look at her desire to introduce toys into your relationship as a sign of her desire to build an exciting and varied repertoire-du-boink with you.

It is also a sign of her commitment to the longevity of your sexual relationship, because let’s face it, if you stay with someone long enough, you’re gonna have to shake things up. If she ends up loving the toys, and you find that they’re just not your thing, well that’s a conversation to be had. In no universe should you do something in the sack that makes you feel uncomfortable, but truthfully, sometimes you do have to compromise a bit. This may mean getting her off with a vibrating version of a Lincoln Log, and while she keeps her filthy sex-Legos out your pants. The point is, you just don’t know until you try.

As with all things always and forever, it’s about communication. She communicated her desires to you. You need to communicate your insecurities and apprehensions to her. And then you both need to communicate about what you’re curious to try, what you absolutely do not want to try, where your boundaries are and which boundaries you’re willing to push. You also need to communicate about much you want to spend on something you may not like, that you absolutely cannot, for any reason, take back to the store. Seriously, as someone who owns a very expensive vibrator that I never use, you cannot return that shit.

Which brings me to the fun part, SHOPPING! My recommendation, start simple. Go to your local inclusive sex shop (strong recommend for Babeland), and ask for advice on something from this list of gender inclusive toys. It may feel awkward at first, but those people know their shit, don’t judge, and they will get you set. There is some incredibly innovative design work being done in the “getting you the fuck off” industry, and it’s almost guaranteed that you can find something incredibly fun to play around with, that will excite you both.

Have fun. Be honest. Get those O’s.  

Much love,

Ada


Dear Ada,

So about four years ago I went on a few dates with this guy. And then he abruptly ended things when he found out that I was moving to Mexico temporarily, saying that he wasn’t really interested in a relationship with me, and that Mexico had nothing to do with it. About a year ago he messaged me on Scruff and said he wanted to get together again but then he canceled on me last minute. Today I saw him at a distance in the subway and I obviously avoided him. However, he chased me down and sat down next to me at our next subway transfer. He was very chatty and told me that he’s now sober and that he would like to reconnect. Do I give him another chance?

Sincerely,

Whiplashed (and not in a good way)

Dear Whiplashed,

Ugh. What an obnoxious roller coaster. Honestly, I’m torn. On one hand, papa was mad flaky and ain’t nobody got time for that. On the other hand, sobriety can really open people up and make them capable of an intimacy they weren’t able to manage when they were using.

My advice, trust your gut. If you feel like it could legitimately be a good match if he weren’t such a frosted flake, and you believed him when he said that he has changed since getting sober, then go for it, but proceed with caution. Make sure he knows that you respect yourself, and that means he needs to respect your time. No more cancelling at the last minute. Not even once.

Likewise, if your gut is saying “oh hell no. You don’t get to chase me down on the subway like a creeper and then get even a dainty girl’s slice of my time”, then listen to that and tell him that you’re just not interested in revisiting the prospect of a relationship with him.

Best of luck, and may your next whiplash be the fun kind.

-Ada


Got a question for Ada? Email askada@graceless.com.

Send me your questions (askada@graceless.com) and I’ll drop a truth bomb bigger than the ones we’re all terrified the Cheeto©-monster-in-chief is going to get dropped on us.