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'Open' relationships don't work unless both parties are happy with the arrangement

Dear Amy: For the past few years, I have been in a long-distance, long-term but "open" relationship.

We are in love, but we went to different schools so we tried to be cool with dating other people. It was a mutual decision.I have now moved back into the area, but we both still have a few years left in school and she wants to continue the "open" part of the relationship at least until the end of school and, without giving a time frame, perhaps beyond that.

It was one thing for us to date other people when I was living far away, but should I still be OK with it now that we live much closer?

Am I being unfair to change the dynamic by living closer, or is she being unfair by expecting me to go along with her dating other guys (and sleeping with them, etc.) while I am in town?

Of course, I would have the same freedom, but I don't want it.

If this isn't something we can work out, does this mean the relationship is over?

The tough part is she doesn't act as if she's done with me but says she "needs to find herself."

Am I being used here?

I love her and want to start a real life with her, as a real couple, but what do I do?

-- Confused Guy

Dear Confused: "Open" relationships work only if both parties are completely happy; I get the feeling you never liked this arrangement but agreed to it because you thought it was the best you could do.

It is obvious that you want to be in a monogamous, committed relationship. To have that, you're going to have to be with a girl who doesn't need to "find herself" in other relationships.

Now that you and your girlfriend live in one another's backyard, you won't be able to hide behind your open relationship status.

It's time to have "the talk."

Tell her how you feel and ask her to commit to a monogamous relationship. Don't only listen to what she says, but watch her behavior. My feeling is that she will basically bolt for the door. If so, you'll have to let her leave.

Dear Amy: I have been reading your column for a while and have benefited from the advice you give to your many avid readers.

I found myself in a situation not long ago that put me in the uncomfortable position of telling a close friend some awkward news.

While agonizing about how to divulge the issue to my friend without jeopardizing our friendship, I found a service online that made a phone call for me, without me ever saying a word, and my friend never knew who made the call.

I see definite improvements in my friend's behavior. Because she didn't know who called her, she had to make changes with all of us.

We are all closer than ever. -- Avid Reader

Dear Reader: I know there are services that will phone or e-mail someone to reveal an awkward bit of information to an unsuspecting person. In my mind, this is a cowardly way to confront or inform someone, but I'd love to hear what other readers think of this idea.

Dear Amy: I'm responding to the letter from the woman who was upset that her friend didn't choose her to be a maid of honor at her wedding. Instead, the bride picked two other women to share the duties. You appear to be completely against the notion.

When I was married 13 years ago, I spent all of two minutes making this choice.

I have two sisters whom I love with all my heart, and there was absolutely no way for me to make a choice between the two of them, so I had them share the position and it worked out just fine. (For the record, my husband had both of his brothers as his best men.)

When a person is planning a wedding, it's best to keep an open mind. There are no set rules, only guidelines and traditions. -- Chris in N.Y.

Dear Chris: I still don't like the idea of choosing two maids of honor -- but then I don't really like the idea of having one maid of honor. This designation seems very antiquated to me but, as you say, there are no set rules -- only guidelines and traditions.

askamy@tribune.com

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