How do I interpret my partner’s messages?

My long-term partner and I have been bouncing around the general thoughts that long-term partners have sometimes, about wanting the excitement that comes with the start of a relationship and how kids drain the energy from being together and so forth. 

Sometimes, in these conversations, she brings the topic around to open relationships, but in a really equivocating way.

My romantic fantasy when I was younger was to be part of a triad or a couple of couples. We talked about it when we were first getting together and she very clearly ruled it out as unrealistic. A few times recently, though, she’s brought up the idea of dating other people and left it hanging out there. If I ask her what she wants, she points out again how it wouldn’t work, for example talking about how, for the few people we know who seem to be pulling it off, we know many more whose situations are kind of a hot mess.

Should I interpret this as her testing the waters while keeping deniability, or should I be concerned that she’s trying to convey some other message indirectly?

— Does She Mean It?

Dear DSMI,

I think she’s testing the waters while keeping deniability. It’s a very common practice among people who are a little afraid of what they want, or who fear their partner will run screaming.

Then again, she also sounds like someone who sort of knows what she wants, but doesn’t know if she wants to actually GET what she wants, if that makes sense. Like, second-guessing herself as soon as she begins speaking.

That said, I could be dead wrong about either of these things.

The only person who knows is her.  And you need to ask her this question outright: “Are you testing the waters on dating other people while keeping plausible deniability?”

And then don’t equivocate. Don’t back down. Don’t let her change the subject. Just wait. Do not break eye contact while you slowly eat a raw onion to show her how much you mean it.

But first.

What do YOU want?

Do you still have the same fantasy as you did as a young adult: of a triad or a few linked couples? Is it something that you want?

Or are you trying to suss out what you think she wants instead? Not your job, and certainly not your job to ascertain if she is trying to convey another message indirectly/psychically/through pheromones.

FWIW, her arguments (that it’s not realistic, that the people you know doing this are mainly hot messes) are crap.

The vast majority of people who are married are monogamous. And in the US., according to the American Psychological Association, the divorce rate still hovers at 40-50%.

Sounds like almost half of all monogamists are definitely hot messes to me!

Remaining monogamous does not, clearly, guarantee a lifelong relationship. It doesn’t guarantee happiness. It isn’t better than non monogamy. It’s just more COMMON. Which means it’s less examined. And with only two people involved (I mean except for the person one cheats with), you can hide issues more easily. Doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Monogamy doesn’t keep your relationship from being a hot mess.

Listen. We’re ALL hot messes. That’s what human beings are. Our evolution looks like this:

At no point in this evolution do we develop the ability to read minds.

And you know what’s not realistic? Everything. Love isn’t realistic. Having kids isn’t realistic. Working a 40-50 hour week all the goddamned time with only two weeks of vacation isn’t realistic.

But people do it every day.

So, have a conversation about what you WANT. Ask her what she WANTS. Tell her the details aren’t at issue right now; pie in the sky, what do you both WANT?

Don’t let her squirm away. Take your chances.

Then you can start chipping away at the dream with realism and taxes and stuff.

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