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How to Break Your Own Heart

I suppose I had it coming. Things were just too good, and I couldn’t let well enough alone. I’d just gotten a tremendous promotion, and after a week’s vacation in New York, Date #4 and I had reconnected on a new level. I’d finally settled into our relationship after waffling on whether or not I ought to be in one. I let myself fall in love again, and we celebrated our six-month anniversary with a fancy dinner out.

And, despite the fact that he had decided with much finality that he would be moving away come the new year and that neither of us wanted to carry on a long-distance relationship, we were getting along splendidly.

I couldn’t let well enough alone.

I’d been reading about open relationships. It all made sense to me. Were we really made to be monogamous? I’m evolved enough to know that what we feel and have between us is stronger than sex. I’m progressive enough to know that sex is just sex, and what we have is intimacy and love. How many relationships had I ended just because the proverbial grass looked greener on the other side? Nearly all of them.

So, Date #4 and I had a long talk about fidelity, openness, sexuality, trust… and we came to the conclusion that since we’d been ending our relationship in two months anyways, why not try a little experiment? We made a list of people we didn’t want the other to sleep with and insisted on total honesty. This was Tuesday evening.

Date #4 headed out of town for the weekend, and work kept me in town. So, I decided to begin our Great Experiment by heading out to the club to carry on as an Ethical Slut. The funniest thing happened though. As I looked around at the men hitting on me, none of them came close to Date #4. I realized how little I really wanted to sleep with anyone. Sure, it sounded nice in the theoretical sense, but when faced with it, I balked. More than anything, I missed him.

I left the too-interested guy sitting next to me at the site early on in the night, and texted Date #4. No answer. I fell asleep and woke early to a horrific nightmare – I’d dreamt that he’d slept with someone the night before. I needed to terminate the experiment before something irreparable happened. I called. Straight to voicemail.

I was petrified.

Finally, he called. “Oh, finally,” I said with tears in my throat. “I can’t do this. I had this terrible dream last night that you slept with someone else.”


“I did.”


“Are you serious? You’re not serious.”


I wanted to vomit. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. Why did I think I could do this? What ever made me think that I could share the man I love so deeply with anyone and not care?

I’m devastated and I’m heartbroken, and it’s my own fault. It was my idea. I can’t be angry or pissed off at him. I have no idea how I’ll forgive myself, and I have no idea what will happen with our relationship.

I met up with a friend early and he looked at me and said, “You know, Holly, no offense, but you don’t have the personality for an open relationship.” Hindsight is 20/20.

So, let me offer you my lessons since I came by them so hard.

1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Date #4 and I had two more good months left to enjoy one another and the opportunity to part amicably. I have a tendency to pick and pick and pick at something, until voila! Disaster.

2. Give yourself sometime to consider the weight of your decision. Based on one conversation, we made a very big decision and barreled ahead. We didn’t even give ourselves a full week to sleep on it.

3. Be willing to accept the consequences. I knew this outcome was possible, that our decision might ruin everything, but I really thought I was much more progressive than that. Imagine the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario. Ask yourself if the worst is worth the best. In hindsight, my answer would be no.

4. Consider both sides of the story. I didn’t read one negative article about open relationships. I only read the positive ones. That’s poor decision-making.

I don’t know if Date #4 and I will survive this or not. The “emergency brake” we both agreed upon in our original conversation has definitely been pulled, but I’m not sure what to do now. It seems unfair to end everything because he did what we said we would do, but I’m also very, very confused. Why did he do it so fast? Why didn’t the feelings that kept me from hooking up with someone keep him from it? Would I have cared so much if I had hooked up with someone too?

I don’t have the answers. I’m just learning as I go along, and there’s some collateral damage sometimes. In this case, it’s my own heart. I can tell you that it’s the last time I will handle it so lightly.

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