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Open Relationships

Open Relationships Sex
Together forever? All of us? (source Beauty Within TV)

Ah, the open relationship. Last week a friend of mine wrote a Facebook post stating that he was either considering or already decided to do an open relationship with his new boyfriend. They’ve been together less than 6 months, I believe, and this just came up (or was just announced). Seventy percent of the respondents were not in favor of this. Thirty percent were in favor. One guy in particular was extremely gung-ho for the idea. He’s probably planning to sleep with my friend now that he’s in an open relationship.

From my experience in watching others in open relationships succeed or fail, it seems they work best for longevity if they’re open from the beginning or become open after a few years (let’s say, 10 years, then they’re open for about 5-10 years, then closed again). For everyone else who has an open relationship before being several years on (or not starting out with one), their relationships last another six months, tops, before crashing and burning.

I have another friend who is now open with a significant other after 3 months of dating. He also has major reservations about the age difference. He’s doing everything in this relationship that he told me he didn’t like in a relationship, so, I expect that won’t last long, either.

Open Relationships Sex
Interchangeable parts? (Source: Lifesaltar WordPress Blog)

But for those who seem to make an open relationship work, I have some questions:

1. Why?

As someone who has dated at length and only had one adult relationship that was pretty awful in retrospect, do you know how many single people out here get lonely and often get tired of being alone? You have what others desire – a (seemingly) functional relationship with someone you love and want to be with forever. Why would you also want to dip into the sugar bowls of whomever else makes eyes at you? (It’s like my gripe with bisexuals who love eating all the candy in the box – that’s another post for another day – is it greed?)

2. When/Who is enough?

One of the problems I have with open relationships is the thought that I wouldn’t be enough for my partner and they wouldn’t be enough for me. I’m the jealous type and would want to match their numbers for the week. (I assume that in order for an open relationship to work properly, you have to be honest about whom you’ve slept with after each encounter, and how you did it, what precautions were taken, etc.) I just think that if I’m giving myself to you so intimately and breaking down my own barriers and holdups in order to reach a place of shared intimacy with you (and hopefully vice versa), that our shared sacrifice would be enough to avoid whatever else may tempt us from outside. Once the dating “game” is done, relationships start real life, from what I understand of those in successful long-term ones, including successful marriages. I’m of the mindset that I’m done “chasing” (with relief) and acting on received attention. Am I wrong?

3. Fears?

All the “What if?”s. What if you get a disease? What if you or your partner falls in love? What if one of you doesn’t stick to the rules and has a regular (or a few) with whom you become intimate? What if you lose what you have? I also have a fear of being the reluctant partner in an open relationship, but winding up being the buck wild one.

4. Isn’t it keeping a well dry?

Seriously. Single people are out there and they’re sleeping with one of you. I’m aware that everyone is responsible for their own decisions, but if they’re having sex with one of you on a regular (or irregular) basis, doesn’t that take their attention away from someone who might be looking for them? I guess it’s incumbent upon them to decide what they really want in the end, but still, isn’t this like taking all the fish out the lake? Some of the other fishermen (women) need to eat too.

5. Is it sampling the wares without the commitment?

Is that all it boils down to? The friend’s gung-ho friend from above stated that he plans to grow old with his boyfriend and truly loves him, but loves having sex with random guys. He says he needs it in his life and isn’t happy without it. So, he won’t establish a connection with a guy, he’ll just hookup with him, all with or without the boyfriend being present (most times, he’s not present). This leads me to my next question.

6. Is this just condoned cheating?

Is there a thought that says, “Someone will probably cheat anyway, so I’d rather know about it up front”? Does an open relationship take care of that? “At least I know about it.” I can’t get with that. I don’t want to enter into something with the expectation that I’ll constantly be let down in a way that will end the relationship. I don’t think being open would help me hold onto the relationship because I know about it, either. I’d still feel that part of me that says, “But they were with another person. You’re going to let that slide?”

7. When and how do you establish intimacy with your partner?

You both finally have some down time to continue getting to know each other, but you can’t stay because you made plans to hook up with someone you met online/at a bar/at church/while out running errands/at the gym. Where is the line drawn? How do you get to know your partner better if you’re not fully engaged with each other? I “get” how an open relationship fosters more honest communication, but you also set way more rules in order to get the relationship to function properly. Don’t people act best when given flexibility and liberty within set guidelines? I even read today about a couple in an open long-term relationship with another couple! How’s that work?

8. Will someone be left out?

In almost every example of what I know about open relationships, there is someone who gets left out. One partner is almost, always, never the open partner, but the other one is the one sleeping with anyone who has complementary genitalia. There seems to be one partner who is reluctant to go along with it (unless both offer openness at the start or ten years later) just because they don’t want to lose the relationship they have. Now, each and every time it’s proven that it’s a relationship they didn’t need to have in the first place, but they don’t know it at the time. They make huge emotional sacrifices as they discover they aren’t enough for their partner and eventually they wind up ending it. If not, then they play outside of the relationship too, but not to the level of the other partner.

9. What about jealousy?

What happens if your partner shags someone hotter than you and you’re insecure about it? What if they won’t shut up about it? What if you’re both having sex with another person and your partner oohs and ahhs more for the other person than you (and yells out affirming things for the other person but only moans out of requirement for you)? That hurts your pride, I’m sure.

10. Are you ever really honest?

Communication is key from what I hear about relationships, but especially in open relationships. What do you do when there is a communication breakdown? What if you lied about your numbers? What if they lied about what and who they did while away? Does fully honest mean you divulge everything? Are you really comfortable doing that? Are you comfortable hearing that?

Open Relationships Sex - Mo'Nique
Mo’Nique and husband Sidney Hicks. If she’s anything like Mary Johnson when she gets mad, you’d best believe he needs a free pass to cheat.

Yeah, I know Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee had a very long Hollywood marriage that was open. Mo’Nique has given her husband a free pass to cheat. I’m pretty sure Anderson Cooper is in an open relationship. I get that they seem to work, but I don’t know if it’s the openness that works, having the option available that works, or maybe it’s some convoluted way of reaching a new level of trust that works.

All I know is that I always envisioned being a team in a relationship and eventual marriage together – two of us. I did not envision it being two of us along with a bunch of stragglers. I want to build a life together, not a village with communal housing. I always thought fidelity and monogamy were choices just like infidelity and non-monogamy were choices. I understand that you can separate sex from love, but having done that in the past I can guarantee that it leaves me empty and I’m tired of being empty. I mean, if all that’s needed is to get off, you can achieve that by yourself – and in less time. Besides, I don’t want to have sex worried about what you may have done. I want to be “free” in bed.

Finally, I don’t think I’m a regressed human being for favoring monogamy, nor do I think I’m small minded. “I’ve evolved and am an advanced human being for being in my open relationship.” If I read one more comment like that…

Thoughts?

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6 Comments

  • DJ, December 18, 2012 @ 2:07 pm Reply

    I couldn’t have written it any better myself. I simply don’t get it…but there are folks out there who swear by it. I have the same questions as you…

    • cresec, December 18, 2012 @ 4:19 pm Reply

      I want someone in one to answer the questions.

  • seattlepolychick, January 2, 2013 @ 4:54 pm Reply

    I am in an open marriage and I thought it would be fun to answer your questions. I’m not an expert or an authority of any kind. I’m just answering for me.

    1. Why?
    I am in an open relationship for a host of reasons, a few of which are.. sexual variety. It keeps things fresh in and out of the bedroom and with sexual variety I can and my partner can explore all kinds of aspects of our sexuality in a way we wouldn’t with just each other. We are also free to have full relationships with other people, so we explore tons of things we wouldn’t otherwise get to. It’s fun and fulfilling. I get a great deal of affection and friendship and love.

    2. When/Who is enough?

    Is anybody, and one person every really enough? I would argue no. We all make compromises and in monogamy we pick a person and build a life with them, hoping that the areas our relationship doens’t fulfill are otherwise fulfilled. It’s a valid choice. It’s also valid to say that we are open to filling more of those needs in ourselves and in others by allowing each other to be open and pursue other interests and other possible connections.
    I don’t worry about being “even” as much as I worry about being happy. If i feel that my needs are met and that I am getting the attention, sex, love, affection and time that I crave then.. well.. I don’t care if you need more of less of it. I’m happy.

    3. Fears?

    My partners and I are regularly tested and practice safe sex. It’s still possible to get some things, such as HPV or Herpes however, so we talk about our risks and try to make informed decisions, but yeah.. it’s possible. My partner and I both have fallen in love. It’s okay.. we deal with it through a lot of communication and trust. I love them and I’m excited they are loved and appreciated and have great circumstances. I get scared sometimes that they won’t want me anymore, but it seems they still do. I do worry about losing my husband so I take steps to try to worry less about that.. time together, communication.. that kind of thing.

    4. Isn’t it keeping a well dry?
    This would only make sense if I was requiring them not to sleep with others. I’m not. My partners generally have other partners too. I am very encouraging of this. 🙂

    5. Is it sampling the wares without the commitment?
    That depends on each individual connection. Some people, our connection is just that.. we find each other attractive and want to have a fun time. Other than being safe we don’t make much of a committment. For me however, I don’t do that a lot. I tend to prefer and pursue connections where there is more. I like to really like and get to know the people I have sex with. I like to care about them and in some cases love them. Ideally I would like to even live with or near more of my partners.

    6. Is this just condoned cheating?
    It isn’t cheating if everyone knows and is okay with it. Cheating implies deceit. I like that I let my husband explore his love and sex and connections. I like that I can give that to him. He isn’t cheating on me and I’m not cheating on him because we are open and supportive. I know and understand that I can’t meet every single need another human will have and I think it’s wonderful that he doesn’t have to give those up to be with me. We were monogamous for a long time before we opened up and we were reasonably happy. I think we’re more honest and happier now though.

    7. When and how do you establish intimacy with your partner?
    We talk much more openly about everything than any other relationship I’ve ever been in. I can tell him literally ANYTHING. It’s not just sex that gets affected by this. It’s everything. If it’s totally okay for him to share or not share any feeling or preference or whatever I have then I can tell him anything. He doens’t HAVE to like my love of noir art and I don’t have to go to baseball games with him. We can share these things and pursue our interests and they don’t have to agree.

    8. Will someone be left out?
    I won’t lie. Sometimes my husband or I or one of our partners do feel left out. We try not to cause this and do pretty well, but yeah.. sometimes it happens. Again though.. if I’m not expecting my relationship to meet all my needs every single day, I deal with that. I’m a grown woman. If I feel like I need more of a social life I make one. If I need something from my partners to feel okay I ask for it.

    9. What about jealousy?
    Of course I get jealous and my husband gets jealous and so do all of our other partners… but guess what.. not as much as you’d think. I know that some of the people my husband has slept with or will sleep with in the future are better at some things than me. I’ve slept with people that are better than him at some things too. We try never to compare, love each other for a lot of reasons, and deal with our jealousies and insecurities as they arise. We talk about them. Honestly most of the time I have a lot of joy when my husband has an amazing sex partner or somebody he’s really into. I love him so it’s nice for me when I see him really happy. I want him to have every good thing. I want him to have love and affection and great sex and fun times. I love him.

    10. Are you ever really honest?
    yes. I’m really really honest. I can tell my partners how many people I’ve slept with, who I’m currently seeing, what I like in bed, what I don’t like, what I want from our relationship.. all of it. It’s wonderfully refreshing. I try and I ask my partners to try being compassionate and tactful of course. I am happy to hear they had sex and it was good.. but don’t go on and on and on or fill my head with graphic images of course. We always talk about the safe sex aspects and I like to know if they began dating anyone, basically how it’s going, if they are in love, and if they had sex. I don’t ask every single time of course, but after the relationship becomes sexual I sort of assume. Often however after a while, when I’m all secure I’m not losing them or being replaced I ask for a like a little more info. If I’m having an insecure day I ask them to hold back a little. It’s all about communication. Lots and lots of it.

    You said “I get that they seem to work, but I don’t know if it’s the openness that works, having the option available that works, or maybe it’s some convoluted way of reaching a new level of trust that works” -well. all of the above. It works that I am able to keep the husband I love and the boyfriend I love, and I am free to explore other connections. I have to be safe and communicate well and have to deal sometimes with my own insecurities or jealousies, but it’s worth it. I do trust my partners once they earn it. I trust my husband because we communicate all the time and he can really talk to me like I can really talk to him. It’s okay to be exactly who we are and we are loved for it. It’s wonderful.
    We are a team. We are as committed as ever, but not sexually committed. I know that’s hard to understand, but it’s true.

    Non-monogamy is a choice, as you pointed out. I don’t think it is for everyone and I don’t think it’s better or less good than any other choice. I just know it works for me. I understand that you can separate sex from love too, but I prefer sex with feelings myself also. It’s just so much better when you really like/love and get to know your partner. It’s more fulfilling to me personally at this time. I won’t say I’d never have casual sex again, because I might, but I like relationships more at this time. I like being and giving love and I think it makes the sex hotter too. It’s wonderful when you can really trust and be free with your partner.

    You also said “Finally, I don’t think I’m a regressed human being for favoring monogamy, nor do I think I’m small minded. ‘I’ve evolved and am an advanced human being for being in my open relationship.’ If I read one more comment like that…”

    I agree! I think I did personally evolve over time to the place where an open relationship makes sense for me now, but I didn’t like evolve as in advance past monogamy. Monogamy and Polyamory and Open relationships aren’t like steps on a ladder and you grow out of one into another. You choose this or that and maybe you rechoose later too. I’m sorry that the word choice or even some people’s views is offensive about that. I hate people implying they grew past what I am. I didn’t grow past monogamy. It’s a personal choice.

    • cresec, January 3, 2013 @ 1:16 am Reply

      Thanks for being so honest and open in answering my questions. It helps me understand more.

    • seattlepolychick, January 3, 2013 @ 2:01 am Reply

      Holy typos! The beginning of that is barely readable. Sorry!

    • DJ, January 3, 2013 @ 8:51 am Reply

      Intriguing. Sometimes I watch “Sister Wives” and they seem to have come to a similar peace about the way in which they live out their love. I have to admit, however, that I find polygamy (as described in that show) a different beast than what you’re talking about b/c it lacks something I think is important (something you have in your open marriage): fairness. The father gets a great deal…a choice of 4 moms and 4 chicks to sleep with whenever he wants. But these poor women all have to share one penis. I don’t understand how a woman today could bow the knee and genuflect to some man like that in this day and age. But you know, for whatever reason, it works for them. I couldn’t do it…and I couldn’t be in an open marriage either.

      Thank you so much for your honesty (about the good and the challenging aspects of your open marriage)! It is indeed enlightening, and I do think I understand a bit more…

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