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