I love talking about open relationships, and no one understands them.
So are you some sort of hedonist?
Does that mean you’re not really serious?
Why get married then?
Sometimes it can be overwhelming, because once someone finds out you’re in an open relationship it’s all they want to talk about. But I don’t mind.
I don’t mind because understanding non-monogamy has given me so many insights about why we struggle so much in relationships, and I’m not just talking about sex with other people.
In fact, saying polyamory is about sex is like saying mountain climbing is about the view. It can include sex, but if that’s all you knew you would miss the whole point.
When I talk about open relationships I’m also not talking about cheating. In a strange way, cheating actually belongs to monogamy. In a monogamous world, cheating is part of the system. It’s a pressure release value. It’s more normal to cheat behind someone’s back than to consensually arrange being sexual with someone else besides your partner.
What I’ve come to understand through my experience of open relating is that multiple relationships require a completely different approach to relationships, and that’s why they are worth talking about.
Here are a few of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from open relationships.
Possession Isn’t Love
Consider this scenario. You meet a friend for dinner and ask how his weekend was. He replies.
Dude! It was incredible, I went on a date with a girl Saturday night and we had an amazing time. We ate food at my favorite restaurant, went out dancing then had sex and stayed up all night together!
How would you feel? You’d be happy for him, right? He’s your good friend so when he’s happy, you’re happy. It’s simple.
Now consider the same thing happens, but it’s on a first date. You ask your date how their weekend was and they reply.
Oh my god! I had an amazing weekend. I went on a date with this incredible man/woman. We went out to eat then we went back to his/her place and ate dessert of each other’s bodies then made sweet love all night. I never thought sex could be so good.
How would you feel?
Awkward huh? If you’re like most people, you’d be upset. You might choose to show it, or maybe stuff it down inside, in hopes that your date won’t notice. You might even shame them.
Why would you tell me something like that? What’s wrong with you?
This is a terrible way to begin a relationship, but it’s what we do. We possess each other’s happiness from day one.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand where that person is coming from when they say “what’s wrong with you”. In my teens and twenties monogamy wasn’t just the norm, it was the only option. I would have had the same reaction.
Just as an experiment, let’s take a closer look at your date’s response to the question “how was your weekend”. Here are the facts.
- That person demonstrated traits like honesty and transparency by not withholding information out of fear.
- There were no agreements in place that this person broke by having sex with someone else before their first date.
So what’s the real reason that response makes us upset? It has to do with insecurity. We don’t feel special and instead of admitting it, we choose to blame the other person and raise moral objections.
If we were really honest, what we would say when setting up a date is:
I’d like to take you on a date next week, and by agreeing to that you are also agreeing to not see any one else romantically from this moment forward, until the completion of our relationship as determined by me. How does that sound?
No one would actually say that because it sounds possessive, and for good reason… it is! Possession of our partner’s happiness has become a standard practice in romantic relationships.
We treat each other like property and call it love.
What I’m talking about when I talk about open relating is taking a closer look at how we choose to possess each other, because the current system leaves us no other choice. What if we could be a bridge to our partner’s pleasure instead of a roadblock?
Wanting for your partner’s happiness often brings up a lot of insecurities, so it’s simple, but not easy. It takes self-awareness, support and a commitment to expansive love. It’s not just a touch up job, it’s a complete home renovation.
Being Attracted to Other People Is Normal
Here’s a situation most people would find bizarre.
I’m at a party talking to an attractive woman. We’re flirting with each other and it’s getting hot. Then I think to myself “I would love for my wife to be here and experience this”.
For most of my life, I had the opposite thought. I would hide attraction to other people at all costs, then lie about it if confronted. Why did I do this? I believed relationships had to be exclusive, meaning if I was in a relationship I had to exclude other people.
When my former monogamous-trained self would be put in a scenario like the one above, my habit of exclusion would kick in. In that case, I would exclude my partner, then I would go be with my partner, and exclude the girl I was flirting with.
Excluding Others vs Including Them
Inclusion is a choice to act from a different place. It’s a choice to not buy into the conditioning that told us we should only feel sexual desire for one living being our entire life. It’s a choice to include your partner in the experience of your world, even if that goes against what some people might consider “normal”. It’s a choice to include them even if you feel ashamed.
Especially if you feel ashamed.
When we hide our attractions to other people it’s because we are ashamed, and as a result the desire gets repressed, stuffed away and given power. It’s the repression that causes us to act out, not the desire.
What I’m talking about when I talk about open relationships is simply saying “yes, it’s ok to be attracted to other people, and let’s talk about it”. Being monogamous is a choice to not act on those feelings, it doesn’t have to be a choice to repress them.
You Don’t Have to Be Polyamorous
I began learning about open relating several years before I practiced it, and simply being exposed to it radically changed the way I did all my relationships.
The choice to be in an open relationship isn’t about one being better or worse, it’s about looking at your current situation and asking honestly if that would be a good fit. Without a community to support, open relationships are not the best fit for the majority of couples, and that’s ok.
Simply having a conversation about who you’re attracted to and sharing honestly and explicitly what goes on inside your head (and your body) can be incredibly liberating.
When you create a space of non-judgement in your relationship, you can begin to pull out the things from your closet that have been hiding in the dark for years.
Watch porn together.
Share your fantasies, especially the weird ones.
Go to a strip club together.
Go to a sex party together and just watch.
What I’m talking about when I talk about open relationships isn’t so much about relationships.
It’s about being open.