When my partner and I first started down this path of an open relationship, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. Actually, I was sure deep down – it’s not like I had any personal confusion about it – but I just hadn’t spelled it out or verbalized it yet. It had also never occurred to me that my partner and I, while agreeing on the logistics of our open relationship, might have totally different reasons for wanting it. From talking with my open marriage friends (the one couple that I knew) to reading every blog and book I could find, I had done just about everything I could to get my hands on information, stories, and advice about open relationships. There’s a pretty small universe of information, but I wanted to exhaust it all. Not only was I addicted to the stories – they made me excited and turned on…sometimes to the point where making eye contact with a stranger on the train felt awkward as my panties moistened while listening to my audiobook on my commute… – but I also didn’t want to go into this blind and ignorant. I wanted to learn from those who’d gone before and approach this new adventure armed with as much knowledge as I could. I wanted to be sure to treat my partner with tender loving care and do what I could to not wreak havoc along the way. That’s the thing about open relationships – it’s not just about me and my partner. It’s about all the third parties who come and go along the way and the importance of treating them like PEOPLE.
This is where it was going to get sticky. I wanted an open relationship because I loved connecting with people. When I was married, there were so many times when I connected deeply with someone, and the next natural expression of our connection would’ve been physical, yet we couldn’t express that because I was taken. I wanted that to end. I wanted to be free as a bird to connect with whomever I wanted to connect with and express that in whatever way might feel natural to us at the moment. Yes, call me a hippie. I don’t care. I am a bit of a hippie, but my point is that this wasn’t really about sex. All the time people come into my life with whom the natural level of physical expression would be a hug, a kiss, or a few make out sessions, and that’s it. That is so beautiful when it happens and then can peacefully end, both of us (or at least me) fully satisfied in our expression. The point of all this is that the reason I want an open relationship is not sex-centric. Certainly sex is a part of it. No doubt. This is not, however, my cum-quest, as Sadie Smythe calls it. If you haven’t read her book, Open All the Way, do it now. I’m not meeting up with guys on Craigslist or Ashley Madison on the hunt for my next orgasm. I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with that, and I’m also not saying I’ll never do that, but that isn’t the point for me right now. The point is to go about my normal life in total and complete freedom.
But there’s more. So, I go about my life and meet people and sometimes hook up and go on dates and yah-dee-yah-dee-yah-da. Is that all I want? I had to ask myself, what is it that I picture for my future? What would my ideal relationship scenario look like? It was then I realized that, in an ideal world, I pictured something more from my open relationship, and that I needed to make this clear to my partner. My ideal scenario is to have several long-term relationships in my life at any given time. Friends with benefits if you will, but maybe not quite. I imagine having a primary partner who does life with me. We would potentially live together, share meals, share some or all our finances, know everything about each other’s external relationships, know where each other was at most all times, go on vacation together, meet each other’s families, that kind of thing. Hell, maybe we’d even get a dog, and maybe, just maybe, we’d even get married (although, I doubt it). Then there would be other relationships that were more compartmentalized. We all know what it’s like to have a close friend that you don’t talk to about everything. You might share some parts of your life completely and other parts not so much. Not every person has to be everything to you. I imagine having men in my life this way too – people who I am close with, who know me, who understand me (maybe each in a different way), who know about my partner’s and my arrangement, and who are interested in having an actual relationship rather than just being fuckbuddies. But this leads to the question, what happens if I fall in love with one of them?
Well, if I fall in love, I fall in love. Wait…does this mean I subscribe to polyamory? I mean…I think it does. This was really hard to swallow when I first realized it because…well…because it sounds crazy. But frankly, I don’t see any way around it, not for me at least. I think it would be silly to go into an open relationship with a rule that said “No falling in love!” I mean, we can’t help who we fall in love with, right? I certainly can’t. Of course, we could have a rule that said, if you start to fall in love, cut it off immediately. Why not do that? Well, mostly because I don’t want to. I’m not looking to fall in love, but if that comes, I will not run away from probably the best experience in the entire world. I also believe it’s completely possible to fall in love with someone else, still be in love with my partner, and remain entirely committed to him. Shit, I am polyamorous.
Seriously, though, I do believe this is possible. I might be wrong, but there are two pieces of good news on that front. First, I might be wrong about a lot of stuff in life, but at some point, I have to make the jump and follow my gut. I’m all about no regrets. If I think I’m right about something and then I get there and it’s all wrong, I will do what I can to repair it and go back, but I refuse to live my life in the safety zone and miss out on tons of amazing experiences due to fear of making mistakes. This is exactly what happened with my divorce. I wasn’t sure at the time if it was a huge mistake (and I could still be proven wrong on that…I am only 27 years old after all), but I took the leap and my entire life turned upside down in a way I would never change even if I could.
Second, I’d like to think I have a more developed perspective on this than most people, because I truly understand something in life that is hard to accept. When talking about life partnership, there is one thing I know: love is not enough. I had love. I loved my husband deeply until the day we separated and long after, but that did not make him the right person for my life partnership. My deep love for him is what made the decision to separate so goddamn hard. I love him so much that just seeing him sad makes me ball my eyes out, but I ultimately had to choose a different future for myself. Who I was becoming as a person, how I would grow, and creating the life I wanted could not all be put on hold because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. As brutal as that sounds, it’s the simple truth. [As a side note, my desire for an open relationship was certainly not the primary thing that separated us…not even close.] So, because I know that love is not enough, I also know that falling in love with someone does not mean they need to become my life partner or that my life really has to physically change in any meaningful way. If I met someone that I fell in love with who truly was a better partner for me than Greg (can we talk about a long shot?), then I have to believe that Greg and I, at that point, would both be on the same page that being partnered was no longer in our best interest.
Also, in my experience, big love, great love, love that lasts a lifetime, is rare as fuck. It’s not something you just stumble into on the street every day. It’s also not something that you’re safe from encountering in a traditional monogamous relationship. In other words, from Greg’s perspective, me being open to falling in love with someone else puts me at very little additional danger of leaving him than if we were strictly monogamous. I’m not his. As Sadie Smythe would say, I’m simply on loan. The reality is that he doesn’t own me, and even if we were in a traditional monogamous relationship he wouldn’t own me. I could leave at any time, and that’s the risk we all take when falling in love and committing our lives fully to another human. There are a million reasons a partner could leave you, and there is always a chance they’ll meet someone better. Greg and I are pretty confident that we are a perfect match and will not meet someone better, but even if we do, who’s to say that was the result of our open relationship? It happens every day in traditional monogamous relationships.
If I meet someone and fall in love and leave Greg, no doubt people will look at him and say, “Well, dude, what did you think was gonna happen? You’re in an open relationship!” That’s what I mean about our marriage-centric society. If that happened in a traditional marriage, no one thinks there’s anything wrong with marriage generally, only the cheater or the scumbag person who left and started a new life. I refuse to make my decisions now based on a fear of what might happen in the future when the reality is that the future thing is completely out of my control anyway. I’ll take the pros of an open relationship along with the struggles any day, and I don’t walk around recommending that others do the same. Isn’t that the point of life? It’s choose-your-own-adventure.