Blind sighted. That’s exactly how I felt when my then-girlfriend, Julie, asked me how I felt about starting an open relationship. We had been dating for three months (or at least I thought we were), and I was crazy about her. I’ve always considered myself an old school kind of guy and a monogamous relationship is the only thing that makes sense to me – I don’t like sharing. Julie is quite the opposite. She is adventurous and fun – the kind of girl who likes to keep all her relationships light and purely physical. It’s nearly impossible to get bored when you’re around her. Now that I think about it, it’s probably one of the reasons why I fell in love with her in the first place.
I read that text over and over again. The thought of trying an open relationship and my girlfriend sleeping with some other random guy felt like she was crossing the line. What was I doing wrong that she thought she might find better elsewhere? I gulped and started typing my reply. “Sure, why not?”… Message sent. I slapped myself and sipped on my glass of wine. Now it felt stale.
Julie was the best thing to happen to me since my previous breakup, and I didn’t want to lose her. So I just gave her what she wanted. She was open about her feelings. I was not. “You’re always adventurous and open to new experiences. I’m glad I found you,” she texted back. Maybe she was right. I did love new experiences, and perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea. Even then, I knew I was lying to myself. A strong feeling of inadequacy overwhelmed the rest of my evening as I watched Tom and Jerry (That damn mouse is really mean!). I might have shed a tear or two.
The next day, I woke up really messed up. At work, I cleared several unpaid orders – I was clearly distracted. All I could think about was what Julie was doing. I texted her severally but she didn’t reply. Normally that wouldn’t have bothered me since she has a busy job and the only time we really talked or hanged out was during the weekends. But now her silence was getting to me. You know how they say that you don’t know the value of something until it’s gone? Yeah, that’s true.
Ok, perhaps I’m overselling it. She wasn’t exactly gone. But it really felt like I was losing her. Anyway, long story short, after five months of harboring feelings I couldn’t explain, emptiness, and self-criticism, I had to draw a line. I talked to my therapist, Amanda, and she had a lot to say.
What does it mean to be in an Open Relationship?
An open relationship is basically a relationship between two people who mutually agree to share a life together while still pursuing physical and romantic interests with other people outside the relationship.
“An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other,” explains Renee Divine, a relationships expert in Minneapolis.
How does that even work?
Well, for some people, having sex with one partner for a lifetime is not exactly ‘natural’. Anti-monogamous people had to find a way to challenge the conventional exclusivity in relationships by bending a few rules. I mean its better than cheating if you think about it. After my uplifting session with my therapist, I finally understood the whole concept of being in an open relationship, and as much as I hate to admit it, it makes perfect sense.
Open relationships are only scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s all a matter of transforming your possessiveness into unconditional love. Here are a few important things you need to know before starting an open relationship.
Examine your current relationship with your partner.
Every new relationship you start with a new partner is an emotional risk. Love makes you vulnerable, and it’s easy to get lost in your own fantasy as you dream of a delightful honeymoon in Hawaii. Starting an open relationship is even worse. You have to be sure that your partner is fully on board with the idea of opening up the relationship. In my story, Julie was ready to start exploring other options while still dating me, but I wasn’t. For any open relationship to work, a solid foundation built on a common ground is important. Check your stability, and decide if you are both ready for the change.
Clarity from everyone involved
In an open relationship, you will need to set clear boundaries on what to do and what not to. The first logical step to take would be talking to all parties involved in the relationship about these limits. Who are we allowed to see? How far should the relationships with other people go? Do we prioritize on each other? All these questions will help you decide what you want, and most importantly don’t want, from the open relationship.
Get ready to be Jealous
If you are poor handling your jealousy in relationships, an open relationship is probably not the best idea for you. Once your partner starts hanging out with shirtless guys who look like Channing Tatum, you will get jealous. In that very situation, you can decide to keep it to yourself while you cry in your underwear back at home, or you can confront your partner about it. Either way, jealousy is inevitable in an open relationship. Then again, it’s inevitable in all relationships.
Consider setting a No-Bang list
According to Valerie Fischel, a lady whose open relationship with her boyfriend has become greatly successful, a no-bang list is important in every open relationship.
“We don’t date friends or anyone we know,” she says. “I once saw a Facebook profile of someone Adam ended up sleeping with, and she was absolutely stunning. That was hard for me because I couldn’t help but compare myself to how I perceived her online. But we got through it together…. We made a new rule then: No sleeping with Facebook friends.”
This is not a game
The rules are simple. If you can’t own your open relationship status, then you don’t deserve to be in one. Sure your partner may be on board with the whole idea, but if you find yourself lying to your secondary partners about your current relationship status, then you’re not being upfront with them, and it’s unfair. Be open to your side action and let them decide if they still want to be part of it.
Always use protection
Nobody wants Herpes
Be fair to your partner
Being in an open relationship is mostly about letting go some your control and learning to turn your possessiveness into unconditional love. Practicing reciprocity for total fairness in the relationship is therefore very important. If you are allowed to go on dates during the weekends, then so is your partner.
Ultimately, I learned that being in an open relationship is not as unusual as it sounds. If both partners in the relationship get to keep the excitement and variety, while still allowing themselves to fall in love with each other, then maybe it’s not that bad an idea.
Even then, I realized that I was being unfair to myself by not telling Julie what was going through in my mind. So two weeks later, I broke up with her. Open relationships work for some people, and I think it’s great. But it just isn’t the thing for me. I just can’t stand sharing the person I love with anyone. At the end of the day, it’s all about principle, right? So yeah, I made that decision…