The Open Relationship

Those who know me well know that there are a few topics that really get me going. On a daily basis my mind wanders rapidly, contemplating everything from politics and the agenda of the U.S. government to whether I should love or hate Chris Brown. More often than not my thoughts dive into the concept of monogamy: a concept that has permeated my brain since childhood via Disney movies and romantic comedies. In a world where plenty of people seem to have a side chick or homeboy to call when their man is acting up, monogamy seems more foreign to me than ever.

I try to stay away from thinking in terms of right and wrong, which keeps me open to new ideas. Unfortunately this also drives me batshit crazy because I examine these topics from every possible perspective. While many folks shame polygamous relationships as the most unnatural and sinful blasphemous practice on the planet, I prefer to take a more different approach because #feminism. To be clear, my parents have been married for 30 years and are one of the best couples ever (not up for debate). I am a die-hard romantic and I have always practiced monogamy, but I also believe that monogamy is a choice, not the rule, and that many relationships can work outside of the traditional constructs with a bit of flexibility

The open relationship/consensual non-monogamy is from a new concept and is understood across the globe with the exception of the West as “monogamy” is primarily a modern practice developed not so long ago. While these relationships take many forms and can be adjusted to fit the needs of a couple, the arrangement strives to make sure every person involved is fully satisfied emotionally and physically. Mainstream society mainly showcases polyamory, i.e. TLC’s “Sister Wives” and coverage of Akon’s way of life, but I promise your arrangement can be much simpler. Some folks are fine with letting their partners hook up with someone new, be that a kiss to an ongoing friend with benefits. Others are only fine with outside hookups but not with sleepovers. By no means do you have to let your man go out and have orgies every weekend, but being a bit more flexible with what is “allowed” works for many people who love their partners but also value emotional and/or sexual variety. For those who can separate the enjoyment of sex from romantic love for their partner, this can be a fantastic set up. While these arrangements are certainly not free from its share of typical monogamous relationship issues (jealousy, miscommunication, etc.), it is clear to see how eliminating the idea of “cheating” from your partnership and keeping an open mind can work for some couples.

Now if you are sitting there sucking your teeth and thinking “my boyfriend/girlfriend loves me and we complete each other” then a reality check is in order. Despite what you’ve been taught throughout your entire life, nobody can “complete” someone else emotionally and physically. In the initial honeymoon phase of any relationship you may believe that, but down the line your partner may need certain things that you cannot or are not willing to provide, no matter how much you want to make them happy. Are you doing your best to emotionally support your girlfriend but she needs more? She may find someone to supplement what is missing. Does your boyfriend like to be whipped but you can’t bring yourself to do that because you think it’s fucking insane? He may go find a dom who will make him scream. Yes, in an ideal world your partner would never want anyone else but you because you have been told repeatedly that you are special, but this is not the reality. I know some couples who have issues with cheating and constantly argue when one partner strays, but continue to stay together in a relationship that feels more like a prison than a partnership. If infidelity is a pattern, experimenting with an open relationship could prove to be a good thing – building trust and emotional stability while offering variety. Opening up a failing monogamous relationship can be disastrous, but for a healthy couple it can allow you to grow closer. Many couples even report that after opening their partnership made them appreciate their partner even more (and it did not become a sexual free-for-all, as you may assume.)

For most people, the idea of an open relationship is better in theory, but not so much in practice. The idea is difficult to mentally wrap their heads around for most people because it directly conflicts with what we have been taught. We live in a generation with so many “options” that we are spoiled for choice, but we are also extremely selfish and want everything for ourselves, and an open relationship can make you more vulnerable than in a monogamous one. Such an arrangement is not easy as it requires even more communication, trust and emotions that a standard relationship as the rules are constantly shifting and evolving. Feeling horribly jealous while your girlfriend is out with another man or incredibly insecure and possessive? Experts say that you need to sit down with yourself and understand why. Open relationships require a certain level of awareness, confidence and selflessness that I do not think many of us have. On top of that there is also a double standard here: while women are not exempt from cheating, most open relationship propositions I have heard come from men who would like to have a loving partner at home but do not want to stop slinging dick around town. I personally think many men would like relationships to be open on their end but would pass out if they found out their lady was out there getting hers. This is not practical because I do not know a single woman who is okay with letting her man run the streets while they are at home in a bonnet making dinner. Open relationships require both parties to swallow their pride and check their egos, which many of us would rather die than do.

After a LOT of internal debate on this topic, I have concluded, I would be willing to discuss opening up a relationship, though not from the beginning. I am an only child and therefore I am selfish. On top of that I am prideful and have a big ego to boot, so there is no doubt that I would have to do a lot of internal work to make sure I was in tune with my emotions, boundaries and well-being before venturing into this territory. I do respect the fact that many couples make these dynamics work, and so I will continue reading and learning about this lifestyle as it has truly opened my eyes and shifted my perspective on the deeply seated Western concepts of monogamy and morality.

For some interesting introductory reading on this topic, go ahead and read Sex At Dawn and The Ethical Slut.

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