Before I entered an open relationship, I thought it would be a great way to have your cake and eat it too. You could have all the benefits of being in a relationship – stability, security, and regular sex, as well as all the benefits of being single – freedom, exploration, and invigorating “new relationship energy” (often referred to as NRE).
However, after I started delving into the tumultuous world of polyamory, I came to learn that it was much, much, more than that.
I came to learn that open relationships were fundmentally about truth, communication, and transparency. It was about facing my own fears, my own insecurities, as well as learning to love unconditionally. Many people I talk to would love to be in an open relationship – one way. They would love the freedom on their end, but would not want their partner to share the same freedoms.
For me, a deeply intimate, loving relationship is about loving your partner enough to allow them the ability to completely experience life to its fullest capacity. Even if that means them having sex with somebody else. This is where the rub lies. In our society, there is a deeply ingrained modality of ‘monogamy’. This often leads to issues of “should”, “should not”, pain, and insecurities.
If we *KNEW* our partner deeply loved us, and they have dinner with a friend, would this cause us pain? How about if they slept over at their place? How about if they hugged them? Kissed them? Had sex with them? And that these actions didn’t come from a place of deceit, lies, and untruth, but they were in constant communication with you throughout the entire process? For some people, dinner is already crossing a threshold. Others are okay with kissing, but not sex. Others, only certain kinds of sex (maybe oral only). Each of these thresholds depends on our own level of trust in our partner, and confidence in our own self-worth.
The first time my partner engaged in extracurricular sex, there was some suffering. I examined it. Why is it there? What belief structure was I holding onto that gave rise to the suffering? (Suffering only comes from holding onto a certain belief.) I realized there was some fear of my partner leaving me. There was some fear of the third person being ‘better’, which, when I followed the thought train far enough, eventually also led to the fear of my partner leaving. As I examined and followed each of these fears WITH my partner, there was constant reassurance and I eventually came to see through all the fears as ultimately false, and I was free to return to the present moment with my partner.
When I engaged in an extracurricular relationship, my partner’s belief set was something around the concept of “access”. That they would no longer have “access” to me. Each of us will have different sticking points, different reasons why we believe something is wrong or shouldn’t be done. With clear, honest, and open communication, we can move through the restrictions of closed relationships and experience a much freeer existence in life.
It is natural and expected for some pain to arise whenever an action takes place that challenges our belief structures. What makes all the difference in the world is how soon you can see through it, let go, and move on. This is where complete honesty and constant communication is required. An open relationship requires both partners to *gradually* push the boundaries of their reality together. “Can we live in a reality where we are both truly happy for the other person being happy in whatever they’re doing?” (This is called “compersion”). Push too hard, and the relationship may break. Gentler never hurts.
So should you engage in an open relationship? Not if you’re in it just to have sex with more people. You might as well just stay single, or you could do that in a monogamous relationship and not tell your partner (as frequently happens). An open relationship is for people ready to face their own fears and insecurities head on. An open relationship is for people that want to grow with their partner through the most intimiate details of life – which extend far beyond the superficial sex. An open relationship is for people that understand that being in a relationship with someone does not mean restricting them, but instead, freeing them. And in the process, freeing yourself.
Have you ever experimented with an open relationship? Weigh in below.