You’ve had hundreds of hours of discussions on what your open relationship will look like? Check!
You’ve written down a list of limits, boundaries, rules, and expectations? Check!
You’ve created dating profiles that honestly detail what you are looking for and the honesty with your existing relationship? Check!
You’ve read at least 3 books together on the topic of nonmonogamy? Check?
You and your partner subscribe and listen to at least 3 nonmonogamous friendly podcasts? Check!
You’re all set! You open up the relationship and go off on your first dates… WHAM, arguing, suspicion, jealousy, withholding information, yelling, crying, breaking down… and a month later, you believe you don’t know each other anymore and you’re ready to call a marriage counsellor, divorce, forget you ever opened up your relationship, or all of the above.
What the hell happened?
What you didn’t realize when you were living in the cocoon of a monogamous relationship is how much of a monogamous relationship is a favorable breeding ground for codependence.
You mean you don’t follow each other into the bathroom? I didn’t say you were both at psychiatric help levels of codependence.
But monogamy breeds codependency, and calls it romantic most of the time. Don’t believe me?
What about that story of the couple who for 50 years never missed having dinner together at the kitchen table?
Read that sentence again, and realize exactly how creepy that is.
What about the story of the couple where the husband or wife only lives a short little while after their partner dies of a seemingly broken heart (never mind the diabetes and heart failure, you’re killing the romance of the story!)
…again, that’s kinda creepy.
Or what about the couple that never fights, always shares each other’s hobbies, and becomes friends with the other person’s friends… so that they share all hobbies and friends… all the time… always together… never apart unless work forces them apart.
Creepy, creepy, and creepy.
That’s codependence, where you stop being your own individual and you start being a single individual, like Brajolina, or JayOnce, or KimYe? Those names? Creepy!
The most skipped step in the entire process isn’t even especially a step you have to take in opening up your relationship, but in making sure you remain an individual within a relationship.
What is that step?
Disentanglement means that you bring out the individual in yourself and your partner. And many couples suck so badly at this that they often plan a codependent open relationship.
“We’ll find someone we can share!”
“We’ll look at dating sites together!”
“We’ll do all the dating at home so the other person is present!”
Why, you heard of that one couple from that one town who swears on Facebook that it worked for them!
When I read those stories, having opened quite a few relationships, my immediate reaction is to guess which person will crack first. Usually, it seems to be the one who doesn’t get the first date or has consistent problems finding partners… hmmm… imagine that.
They talk to someone new, and leave out one detail for more than 30 minutes before telling you? LIAR! You horrible cheating sneaking liar!
They go on a first date, and you don’t hear from them for more than an hour? Why, this was their plan all along! They tricked you into opening a relationship, and they’ve been talking to this person for months waiting for a way to make it happen!
They find someone to talk to almost instantly (in your mind)? They’re running away from you as fast as possible to go run away with this person!
Where did your brain go?
Who is this paranoid person in your shoes?
This article isn’t long enough to explain the exact transformation that occurred and why you are associating their new found outlet with their apparent secret agenda to throw you under the bus of pain with utter contempt for your hurt feelings.
Suffice it to say, you skipped a step, my dears.
Disentanglement will help 90% of that go away. And it’s rather simple. And you can do it all before you ever go on a single date.
Pick a night, any night, and leave. That’s right, it’s your night. If you picked Tuesday, go Taco it up at the local La Hacienda!
They pick a night, too. They picked Thursday, then off to karaoke it is!
You can go with friends, you can go alone. But you CANNOT go with your partner. Your partner doesn’t have to stay home, but they can’t come along.
Another rule, you can’t both pick the same night. Nice try, but you each have to get a separate night out. This helps later on so you don’t fall into “You can’t date tonight because I don’t have a date tonight, and we only go out when we can both go out!” That’s a hole of despair and control you do NOT want to go down!
And here’s a fun twist once you get the hang of it? Try NOT asking where the person is going or who they are going with until they get back!
That’s right, you too can build up those trust muscles using nights to assert each other's’ personal individuality.
Make the night random. Heck, throw in a weekend night here or there.
Make it so that no night of the week is safe from going out and having fun. Yes, parents, you too can do this. It means your partner is staying home with the kids. It will also fight off your codependence as a parent and allow your kids to know they’ll survive without you too. And, they will, trust me.
At this point, your partner and you are still just going out once a week, to visit friends, to watch a movie, to have a meal. But… NOT DATING.
Get comfortable having to ask each other for date nights.
Suddenly, you’ll find that you and your partner are actually planning your own date nights again.
Listen to what I said, bored married couples. You and your partner now have to ask, “Can we go out together Saturday night, catch some dinner together, and maybe go to the…”
Once you find yourselves asking each other for permission for that date night, because they can no longer assume they own all your time on all your days, get very comfortable with that.
It’s a simple step. You do remember how to date, right? You might even get lucky with one another! ;)
Now, and only now, ease into dating other people.
Go very slow, and don’t immediately change all those nights out to date nights.
Try adding just 1 day per month for dating. After 4 months, you will be up to using all the days, if you wish.
Then start adding in a good night kiss on month 5. Making out on month 6, and so on…
WARNING: People suck at sticking to plans. This means that this is just a general guideline. Always and at all times on dates and with your partner tell each other and yourselves, “I am human. That means I’m sometimes impulsive, and sometimes an idiot. And knowing that, I’ll try to ease on the brakes when I realize I’m probably moving a bit too fast.”
By skipping the step of disentanglement, you don’t create for yourself or your partner the clear image that you are an individual. And so, you don’t get to learn some key lessons before dating, such as:
Even if they have time alone, they still love me.
I won’t curl up into a ball and die because I’m left alone.
Having individual lives makes us both more interesting people which strengthens our relationship.
So for the sake of Dear Abby and Dr Phil, take a few moments and add this one step into your opening up plans, and you’ll save the world, and your neighbors, from the agony of ripping your own emotions apart at once, rather than slowly disentangling them.